Interview with Screenwriter Kelly Byrnes (33 Weeks A Prude)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Kelly Byrnes: “33 Weeks A Prude” depicts the age-old conflict between sinners and saints or in today’s high school terms, Prudes and Sluts. Our protagonist, Nora, who belongs to the latter clique, is uprooted from her native Southern California town and plunked down in the Bible Belt, in the midst of a Purity Movement led by her nemesis, Raquel. Nora quickly becomes a social pariah due to her racy apparel and liberal perspectives. After a derogatory homophobic comment pointed at Nora’s younger brother, Zeek, a series of escalating retaliations between Raquel and Nora are set into action. The battle culminates when Nora and her only friend, Tamara, a closet Wiccan, conspire to pose as prudes and infiltrate the Sisterhood of Celibacy, the occult chastity group led by Raquel. Their goal: to force the prudes to face their biggest fear — the male penis — and “enjoy every sinful second, which will send any self-respecting Bible Humper into a lifelong masochistic psychosis.”

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy. Think “Heathers” and “Mean Girls.”

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

The show employs a sharply satirical portrayal of sex and religion while broaching parallel themes with honesty and sincerity — something we don’t see in most high school comedies. On the surface, there’s an antipathy between the righteous and the unscrupulous, but the script also travels to the dark underbelly of character psyches to understand the delicate puzzle pieces that narrowly hold them together, where we find Prudes and Sluts are not just incredibly varied, but also inextricably linked. Similar to Emma Stone’s character in EASY A, I think it’s rare to see a show centered entirely around “that girl” from high school. And allowing Nora to break the fourth wall adds a tongue-in cheek-quality that seems to be absent from most high school comedies.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Shrewd campiness.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

The Sound of Music!

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I started it about a year ago and continue to revise while I work on another project.

7. How many stories have you written?

Two features and two pilots, including this one.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

“The Waiting” by Tom Petty.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

I struggled at times to make sure the script didn’t feel too one-sided so I tried to play up the shortcomings of both the Prudes and Nora and applaud and criticize all aspects of being a prude and a slut.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Mountain biking.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

It’s been relatively easy to find great festivals and track the status of my script entries.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

The chance to get my script read by professional actors really appealed to me. It’s amazing to see the characters come to life! I tried my best to implement the feedback with the time I had and have since been inspired to revise the script several times.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A liberated Californian teen and new girl at her high school, finds herself at odds with the girls of the Christian chastity club.

CAST LIST:

Tyler: David Rowan
Zeek: Thomas Fournier
Tamara: Pascale Behrman
Narration: Kat Smiley
Nora: Aimee Poulin
Raquel: Jillian Robinson
Bill: Bill Poulin
Jerry Turner: Allan Brunet

 

Interview with Screenwriter Tai-Ying Chi (You Don’t Deserve My Jelly Strips)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Tai-Ying Chi: The story is about a girl who is sexually assaulted by the boy she loves and always wants to be romantically involved with, therefore she doesn’t know how to react at first, and she’s struggled between what her heart really wants and what her heart believes to be right. It also talks about some international students, or even some young immigrants’ insecurities and anxieties they have to face when they firstly come and reside in the U.S.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

When the Me Too movement widely started in the United States in 2017, the cases that provoked most discussions surrounded what had happened on American majorities. It got me think, there must be many other newly arriving minorities, who may have encountered the same situations but had even less resources and know-how to ask for help. Plus, depending on what kind of the cultural backgrounds they were coming from, they may have been dealing with different levels of culture shocks, and feeling lost in telling what’s right or wrong in this new social conventions, and will only be able to grab some sense gradually after time proceeds. (In many stereotypical ideas American society is viewed as much open and complicated in sex and relationships. There’re people who are victimized by this believe, trying to blend in; and there’re people who take advantages on them.) Even when later Me Too became a more common topic and movement in other societies in the world, there can still be subtle and different range of violence in relationships that is hard to be categorized. Therefore, I think making this kind of stories into movies is important.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Sad gain.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Jurassic Park 1993, It was one of the few VHS tapes I owned when I was a kid.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve worked on it on and off, mostly in summer vacation periods, for two years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Two short screenplays in English and many more in traditional Mandarin Chinese.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

First of May by The Bee Gees.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

The dialogues were firstly written in traditional Chinese, but for the contest and subtitles purposes, I translated them into English. It was a bit challenging to write English lines that are used among urban youths to give more layers to their personalities, but also preserve the same essences in English as in Traditional Chinese so readers can still get the context of how they talk or behave in the world they came from. Another major challenge was that, I wanted to introduce a delightful Taiwanese dessert into the screenplay to enhance the idea that they had shared childhood memories, which was sweet and delightful just like they used to remember each other, and by what happened to them and the dessert in the end, it also symbolizes they both for the first time really have to graduate from their childhoods. I spent so much time to look for this specular dessert that can be playful, sweet, nostalgic, look pretty on screen, and will also be easy to preserve and handle as props. Finally, the Taiwanese jelly strips.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I like animals and bugs, when I discover a mystery about animals or bugs that I don’t have answer to, I will feel an urge to go online and conduct full research about it. I also like good foods and quality time with family and friends.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

Self promotions, good strategies and management in social media accounts are more important than I thought.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I feel networking is very essential when you want to turn pages into actions. Festival helps with the exposures for artists and builds the network. Apart from that, it is generally just an irresistible feeling of desire to be recognized and have reasons to go to events and have fun!

I look carefully into every feedback I received, but even though there are many good advices, I try to only extract core essences from the feedbacks that I feel can work on my piece without risking losing the attitudes of the project.
 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A newly arrived International student finally gets to see her high school crush in New York, but the gap between their understandings to their relationship finally forces her to choose between falling in love, or to admit the harm that would draw them apart.

CAST LIST:

Drunk Man: Charles Gordon
Yu-Chen: Wildred Lee
Narrator: Gene Abella
A-Mei: Tiffany Elefano
Lisa: Elizabeth Morriss

Interview with Screenwriter Zach Kalinyak (STARLEAGUE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Zach Kalinyak: The screenplay is about Larry Trenton’s success of turning had-been enemies into a close-knit family striving to unravel a galactic conspiracy that all of these aliens have unwittingly stumbled upon, earning them places on a hit-list.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy, Action, Family, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Adventure, Mystery

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Currently, this screenplay is NOT ready to be made into a movie. In fact the movie that best introduces the entire franchise that this movie exists in is being produced by the writers ofThe Intrepid Factor – To Catch a Falling Star this winter.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Insanity united.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Star Trek: IV: The Voyage Home

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Eleven years, three alone, eight with P.E. Novak

7. How many stories have you written?

Alone, about 10 to 20, with P.E. Novak over 1,000

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Oh, every year that changes as my journey changes. The song that best describes The Intrepid Factor – To Catch a Falling Star is Barry Manilow’s It’s a Long Way Up.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Originally Starleage: The Intrepid Factor – To Catch a Falling Star was Star Trek: The Next Frontier – Strength of Will. A spinoff from Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine set after Voyager’s return home from the Delta quadrant. It took creating a totally different franchise to determine these characters fromThe Next Frontier belonged in a world apart from that of Star Trek as their behaviors did not match those of the characters and races created in the Star Trek universe.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I’d say that the answer to that would be either songwriting, as I do that, too. Or changing the world for the better. Entertainment just seems the best way to go about doing that.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

FilmFreeway is a good submission platform. I don’t have any complaints.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I entered the festival, because the only reward was the table-read and Starleage – The Intrepid Factor – To Catch a Falling Star is not slated for production for at least a decade, so the pressure to produce this script, which is perhaps one of the strongest having been so thoroughly edited for so many years, while likely to win (which it did) would be just left at a low-key table-read still un-produced, allowing its franchise to grow into the size needed to support The Intrepid Factor as a television series, while giving us the laurels needed to be taken more seriously as writers. My thoughts on the feedback. The first feedback was good. It convinced me to cut ninety percent of the scenes with the Hadolites (pronounced HAH-doe-LIGHTS) as the real two lead characters are Larry J. Trenton and Elbapac Eurt, a point to which that first reader was oblivious. Therefore I understood better having seen that misinterpretation how to rework a screenplay to convey important information while minimizing the roles of supporting characters. So I learned an important lesson from it.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

The starcraft Intrepid sets out, premature to save one star, and begins an isolated journey to unite the galaxy.

 

CAST LIST:

Veltin: Ron Boyd

Kilo: Michael Ruhs

Narration: Shawn Devlin

Bihong: Hannah Ehman

Klevar: Bree Ali

Interview with Screenwriter James Abney (PLAYING WITH CHOPSTICKS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

James Abney: “Playing with Chopsticks” is a fish out of water story about Jimmy, an average white man, and Jenny, his beautiful Chinese girlfriend, and the cultural differences they experience as they date outside their normal bounds.

Problems arise after the meeting between him and her strict parents goes terribly wrong, forcing him to win back their respect, while trying to defeat her handsome suitor, all during her sister’s traditional Chinese wedding.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Romance, comedy

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

This movie should be made into a movie because it tells the true story of two people who, despite their cultural differences and family’s ethnocentrism, fell in love and nurtured a healthy and supportive relationship. Given the current cultural climate, I think a lot of people will be able to relate to this story.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Culture clash.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Batman (1989)

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I’ve been working on this screenplay for about 7 years, starting it the year before I moved to Los Angeles.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written 16 screenplays.

8. What is your favorite song?

B.B.K. by Korn

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

The biggest obstacle I faced when finishing the screenplay was writing the “happy” ending after my real-life relationship, and inspiration for the screenplay, had just ended. Although me and her remain friends, it was difficult writing an ending that I knew was no longer true.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Although writing is my biggest passion, a close second is watching and cheering for the Green Bay Packers.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

FilmFreeway is the only platform I use for festival submissions. I love their user-friendly dashboard and all of the features they offer for free.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I entered the festival because I wanted to see how my story would fare against other stories in my given genre. Being a pessimist, I was surprised, yet honored, to learn I had been selected to have a reading of my script. The feedback I received was very helpful and I used many of the notes on my next draft, which I also submitted for feedback.

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

After the meeting between him and his Chinese girlfriend’s strict parents goes terribly wrong, one average white man is forced to win her parents respect, while trying to defeat her handsome suitor and former flame, all during her sister’s traditional Chinese wedding.

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – DIANA FRANZ
Evy (29) – 7 – SARAH DESOUZA-COELHO
Jimmy (20s) – 10 – THOMAS FOURMIER
Mary – 3 – JULIE C. SHEPPARD

 

Interview with Screenwriter Vinny Smith (SQUISH!)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Vinny Smith: It’s about a group of marine biology students who are stalked by a giant jellyfish. It’s basically a monster movie set in the tropics but it’s also about the environment and Big Oil’s involvement in harming it.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I would call it horror/comedy

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It’s fun and unique in that I have never seen a movie with a giant jellyfish before much less one where a dwarf and a 400 lb. fat guy are the heroes. It ticks all the standard boxes for blood and gore and sexy people getting killed. Plus it makes an environmental statement.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Entertaining, relevant.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Office Space

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

It took about a year.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m just finishing my 9th feature length screenplay and I published a book of 15 short stories.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Tie: Hard To Say I’m Sorry by Chicago and Carolina Morning by Mickey and the Motorcars.

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Writing it in a linear fashion. I had a bunch of scenes that I knew I wanted in it so I had to craft the story around them. I jumped around a lot and wrote it out of order.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Real country music and cigars.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

It was super easy to submit and check the status of all of my entries.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I didn’t need much influence. I feel the more you get it out there, the more chance you will have that somebody like it enough to make it. The feedback was about what I expected. You can tell who gets it and who doesn’t. Most of the time the things that are pointed out as negatives are exactly the point I was going for like when they say it’s too formulaic or something. Yes, I’m trying to fit the format.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

 

A scrappy group of marine biology students are stalked by a giant jellyfish in the Bahamas.

CAST LIST:

Bobby: Geoff Mays
Howard: Neil Bennett
April: Elle A
Narrator: Val Cole
Nick: Jarrod Terrill
Michael: Ryan Singh
Sofia: Isabel Kruse
Gina: Bianca Alongi

 

Interview with Screenwriter Eric White (BLIND VAMPIRE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Eric White: The 15-minute Short is about a vampire who was blinded in an ambush. She learns to survive throughout the centuries by using the vision of animals and her ability to compel beings through thought. In the Short we see: (1) Healthy vampire Dreven, (2) Blinded Dreven and (3) Dreven overcoming her disability. It’s heartwarming in a horrible sort of way.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Horror, Action

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

Vampires typically don’t have a disability — they are either very strong and resilient or dead. In this case, the vampire Dreven adapts to her disability in a seemingly “normal” way by using a service dog that she has trained to detect danger, protect her and hunt for blood.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Pragmatic adaptation.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Fifth Element

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

1 month

7. How many stories have you written?

I have mature scripts for “Blind Vampire” and “Vapor”, a Sci-Fi Steampunk TV Pilot. And nascent scripts/stories for two more Pilots, “Unseen” and “Not So Charming” and one feature, “Dead Princess”.

8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)

Rolling Stones, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Targeting 15-minutes in length and I struggled with the ending. Some will feel it ends abruptly. I could have explored a relationship with the neighbor, making the script longer, but I preferred bloodlust over just plain lust and kept the script to 15 pp.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Beach, beagles, and irreverence.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?

It’s great. I feel like I’m not presenting work through a portal but, rather, sharing my accomplishments with a community.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival?

The festival struck me as welcoming, constructive and interested in my work, not just building a lengthy participant list to legitimize their festival – particularly new ones.

What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

The feedback — in particular the tone, not just the content — was far more helpful and encouraging than most all other reader responses I’ve received.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Centuries after a being ambushed, a blinded vampire survives thanks to her seeing eye dog.

CAST LIST:

Thug Leader: Daniel Jones
Boris: Steve Rizzo
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Dreven: Caroline Concordia
Melanie: Emily Weir
Celia: Judy Thrush

Interview with Screenwriter Ron Micci (ALL THE WOLVES YOU WERE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Ron Micci: It’s a tongue-in-cheek, droll, humorous take on werewolves involving the British aristocracy during the Victorian era, think 1880s. A satire and a parody of those old Universal Wolfman films.

The Prescotts, whose aristocratic fortunes are in decline, are hoping that the marriage of their son, Lawrence, to a mysterious young Romanian princess whose family has established a summer residence nearby, will save them from financial ruin.

On the eve of the nuptials, the princess (Elizabeth) confesses that she is a werewolf and begs Lawrence to call off the wedding.

When he poo-poos this, she runs off to the moors. What ensues with the help of a subplot involving a romance between a village boy and an uppercrust girl, a mad doctor, and a shrewd gypsy who seeks to lift the princess’s curse, culminates in a very hairy and hilarious set of church vows.

2. What genre does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy. Satire. Horror.

3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

It’s consistently funny, and werewolf films are generally popular based on the special effects involved in the wolf transformations.

4. How would you describe this script in two words?

Very cute.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?

Last time I said The Best Years of Our Lives, but there are any number of films, particularly in the film noir genre, that I have seen many times.

6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Actually, I began work sometime in the 1980s, then switched to writing for the stage and created a three-act stage adaptation, then returned to the script in the late 90s and did intensive rewrites of it.

7. How many stories have you written?

About 60 one-act plays and sketches, three longer plays, three novels, four screenplays, one episodic TV pilot, three screen shorts and two original sitcom pilot scripts.

8. What is your favorite song?

“When I Fall Love”

9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

The most difficult challenge was to sustain the same droll, tongue-in-cheek tone throughout.

If it’s a spoof, you want to maintain that feeling beginning to end. Certain scenes were more difficult than others, but I managed to persevere and feel I succeeded in doing that.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Playing the flute, for one thing. And making humorous videos. I’ve been told quite adamantly that I should have been an actor, and I believe there is more than an modicum of truth to that. (I suppose writers are actors.) But I didn’t realize this until much too late in the game. (Hey, choose your favorite form of starvation, right?)

11. Experiences with the FilmFreeway site?

Tough to say. In trying to use the site to submit to screenplay competitions, I hit a dead end. I believe technical glitches.

12. What influenced you to enter the Festival? Reactions to feedback you
received?

By and large I was surprised at how fair-minded the feedback was, a rarity. The fact that they even bothered to read the scripts, and it was obvious they had, was a pleasant surprise. I think in most of these contests they simply throw the scripts against a wall and whatever sticks they give awards to.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Logline: “Do you take this werewolf — I mean woman — to be your lawful wedded wife?” “I — I — I — ulp! — do.” In Victorian England, a wedding between a British aristocrat’s son and a mysterious Romanian princess is thrown in jeopardy when the princess reveals she’s a werewolf. A droll, witty farce.

Comedy-Horror

Feature screenplay

CAST LIST:

Hastings: Daniel Jones
Narrator: Sean Ballantyne
Col. Wellington: Peter Nelson
Lady Wellington: Judy Thrush