Interview with Screenwriter Cecilia Michelangeli (The Ambiguous Couch Affair)

The Ambiguous Couch Affair’s first scenes were read at the Writing Festival last month.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Cecilia Michelangeli: The unreasonable way to react to an attempt robbery and to a meaningless shooting.

Randall and Evelyn run a struggling furniture store in a quiet community. The peace is disturbed when a nervous would-be armed robber, Parker Ray, enters the store demanding money.

How labile the difference between being the victim of a crime or its perpetrator can be?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Black Comedy

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

Because the story is an interesting dynamic between irrational people who act out of fear with their gut instincts. And all of this seems to happen more and more often. The screenplay presents heavy situations with comedic exchanges and misunderstandings, trying to prove once again that violence is never a logical nor excusable reaction.

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

Nonsensical self-destruction

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

I guess Fargo/The Departed/Play it again, Sam (maybe?)

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

I started one year ago, but in that time I mostly wrote other scripts.

7. How many stories have you written?

There’s no way of knowing.

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

I don’t like the concept of favourite, also there are too many different song I could list here. I guess I should name at least five completely at random so : Girl from the North Country (Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash), Birdland (Patti Smith), Baby Birch (Joanna Newsom), These Days (Nico), Lather (Jefferson Airplane).

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

Boredom, distraction and starting to write other things while I was supposedly finishing this screenplay.

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

Cinema in general, directing in particular. Reading and watching other people’s work.

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

I always had a positive experience with FilmFreeway.

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

This was actually the first festival I’ve sent this specific screenplay. In fact it’s difficult to find festivals that take into consideration unfinished screenplay (and that are not excessively expensive). The feedback that I’ve received was very good, with some curious suggestions. However, I’m aware that it’s impossible to judge or comment on a first scene without knowing anything about the rest of the story, especially without being able to talk about certain choices and nuances.

 

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Randall and Evelyn run a struggling furniture store in a quiet community. The peace is disturbed when a nervous would-be armed robber, Parker Ray, enters the store demanding money.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Laura Kyswaty
Randall: Geoff Mays
Evelyn: Kiran Friesen

 

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Interview with Screenwriter Bethany Maines (BLUE CHRISTMAS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Bethany Maines: Blue Jones just stole Jake Garner’s dog. And his heart. But technically the French Bulldog belongs to Jake’s ex. And now they’re both being chased across Seattle by Jake’s ex-girlfriend for a dog collar’s worth of smuggled diamonds. For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous. For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Romance, Comedy, Action

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

Blue Christmas should be made into a movie because we need more stories about couples finding love, the bad guys getting arrested, and Uber drivers who finally have their dream of being in a car chase come true.

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

Romantic Fun

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

Die Hard and Clue, probably followed by The Princess Bride.

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

One year or three months, depending on if you count the time I spent working on the novella that the screenplay is based on.

7. How many stories have you written?

Uh… In my lifetime? Published? How are we counting this? Can we call it a lot? I’ve been writing since grade school. My first short story was published when I was nineteen and my first novel was published in 2010. Writing stories is one of my passions. However, this is my first screenplay. I’m excited to write more.

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

That is an extremely difficult question. I use music to set the mood for what I’m writing and I’ll listen to a pretty wide variety of stuff, so picking an absolute number one is practically impossible! Top five, in no particular order:
Have a Good Time by Paul Simon
Got Your Money by Ol’ Dirty Bastard
It’s a Fire by Portishead
Rock DJ by Robbie Williams
The De Guello, the theme from the John Wayne / Howard Hawks movie Rio Bravo

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

Well, I first had to learn how to write screenplays and that was a bit of an obstacle. Also, being a parent presents many challenges in regards to scheduling time to be creative.

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

I’m a graphic designer and I’m passionate about good design. I love when I can synchronize a clients story with visuals.

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

FilmFreeway has been extremely useful and easy. I like that I can sort my submissions, track contests and surf for new opportunities all in one location.

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

I entered because I really wanted to get feedback and it felt like a festival that matched my screenplay. The feedback was incredibly helpful and adorably Canadian since they used the word “whilst”. I got feedback, not just about industry standards for some of my first-timer formatting mistakes, but also about content and how to strengthen my script. I used the feedback to make changes that I’m very happy about (and secretly wish I could go back and add them to the novella).

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Drunken TV news cameraman Jake Garner thought he was tackling an intruder. But no, Jake just took out the fantastically attractive dog sitter. Mortified, Jake does what any man would who has just been dumped right before Christmas would do—give the offended party all his ex’s things. Meanwhile, Blue Jones is determined to do whatever it takes to get her grandmother the best cancer treatment possible, even if that means some high-rise burglary from one of her worst dog-sitting clients, the failure to walk, feed or book a pet-sitter for a three day weekend, Grace Lorra. But Blue didn’t count on Grace’s ex, Jake, showing up and drunkenly handing over all of Grace’s belongings— including her adorable French Bulldog, Jacques. It takes no time at all for Blue to fall in love with Jacques, but Blue also finds herself wondering if it would be so bad to return to the scene of the crime to reconnect with Jake. But as Christmas draws closer, Grace pressures Jake to return the dog and Blue is targeted by mysterious assailants. Can Jake find Blue and Jacques before her stalkers do? And can Jake and Blue stop these mystery men without also getting Blue arrested for theft? For Blue, Christmas has never been quite so dangerous. For Jake, Christmas has never been quite so Blue.

CAST LIST:

Grace: Victoria Murdoch
Jake: David Rowan
Narration: Esther Thibault
Blue: Mojeane Sadr
Cindy: Julie Sheppard

Interview with Screenwriter Elizabeth Searle (A FOUR SIDED BED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Elizabeth Searle: It’s a menage a trois love story- with an emphasis on ‘love.’ The themes are sisters and marriages of different kinds, and a love that falls between the blurred lines, ‘all ways.’

Here is our offical ‘summary’: “An impassioned three-way affair between a man and two women, one of them transgender, re-ignites years later. The man’s conventional marriage is upended when the threesome rediscovers a love like no other. This intimate tale stretches the boundaries of love, friendship, gender and marriage.”

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, Erotic Drama, Romance, LGBTQ

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

It’s a unique love story with love and sex scenes that have the potential to appeal to audience members from all sides of the gender and sexual spectrums. While set in the ’80s, and giving a frank account of a transgender character in that era, this story touches on timely themes of sexuality, gender identity, prejudice and love without bounderies.

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

All Ways

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

Casablanca

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

Always! Actually, many years, because the screenplay started with my novel A Four-Sided Bed, which took me about four years to write. I started trying to make it into a screenplay in 2011- worked on it on and off from then til now!

7. How many stories have you written?

Wow, that is a hard one. I have had over 30 short stories published in magazines. I also have three novels which are of course long stories. I co-wrote the script for one short film. And I wrote the script/libretto for an opera and for a rock opera. But this is my first Feature Screenplay.

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

Soul Love by David Bowie

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

Many! This is my first screenplay so I had to learn all about screenwriting from scratch. I went through countless drafts over many years (see above). It also took time to find the right team to help me. The recent draft of this script was much improved because I worked closely with two producers, David Ball and Amy Carpenter Scott, as well as with the director attached to our feature film project, Vittoria Colonna, and (giving me vital help in shaping the character of Kin) with actress/producer and transgender activist Rain Valdez. All of them helped me overcome all obstacles.


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

My son; my whole family; Democratic Party politics, reading, films, theater- and riding my bike.

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

Love it! It is very easy to use and very helpful. This year, my script has drawn attention in over a dozen film festivals and contests so Film Freeway has helped our project a lot.

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

I entered since our story is an LGBTQ story. I was excited to be given the opportunity to have a Best Scene read! THANKS to all at the festival and big THANKS to the whole cast and team for a terrific reading!

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

A Four-Sided Bed is a ‘ménage a trois’ love story— with the emphasis on ‘love.’ An impassioned three- way affair between a man and two women, one of them transgender, re-ignites years later. The man’s conventional marriage is upended when the threesome rediscovers a love like no other.

CAST LIST:

JJ (m 20s) – 6 – Adrian Carter
NARRATION – Andrea Irwin
Kin (Trans female) – 19 – Norma Dunphy
Bird (f 19) – 8 – Laura Afelskie

Interview with Screenwriter Billy Smith (The Stafford Multiplex Theater)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Billy Smith: My screenplay, The Stafford Multiplex Theater, is about an outdated eight-screen movie theater in a small town. A new Megaplex has opened up about twenty minutes from them and a lot of people have forgotten about the Stafford. They’ve gained an unfortunate reputation as “that other theater”. On top of that, because of an industry mandate, they now must convert to digital projection by the end of the year or they will no longer receive movies. Between the new Megaplex and the digital mandate, the Stafford is trying to fend off death, just trying to survive.

It’s during this time, when all seems hopeless, that everything gets even worse. There is an outbreak of a zombie virus in their town. The Stafford’s moviegoers start to drop dead and come back as zombies. The employees of the Stafford love it and would defend it with everything they have, so that’s what they do. They set out to defend their theater and make sure that it’s still standing for something even during their town’s most horrific time. Their theater isn’t dead yet.


2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The Stafford Multiplex Theater definitely falls under the horror/comedy genre. I would liken it to films like Burying the Ex, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse and The Final Girls. The zombie threat is very real in the story and the characters take what’s at stake very seriously, but I felt like there had to be a healthy dose of comedy involved, too, and that really came from the characters. Once I started writing and experimenting with them, the comedy felt right to me.

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

The Stafford Multiplex Theater should be made into a movie for a few reasons. The first and most simple reason is that it’s just a lot of fun. Audiences would have a lot of fun watching it and I imagine that it would be a lot of fun to make, too. The horror blends well with the comedy, the characters are a blast and there are interesting twists. It would be an entertaining experience. Also, it touches a bit on the change that’s happening in movie theaters and what’s happening to theaters that used to have character. It’s a unique horror story because, yes, there are zombies and there’s blood and gore, but that’s all in the background, in a way. Ultimately, this story is about the theater and the characters. It’s not just a zombie movie just for the sake of being a zombie movie. The zombies are there for a good reason. They’re a manifestation of a real problem and that’s a very interesting horror story to explore because, for the characters, the real horror would be the end of their theater. They’ll deal with the zombies.

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

Fun. Clever.

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

I’ve been asked this question before and I always give the same answer: John Carpenter’s Halloween. I am forever in awe of its simplicity and impressed by every technical aspect of it, as well. The way the dread and the suspense builds and the way the music enhances it – it’s all so well done. It’s the kind of horror film that, if I could ever be a director myself, I would like to make. Something simple that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats and doesn’t go overboard. That film has always been a huge influence on me.

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

I have been working on this screenplay for roughly a few years. I’ve written and rewritten it many times at this point. I am constantly working to improve it because I believe in this story and I believe that it has a lot of potential as a movie. I have other things that I have worked on, but this is my passion project. This is the one that I have to see through. I have to see it succeed. I like being able to always go back to it and improve on it, especially because I am always improving as a writer. Every time I take another pass at it, it gets better. I’m very proud of it and the work I have put into it.

7. How many stories have you written?

Including The Stafford Multiplex Theater, I have written three. The other two started out as short stories, but I always had intended to develop them as screenplays, which is what I’m doing right now. I love coming up with a simple idea and then expanding on it. I find that to be such a thrill. Taking something and trying to make it the best it can possibly be. I have a lot of ideas in my head and I look forward to writing them in the very near future. My first script is just the beginning.

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

“Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley. Just kidding. It’s hard to pick a favorite song, but if I had to pick just one, it would be “New Low” by Middle Class Rut. Aside from just being a cool and fun song, it has really spoken to me ever since the first time I heard it eight years ago. I can identify with the words and see myself in the situation the song describes. It’s probably my favorite because it’s always a reminder to me that I’m still not where I want to be and, while this may be hard to believe, it motivates me to get to where I want to be.

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

The Stafford Multiplex Theater screenplay was very challenging for me to finish for multiple reasons. Firstly, it was my first screenplay. So, aside from the normal challenges of writing a story and getting over all of the hurdles that come with that, I had to learn how to actually write a screenplay. Learning the formatting, learning the structure, the things you shouldn’t do and the things you should do. Then, reading screenwriting articles and being told that you shouldn’t do the things that you thought you should do and that you should do the things that you thought you shouldn’t do. Apart from that, I think horror and comedy are very hard to write. It’s challenging to scare or surprise an audience and it’s a challenge to also make them laugh. It was a challenge that I truly enjoyed, though, and I think I succeeded, at least in the pages of a script. I think the real challenge would be to see if it works as an actual movie.

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

Besides being passionate about writing movies, I’m passionate about movies in general. I’ve been like that since I was very young. I love watching them, I love talking about them and I would love making them, too, if that ever became a reality. I love being able to get lost in another world for a little while and getting away from all of the stresses of my life. My love of movies is what led me to work at three different movie theaters and it is what has led me to pursue what would hopefully be a career being involved with movies in some way. I definitely eat, sleep and breathe movies.

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

So far, this is the only festival I have actually entered on FilmFreeway, but I’ve had a great experience with the site. It was how I found this festival. The website provided all of the information I needed and submitting the screenplay was very easy. I am on the site a lot, searching through all of the festivals, trying to find where I should submit my screenplay next. I have a feeling that I will definitely be using FilmFreeway a lot in the future.

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

After working on my screenplay for so long, I was lost on how to go about doing anything with it. I’ve written this story and I am proud of the work I’ve done, but what do I do with it next? That’s actually when I found the Festival for Horror. It was almost like it was meant to be. Sure, I felt good about my screenplay and thought it had potential, but it would be nice to see if others felt that way, especially if they were others who know what they were talking about. I had to know if what I’d written actually had something to it or if I was just being crazy.

I was thrilled with the initial feedback I received on The Stafford Multiplex Theater. The feedback was very much what I had expected. I knew that whoever read it would find it to be fun and I knew that the script had some strong elements and that was the feedback I received. I knew going in that I still had a lot of work to do on it. I never expected to win or even place or anything like that. That wasn’t my goal. My goal was to see if I’m knocking on the right door and it seems that I am. The tips I received on how to make the script better were very valuable to me and have helped me tremendously. I’m glad that I chose to enter the festival. It was absolutely a great decision. From the feedback on the full script and then the best scene reading now being posted online, I have had a great experience with the festival.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Interview with Screenwriter Mark Spurlock (The Outlaw Josey From Wales)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Mark Spurlock: The travels of three misfits looking for a missing family member.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Western comedy

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

We need more comedy westerns.

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

Laughable parody.

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

The Big Lebowski

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

For a couple of years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Just two with a couple in the works.

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

Stairway to Heaven

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

Trying to find an ending.

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

My children.

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

Great. They let me know what’s going on in the festival world.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

After learning his brother is missing a Welch not so outlaw must leave his country and travel to America to find him. With the help of an Indian tracker and a gay sheep herder, the three leave an everlasting mark on American history.

CAST LIST:
Bison Bob: Sean Ballantyne
Man at Table: Allen Brunet
Narration: Isabel Kruse
Josey: Brandon Knox
Popeye: Aaron Williams

Interview with William Opperman (NEW TO THIS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

William Opperman: A young man who is unsure of his sexuality is lucky enough to find, through a chance encounter on a subway train, a gentle, more experienced guide.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

LGBTQ, romcom

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

The story is simple, but universal. Who hasn’t needed help at some point in their lives?

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

Sexy, tender.

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

Before my time: All About Eve
In my prime: If…
Contemporary: Talk to Her, The Lives of Others, and Spotlight
(Note: All incredibly strong scripts!)

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

A little over a year. The basic storyline was excerpted from a novel I’m working on.

7. How many stories have you written?

More than a dozen, fewer than a score.

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

A dangerous question! I’m an opera lover, and a Wagnerite to boot. So Meistersinger is in many ways the best answer to the question. But there’s always “Hey, Jude” and about twenty Joni Mitchell songs.

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

Sex is a major element of the screenplay, and it was tricky to find the right balance of unapologetic frankness and good taste. I was also worried that it might be too Tea and Sympathetic, if that makes sense. I hope the eventual audience will enjoy the journey and fill in any blanks with their own memories.

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

My husband and my kids, movies, opera and other serious music, Jane Austen and Thornton Wilder, and maybe politics. I wish I were either totally uninterested in politics or consumed by them. Instead I swing between evangelistic zeal and total indifference.

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

The great thing about FilmFreeway is that it manages your scripts for you. You upload your work once and submit it to as many places as you want. Results are tracked for you as well.

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

The feedback was incredibly helpful. Encouragement is always nice, and heaven knows it can be hard to come by, but even better was the advice: Pull back on this element, emphasize that one; heighten the conflict; specify, make it move, let it breathe. I owe you guys a lot! Thanks.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A crowded subway car affords a young man a chance at self-discovery.

CAST LIST:

Dog Owner: Isabel Kruse
Barry: Neil Bennett
Narrator: Val Cole
Paul: Geoff Mays
Jack: Jarrod Terrill

Interview with Screenwriter Mark Allard-Will (Herculean Task)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Mark Allard-Will: Herculean Task is an attempt to Frankenstein Greek mythology with Black Comedy. The premise is simple: What if using terms of exaggeration could get us in to literal trouble, not just verbal discourse? The result is a bonkers script that, while needing a re-write, is an example of how something as rigid as mythology can be fused with irreverent styles of comedy.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The one definitive genre would be comedy, but a good moniker for the screenplay might be ‘fusion’.

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

Wilder forms of comedy are gaining traction now, in Canada, in the USA, Britain and Europe and this screenplay is inventive in it’s own way – inventiveness seems to be what producers are seeking out now. It utilises the graveyard humour of French and German comedy and that, in and of itself, is still fairly fresh to American, Canadian and British audiences.

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

Out there

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

Super Troopers

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

I probably dedicated about six hours to it and knocked it out as one of my comedy soaps (short sketches) scripts and moved on to the next one. Admittedly, it would need some touching-up by myself if someone were to adapt it.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m a published author of graphic novels, so if you include my graphic novels and screenplays we’re probably looking at eight stories

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

Raining Blood by Slayer

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

For sure, I’d say my own self-dismissal

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

I love mythology, regardless of whether it’s Norse, Greek, Mesopotamian, Aztec, Maya – it doesn’t matter, I love it all the same. I’m also a massive Metal Head and a huge fan of world cinema; to me, there’s nothing better than watching a German comedy movie or a Danish drama.

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

I love FilmFreeway. It’s easy to use and very intuitive, I’d recommend it to all budding film-makers and screenwriters

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

As a published author, I’m used to working with editors and I actually love the process of editing my manuscripts. What a good editor does is give you notes that help you make your work absolutely flawless; notes that give you ideas of how to improve your work in your own writer’s voice. So, you say feedback, I say notes that show me how this quickly banged-out script could be improved if a producer were ever to pick it up and ask for a re-write – to put it another way, I was happy with your notes, because they exposed the weaknesses in my script. As for why I entered the festival, every up-coming writer needs feedback from WildSound to channel their screenwriting in to being a better, stronger beast.  

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Comedy and mythology collide in Mark Allard-Will’s Short Screenplay, Herculean Task.

After climbing a Mountain with his girlfriend, Sheila, and claiming that he’s completed a ‘Herculean task’ in doing so, he mysteriously finds himself in Ancient Greece tasked with actually completing Herculean tasks (commonly known as The Twelve Labours of Hercules).

CAST LIST:

King: Allen Brunet
Narration: Isabel Kruse
Derick: Brandon Knox
Sheila: Kyana Theresa