Interview with Winning Screenwriter Joe Kourieh (Voosch And Helina)

“Voosch And Helina” was the March 2020 SCI-FI/FANTASY SHORT Screenplay Winner.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Joe Kourieh: This Sci-Fi short is about something all too familiar – a World War – but in an unfamiliar place (under the sea). Humans’ dominance over the planet has been lost and they are now at the mercy of warring animal alliances. The characters in this scene represent a drastic hierarchy, and are trapped within it (for some, literally). The moral truth of the situation is different from everyone’s perspective. The Octopoids blame the humans for some grave developments on Earth – but does that justify a genocide?

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It is a Sci-Fi and also a drama piece. I would imagine that if produced it would likely be animation.

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

I believe it does the ideal job of a short film which is to capture a powerful and relatable emotional moment but with a distinctive twist to enhance the perspective given to the chosen emotion. It lets a very human conundrum breath freely in a new setting.

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

Tragedy, tentacles.

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

Cable Guy.

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

Not long, it’s one of my smaller projects. But still a fun one.

7. How many stories have you written?

In my head, hundreds. In screenplay format, about a dozen.

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

Opeth – “Heir Apparent”

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

I was challenged to keep it to just 5 pages.

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

Video games, shows, heavy metal, Boston sports, cats.

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

Coverfly is absolutely awesome. Staying organized is so important, and their interface is just about flawless. I use it pretty much daily and recommend it. Also there’s no simpler place to browse quality screenplay contests and film fest listings.

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

I will enter just about anything related to Sci-Fi and Fantasy or animation. I am always working toward breaking into these industries. The feedback provided for this entry was excellent – positive, and focused on the nature of the short film format.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

In the far future, the world is engulfed in a war with genocidal implications. One young soldier, faced with an innocent victim, juggles the pressures of duty and conscience in his many arms.

CAST LIST:

Human 2: Nick Hendrik
Human 1: Peter Valdron
Narrator: Justine Christensen
Helina: Rebecca MacDonald
Gaard: Thomas Fournier

Interview with Screenwriter Ma Troggian (FOREIGN)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Ma Troggian: Foreign is a story about love, loss and immigration in a politically polarized America.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, Romantic Drama.

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

The script is timely. Foreign sheds light upon the importance of immigrants in America, while spontaneously telling an LGBTQ love story.

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

Sincere and political.


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

Moulin Rouge…

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

Four years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Two plays, one pilot, one short film and one feature film.

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

That’s hard. I listen to A LOT of music. Lately, Prière Païenne by Celine Dion.

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

Many. I was born and raised in Brazil. It took me a lot of work to research vocabulary and to feel confident writing in English. On top of that, I didn’t go to school for writing. I’m learning as I go. It took me many, many versions and a lot of honest feedback to get to this version.

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

Music, acting and politics. I’m a queer latina woman. I love to dress up and dance. Right now, I am about to release the fourth single of my career, followed by its music video. (You can check my music at http://www.matroggian.com, under music.)

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

Really great!

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

I was researching platforms that cherish LGBTQ work. I had a great experience with the festival in general and I loved the reading.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Foreign is a romantic drama following the journey of Julia, an undocumented immigrant from Brazil, trying to survive in Brooklyn. Julia’s dreams of being a singer are far left behind, and she now searches the city for a safe place to work as a server. After being assaulted by Davis, a business man who takes advantage of her status, Julia ends up hired under the table by Barbara, a successful restaurant owner. Julia and Barbara fall in love and impact each other’s realities. They live a profound love story, eventually threatened by Davis.

CAST LIST:

Various: Patrice Henry
Davis: Allan Brunet
Narrator: Kat Smiley
Barbara: Esther Thibault
Julia: Amiee Poulin
Ian: Gabriel Davenport

Interview with Screenwriter Andronica Marquis (DARK ANGELS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Andronica Marquis: Dark Angels is about the struggle we all face to understand the true beauty of our nature despite the distraction of our pain, disappointments and insecurities.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Fantasy


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

While the screenplay is currently undergoing significant revisions to strengthen and clarify the characters, relationships and theme, it should eventually be made because it’s a dramatic and moving display of both what makes us human and beautiful beyond our mortality

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

Powerful and entertaining


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

Terminator 2


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

Over a year


7. How many stories have you written?

Four short films and three feature films

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

Etta James, I’ll be seeing you

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

Digging deeply to understand the heart of it

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

Dance and Film Producing

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

Excellent

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

I entered because I believe in the screenplay and believe it will be produced; I always appreciate feedback and anything I hear helps me grow and get better
 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Cast from Heaven to Earth, a beautiful demon, torn between her conflicted dark angel clan and the flailing human race, fights her demon nature to find love and fulfill her destiny.

CAST LIST:

Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Ronny: Gabriel Darku
Desiree: Katelyn Varadi

Interview with Screenwriter Samantha Loney (HUSH)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Samantha Loney: My screenplay is a television pilot about an FBI psychologist who comes back from maternity leave to be tasked with watching over a former special agent to solve the only case that she’s let go cold. They find that a string of child abductions might have connections to a dark government conspiracy.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Procedural, crime thriller, mystery.

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

This show has two strong female lead and discusses topics that are relevant to today. Human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of women in America.

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

Dark, fearless.


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

The Exorcist.


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

2 years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have been writing ever since I can remember, always working on something. But I have two completed feature scripts, and five original pilot scripts.

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

My favourite song is Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel.


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

The main obstacle is always the research. Finding ways to let myself be creative while staying true to cases that this piece is inspired by.


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

There is nothing I am more passionate than writing, but you can always find me watching documentaries or reading biographies. I am fascinated by people’s strong feelings toward Hillary Clinton, one of the most polarizing people of our times. I would love to write a biographical film of her one day.


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

FilmFreeway is an easy way to keep track of submissions and send your work to places.

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

I submitted to this festival because it is always helpful to hear your script being read, and I am always looking for feedback to make my work better.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A psychologist, back from maternity leave, is asked to review the mental state of a former FBI agent, who is brought back to solve a case that destroyed her career and home life.

Can you be a woman and have it all?

CAST LIST:

Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Retired Man: Ted Powers

Interview with Screenwriter Robert Tartell (CLEOPATRA’S REVENGE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Robert Tartell : Cleopatra’s Revenge was really based on a true story. “Ross” and I really did see something sticking out the side of my house and it did vanish from his grasp- to this day I don’t know if Pam really saw a snake or not! (But she did indeed storm out!)

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Genre: Comedy. Farce all the way.

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

The world can always use a few more good laughs.

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

Two-word summary: Screwball comedy. Think I Love Lucy. Or Fawlty Towers.

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

The Third Man and The 39 Steps, one of the few Hitchcock films I really loved. Before I started writing, I read the screenplay and realized it was all about the writing(and Hitch married the screenwriter).

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

This one, just a weekend, because it was practically a transcription of the facts. (But a lot of tiny revisions)

7. How many stories have you written?

Four feature-length and five or six shorts.

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

Favorite song: Desafinado, and Bossa Nova in general.

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

Obstacles: Poor organization. Too often I start writing based on an idea without having the end in sight- and so I have some scripts in complete limbo. I need to think the whole thing out, make a proper outline, learn to create storyboards, etc.

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A snake’s on the loose in Mike Turner’s new house and his wife is really freaking out!

CAST LIST:

Pam: Katelyn Varadi
Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Mike: Sean Ballantyne
Ross: Ted Powers

Interview with Screenwriter Adam Seidel (CALIFORNIA)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Adam Seidel: At it’s core California is about a man who decides to fight for his loveless marriage through taking extreme measures. It’s a piece that examines the way we often go all in on lost causes and how that affects us. Do we come out the other end completely destroyed or do we find a strength and purpose within ourselves we didn’t know was there? I think it can definitely go either way. In the case of this story, our protagonist finds the latter.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I’d say dark comedy / thriller.

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

I think the themes are very relatable to most people, whether they want to admit it or not. I think despite some of the more graphic parts of the story, the end offers a sense of hope. Also there’s a lot of dry comedy in the script that comes in strange moments that sort of tilts the world a bit. I think the script is looking for a very niche producer who loves gritty noir storytelling. If you’re out there, hit me up!

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

Barren hope.

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

It’s a very close call. It used to be Uncle Buck, no question. But the past year my daughter has become obsessed with The Grinch and it gets played at least two times a day. I can recite 80% of the dialog by heart.

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

It used to be a play, which I wrote in 2016. When it had it’s first staged reading this past year, the people in the audience who were repulsed came up to me and told me it should be a screenplay. So I turned it into a screenplay and found out that all those people were right.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written like thirty plays, four screenplays and three pilots. I also wrote a novella about visiting Waupun maximum security prison in Wisconsin and accidentally getting left behind in the mess hall.

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

Pink Floyd “Have a Cigar”

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

Self doubt. Time management. Life in general. The older I get the more I find I can’t just hunker down and grind for 13 hours. Also the majority of people in my writer’s circle that I share stuff with for notes hated the script. How I stuck with it I do not know. Tenacity? Dedication? Stupidity?

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

I love going on walks in the woods during summer. During winter cross country skiing is a great way to be out doors. I’m an avid swimmer. I find it calms my mind and ideas and problems often get worked out in the pool.

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

Pretty great actually.

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

It just seemed like a good opportunity. And here we are now!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

After discovering that his cheating wife is planning on running off with his scum bag brother, a scorned and bitter man decides to take violent action, altering the course of his life, and the lives of those around him, forever.

CAST LIST:

Large Trucker: Sean Ballantyne
Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Syd: Miriam Capper
John: Ted Powers

Interview with Screenwriter Paul Sargia (THE TATTOOED BLONDE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Paul Sargia: When incriminating evidence points to Jon, a Connecticut psychiatrist, as the main suspect in a tattoo artist’s murder, his freedom hinges on the one person who knows the truth, a mysterious tattooed blonde who’s been appearing and disappearing in his life.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

A drama with a twisty thriller ending and a touch of romance.

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

Because it’s satisfying pure entertainment with characters who show a lot heart, despite going through some difficult times. It will leave the audience guessing who the killer is right to the end which adds to the suspense.

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

Pure entertainment.

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

Casablanca — It’s a great story, and also has a great message about putting the priorities that are closest to your heart above the ones that are only dictated by your head.

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

I completed the original draft Within a few months, then tweaked it with the help of a screenwriting editor, Erin McMullan, sometime after that. And just prior to submitting it to this contest I made some more minor changes.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written eight screenplays (7 are original stories, one is an adaptation of a book), besides the first one which I call my practice script, which I fooled around with for about 15 years before moving on.

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

Hands down, a song few people know about by a group few people have heard of. I just feel it’s magnificent. WORD OF GLORY by the StarScape Singers under the direction of Kenneth G. Mills. Many, many songs tie as my second favorites.

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

This only obstacle was a good one. I really didn’t have an overall picture of how the script would go. I just spontaneously or, I guess you could say, intuitively went in different directions creatively with the scenes, not knowing how it would end until it just seemed to come together like a puzzle.

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

Besides improving myself as a person on this planet, which I spoke about in a previous interview, I love well made films (especially foreign and independent ones), keeping myself healthy with proper diet & exercise, following my favorite sports teams (the New York Yankees & New York Giants), and, of course, music, which enhances the soul when it’s the right kind.

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

It’s so easy to enter contests after all your scripts, and accompanying info, are input on your page. It’s also very easy to update all of that.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival?

What’s good about it is listening to the actors do the readings. It gives you a better idea of how your dialogue sounds. It definitely helps one to improve that aspect of your writing

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Sharon: Miriam Capper
Sal: Ted Powers
Narration: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Dennis: Gabriel Darku
Jon: Sean Ballantyne

Interview with Screenwriter Susan Boger (The Day the Corn Hatched)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Susan Boger: A genetically modified cornfield is irrigated with contaminated radioactive river water. After a severe storm, corn creatures hatch, simultaneously the town is engulfed in marijuana smoke. The corn creatures run amuck attacking and terrorizing the town people. Two teenagers through a series of comical events try to figure out how to restore peace in their town.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Sci-Fi horror comedy

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

More people are aware of the potential problems of eating genetically modified foods. This an entertaining and comical approach to give more information about genetically engineered foods. And it gives some knowledge of why one should be careful of what one eats.

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

Hilarious Sci-Fi

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

Zoolander

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

Several years

7. How many stories have you written?

Three

8. What is your favorite song?

I don’t really have one favorite song, but I love Reinga Carter’s version of “Ain’t Nobody.”

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

The biggest obstacle was learning formatting along with improved dialogue.

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

I am passionate about my family, encouraging my children and grandchildren to follow their dreams. And to set challenges with realistic goals for myself.

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

The site is easy to work with. It shows all the various contests, information about the contests, and the deadlines. It is easy to check on the status of my submissions.

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

What influenced me the most was it was a festival for fantasy and sci-fi. The initial feedback was terrific. I was thrilled and encouraged by the reader’s feedback.
 
Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Considered irresponsible and having a vivid imagination, a smart teenage stoner/hacker gains respect from his family when he saves his town engulfed in marijuana smoke from mutant killer corn creatures.

CAST LIST:

Anchorman: Kaleb Alexander
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Devin: Nikolai Afanasev
Rick: Peter Mark Raphael

Interview with Screenwriter Stephen Beyer (Living In The Moments)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Stephen Beyer: Jon spends most of his time partying and carousing with best friends Joey and Jay, and filling his life with hijinks. But when he develops romantic feelings for his new coworker Holly, he’s challenged to grow up a little so he can have a more mature relationship with her, while also introducing her to his wild and crazy world.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Romantic Comedy

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

A film at it’s core has a real beating heart about relationships and friendship that can inspire!

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

Hilarious & Heartfelt!

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

Casablanca

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

18 months

7. How many stories have you written?

3

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

Memories by Elvis

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

Many including sleep apnea and merger at work.

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

Family.

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

Very enjoyable.

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

I was influenced to enter the festival because of the great potential of getting my work out there on a platform that can be see by many. The initial feedback was extremely insightful. Since then a few revisions has been made and I have received perfect reviews from Miami and NYC since.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Joey: Geoff Mays
Narrator: Val Cole
Jon: Biden Hall
Jay: Shawn Devlin

Interview with Screenwriter Shruti Tewari (Flares)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Shruti Tewari: FLARES is a screenplay about friendship underscoring the thought that “When women come together, magic happens.”

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

DRAMA

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

FLARES should be a movie because it holds a mirror to several unexplored issues pertaining to women’s rights and serves as a metaphor for the lives of my characters that seek humor in darkness, serenity in turmoil and the freedom to shine, even if fleetingly, quite like a flare.

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

Survivor’s Choices

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

Forrest Gump

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

One year

7. How many stories have you written?

Stories for film – 4

Stories overall – Lost Count

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

Top of the World – Carpenters

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

The story and characters were in my head for a while but some of the plot points, inspired by actual events, took a while to fit in with the rest of the narrative.

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

I feel passionately about supporting and educating at-risk youth and have worked as a mentor in juvenile halls for nearly a decade with a local non-profit organization.

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

Great. I love the ease of the interface and enjoy discovering new festivals that match my subject interests.

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

I initially submitted just my logline and that submission was free. It was a great way to test if I was able to elicit interest in my project based on a couple of sentences.

I was then able to submit more information based on the response and the feedback helped me make revisions that benefited the pacing of the screenplay.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – Rebecca MacDonald
Starry (f 30s) – Krista Barzso
Sunny (f 30s) – Tracy Rowland