Interview with Screenwriter Danny Gendron (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – “Opening Act”)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Danny Gendron: While on tour with famous singer Shy Baldwin, Midge struggles to handle newfound anxiety that comes with her looming success. Elsewhere, Susie keeps a secret from Midge that could seriously threaten their friendship and working relationship.

2. How does this script fit into the context and themes of the show?

This script zeroes in on the moment when a performer makes a certain jump in career status that means they are no longer a big fish in a small pond. In the context of the show, Midge has been crushing it at clubs, rising to the occasion at dinner theaters, and pulling a miraculous performance out of thin air for an all-or-nothing appearance on a telethon. But what happens when you start to feel like your whole career is all-or-nothing? The weight of the prospect of fame and visibility might make even the most confident performer start to crack a little.

3. Why should this screenplay be the season 3 opener for this show?

It was fortunate that season 2 of Mrs. Maisel ended with the prospect of Midge and Susie going on a six month long international tour. It gave me a lot of freedom to write our main characters in locations that are different from the show’s usual New York setting. What’s even more fortunate is that the show frequently visits various locations. So while I got to break the mold a little, I never felt like I was betraying what made the show special (something I feel a lot of spec scripts can easily end up doing).

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

“Doubt” and “Inevitability”

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

That’s tough. I think it’s a tie between “Back to the Future” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

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

I conceived, outlined, and wrote this spec script in about two months. I rewatched a lot of season 2 of the show and took notes on every scene to get a feel for how the show is structured and to figure out what hallmarks of the show I wanted to embrace.

7. How many stories have you written?

This year I wrote this spec and an original pilot. With that, I have now written four teleplays and a feature length screenplay. But, in my job as a television writers’ assistant, I am apart of crafting several stories a week along with the writers and showrunners in the room.

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

“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire jumps to mind but I have a playlist of like 20 songs that I basically listen to over and over again. I also love “Don’t Get Married without Me” by Punch Brothers.

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

This is a story in which Midge is facing a lot of self-doubt. That turned out to be the biggest balancing act in the story because she is typically an incredibly confident character who specializes in getting people to like her. It was a fun challenge (but a challenge nonetheless) to figure out how to have scenes where people DON’T like Midge and where she loses her confidence without feeling like I was being unfaithful to the character. Ultimately, the solution was to just have her talk out how she’s feeling in real time.

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

I love music, food, and alcohol. If this writing thing doesn’t pan out, you’ll be probably find me working at a winery tasting room in Edna, California by day and hosting open mics by night.

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

FilmFreeway is the easiest way to submit your projects to various fests. I’ve also submitted short films through the site and what’s immediately obvious is that the festivals themselves work closely with FF. There’s mutual trust that makes you feel good about sending in your work for evaluation.

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

As this was my first ever spec script, I was really keen to get feedback on it from people who love TV and know the show. The positivity of my feedback was frankly overwhelming and a big confidence booster. I am very fortunate that Television Feedback Fest received my piece so warmly. I would submit again in the future.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

While serving as the opening act for singer Shy Baldwin on his European tour, Midge grapples with the anxiety and fraud complex that comes with her increasing stardom. Meanwhile, Susie wrestles with a secret she should have revealed to Midge a long time ago.

CAST LIST:

Rose: Jordan Boscariol
Joel: Fabio Abreu
Shy: Gabriel Darku
Narration: Sean Ballantyne
Midge: Justine Christensen
Susie: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Moise: William Poulin
Abe: Steven Holmberg

Interview with Screenwriter Carlos Perez (IN HYDING)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Carlos Perez: In Hyding is a unique adaptation of the novella, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Instead of Jekyll turning into an evil monster, he turns into what he feels is his real self, a trans woman. He relives himself as the person he was when he was a young man and had a relationship with one of his close male friends in which he would dress as a woman and they would make love to one another.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama and romance, and to some extent, horror.

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

I feel the aspects of Jekyll’s transformation would be more easily conveyed for the screen because the transformation is completely in Jekyll’s mind, and in the screenplay whenever he looks in the mirror as Ms. Hyde, he sees himself as he was when he was a young man, even though those who are around him see him as his real self in make-up, dressed in a wig, and wearing woman’s attire.

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

Disturbingly Beautiful

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

Storm of the Century because it seems to correctly convey, in a rather horrific way, just how inhumane humanity can be and the dangers of mob mentality.

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

Over two years

7. How many stories have you written?

I have dozens of published short stories and several published stage plays, along with quite a number of produced writer-for-hire screenplays, and two original screenplays that have been produced.

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

Hotel California by The Eagles

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

The subject matter was one which I knew would have a difficult time finding a producer for, and there is an intense scene in which Jekyll’s father tries to cure young Henry of his homosexuality that was also a difficult sell. But the scene isn’t gratuitous and is necessary to help in defining Henry’s mental state.

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

Our Civil Rights. I’m a proud member of the ACLU.

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

Excellent. I like their platform because it’s reliable, helpful, and easy to use.

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

The ideas behind it intrigued me and it seemed very open. The feedback has been quite helpful to me, and I truly enjoyed the reading and found it to be very professional.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Dr. Jekyll has perfected a formula that will allow him to be the person he feels he is inside.

CAST LIST:

NARRATION – DIANA FRANZ
Utterson – 1 – GENE ABELA
Father – 18 – SEAN BALLANTYNE
Henry – 18 – THOMAS FOURMIER

Interview with Screenwriter Arturo Portillo (AMONG US)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Arturo Portillo: My screenplay, AMONG US, is about a group of people who are forced to come together to fight an unspeakable horror that has invaded their small Nebraskan town. A horror that permeates from within human flesh!

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Action, and Creature-Feature sub-genre

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

Because it is a fun ride from beginning to end. The audience will not really have a chance to feel safe. They’re part of the survivors rooting the characters on. If you like the movie’s The Thing, The Blob, Tremors, and Slither, my screenplay AMONG US will surely be right up there with them.

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

Scary fun

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

Pulp Fiction

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

3 years

7. How many stories have you written?

27 stories

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

The song I’ve listened to the most times is FM-84 – Running In The Night (feat. Ollie Wride)

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

Finding the time to sit down and just write.

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

Filmmaking and drawing/painting

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

FilmFreeway is such an easy way to navigate and easy to upload. I’ll keep
using that medium to submit my projects.

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

I wanted to see my writing come to life. To see how others interpret my material.

My initial feeling was being surprised about how the actors interpreted my characters.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Cash: Trevor Howes
Teller: Wilfred Lee
Narrator: Val Cole
Bunny: Mercedez De Castro
Sandy: Veronika Gribanova
Bum: Ted Powers

 

 

Interview with Screenwriter Wanda Wright (SUPREME LEADER)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Wanda Wright: It’s the year 2031 and Teller Lowder is working at becoming Supreme Leader with the help of his good friends and the absurd seems to be working beautifully.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy

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

Supreme Leader is a 1/2 TV Comedy and it should be produced because it’s funny and has endless comedic material that makes us laugh.

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

Wild and Crazy

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

The Wizard of Oz, it had an edge because I first saw it when I was a tiny kid.

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

A few weeks, I have several projects I work on and Supreme Leader is the funnest because I still laugh about it no matter how many times I read it or write on it.

7. How many stories have you written?

At this point, I’ve written 4 novels and two spec scripts Supreme Leader and Shabby, a thriller as well as 36 short stories and am currently writing a science fiction series novel that I will shortly be doing a spec script for as well.

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

I have too many favorites to name just one in music. I am a big fan of just about all of it.

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

None, the material is definitely endless so it’s just about writing more on it and laughing more.

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

Traveling and I’ve done that more than the average bear as well as going to concerts and playing online poker which I am getting better and better at.

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

It was great and seamless.

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

StoryPitches.com I won their monthly log line contest and they encouraged me to submit it and gave me a discount to do it because I won the log line contest.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Cash: Trevor Howes
Teller: Wilfred Lee
Narrator: Val Cole
Bunny: Mercedez De Castro
Sandy: Veronika Gribanova
Bum: Ted Powers

Interview with Screenwriter Helen Marsh (THE GREATEST HEIGHT)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Helen Marsh: The Greatest Height is about finding a higher purpose within the struggles and conflict of day to day life. The story follows Nickle, a quirky girl who recently graduated high school and figures it’s about time she tries her hand at love. She sets her eyes on a do-gooder church boy, and through heart-break and betrayal finds something much more genuine and lasting. She finds God.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Family, Romance, Spiritual, Comedy

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

A lot of stories about finding God and discovering faith and spiritually centre around epic journeys and overcoming the impossible. What’s beautiful about The Greatest Height is that the epic journey is simply finding God, and the focus of the story remains on “the average girl” who’s discovering herself and realizing what she’s had in front of her all along. This is a comedic underdog tale (like Juno or Ladybird) that brings people to leave the theatre high on life.

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

Daringly beautiful

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

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (by my favourite author and screenwriter Stephen Chbosky)

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

One year

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve been writing stories since I was able to hold a pencil in my hand; the amount of strange ideas I’ve put to paper are endless. However, when it comes to screenplays I’ve written thirteen (the spookiest of numbers).

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

My favourite song is probably Lost Boy by Ruth B.

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

I went through a bit of a spiritual journey of my own while writing this. I meticulously searched the bible for inspiration and quotes that helped propel the screenplay. I also researched stories about other people finding faith (no matter the religion, believing in something is nice!)

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

I’m passionate about horror movies and watch way too many of them. Of course, I have to see them in theatres to get the full surround sound scare. I’m also a great lover of animals, with two cats, a dog, and a bunny for roommates.

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

FilmFreeway is awesome! t’s a great tool and can often lead to industry connections.

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

WILDsound Festival was an obvious choice for The Greatest Height because it offers feedback as well as a real prize: screenplay reading. For most festivals you receive a laurel if you’re a winner, which is great but doesn’t help your writing in any manner. By having my screenplay read out loud, I am able to hear my characters come to life and get a better understanding of which lines work and which don’t. The written feedback they gave me was also phenomenal, and really helped streamline my script and elevate my writing.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Logline: A rebellious and quirky young woman seeks true love in the form of a do-gooder church boy. However, after heart break and betrayal she finds something much better. She finds God.
CAST LIST :

Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Church: Hartley O. Gyamfi
Rosa: Lada Darewych
Stephanie: Jennifer Misiorowski
Pastor: Sheldon Graham

Interview with Screenwriter/Novelist Bill Steigerwald (30 Days a Black Man)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Bill Steigerwald: The true but forgotten story of a daring, pioneering and historic undercover journalism mission into the Jim Crow South of 1948 by two brilliant, accomplished, older men — one a star white newspaperman from Pittsburgh pretending to be black and the other a black political and social leader from Atlanta. Their unique collaboration created a nationally syndicated newspaper series that shocked the white North, pissed off the white South, pleased millions of blacks and started the first national debate in the media (print and radio) over ending Jim Crow legal segregation.


2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Nonfiction docudrama buddy movie.

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

It’s a great story about America — white and black — set in 1948 in the Jim Crow South, Pittsburgh and New York City. Often shocking and crammed with historic characters like Eleanor Roosevelt, NAACP leader Walter White and young Martin Luther King Jr., ’30 Days a Black Man’ is also loaded with powerful dramatic events like bloody race riots and the country’s last mass lynching. It’s a timely and important subject, co-stars two brilliant, mature characters (think Jeff Bridges and Samuel L. Jackson), and deserves to be made into a sophisticated six- or seven-part Netflix-like series.

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

Shocking history.

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

Tie: “1984” and “Brazil”

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

Six months (it’s adapted from my own nonfiction book, ’30 Days a Black Man.’

7. How many stories have you written?

Thousands of newspaper articles, feature stories and op-ed columns over 35-plus years as a newspaper and magazine journalist. Two nonfiction books — ‘Dogging Steinbeck’ and ’30 Days a Black Man.’ Several attempts at screenplays.

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

I’m old. Too many great ones to choose — anything by Hendrix, Pretenders, Tom Petty, Billie Holiday, Count Basie et al.

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

Not finished. I wrote three episodes of a series, written to show potential of the story and the rich historical setting.

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

Jazz. Journalism.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

In 1948 a daring white newspaperman from Pittsburgh disguises himself as a black man and goes undercover for a month in the Jim Crow South. What he sees makes him ashamed to be an American. What he writes wakes up the whole country. What he and the brilliant black leader who protected him from the KKK did strikes an important early blow against America’s apartheid. A true story.

CAST LIST:
Narrator: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Dobbs: Hartley O. Gyamfi
Sprigle: Joseph Ferrari
Dr. Vaughn: Sean Balantyne
Willie Kirkland: Sheldon Graham

Interview with Screenwriter Jonah Ocuto (RISES TO THRONE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Jonah Ocuto: My Screenplay “Rises to Throne” is about a programmer named Bill, who, convinced that the world will end in 5 days, is forced to team up with a nihilist in order to secure an afterlife for every soul on Earth. The screenplay addresses how much of our lives are dictated by the codes we live by, and what happens when we are forced to realize that our way of seeing the world was incorrect the whole time. Often, the most profound truths are the ones that have been hiding right in front of us, the ones that we can’t see until we admit our own failures.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Is Weird Drama a genre? If not, then just Drama.

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

Rises to Throne is a script that you don’t see too often nowadays — it’s a slow burn, but packed with insight. This script turns a keen eye to individuals and circumstances that we may not look at otherwise — I believe that it’s of paramount importance that we give the least among us as much of a voice as the rest of us. Rises to Throne should be made into a movie because it is a story that can only be told through the medium of film.

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

What now?

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

Oh man, it’s probably a tie between Eraserhead and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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

Rises to Throne has been in development for about a year and a half now, but the finished script was written over the course of 15 weeks for a Screenwriting class at the film school I attend.

7. How many stories have you written?

Outside of this feature and four short films I’ve written, I write creative nonfiction stories weekly on my website, jocuto.wordpress.com.

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

I’m the most indecisive guy you’ll ever meet — a terrible curse for a hopeful screenwriter — but probably Rock Bottom Riser by Bill Callahan.

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

As a student, running out of time is always the biggest obstacle — Rises to Throne was developed over the course of only 15 weeks for class, and on top of this, I was taking 4 other classes. The biggest obstacle regarding screenwriting, for me, however, has always been allowing your characters to dictate and direct the plot, rather than force your characters to meet milestones you’ve arbitrarily laid out before them.

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

While writing is my one true love, I’m also a Tetris fanatic. Top 5% in the nation. Tetris is a bit like writing, actually — It’s not about making the correct decision, it’s just about making a decision as fast as possible, and seeing where it leads you.

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

Film Freeway is an invaluable tool in the independent screenwriters arsenal. I’ve only had great experiences with the website, as it gives me the opportunity to hear about festivals and competitions I never would have learned about otherwise.

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

I really wanted to enter a festival that would give timely feedback on my first draft, and this one seemed like a perfect fit. The feedback I received, while brief, will be an instrumental part of the rewriting process as I continue to develop the script further.
 
Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Bill lives in Chicago and is an amazing computer whiz and writes a program called, Categoric. He is convinced the world is going to end in a few days.

CAST LIST:

Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Emma: Katelyn Varadi
Bill: Michael Ruhs