Interview with Screenwriter James Zeankowski (Every Purpose Under Heaven)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

James Zeankowski: Reporter Vera Reynolds of WBN News is investigating a sudden occurrence of immortality and makes a shocking discovery in the process that alters the course of humanity forever.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Supernatural Disaster, Faith based drama, Thriller

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

It is a story surrounding the theme of life and death that has never been told before.

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

Extremely unique.

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

Too many to name, but everything from the Disney and Star Wars franchises more than anything else.

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

5 years.

7. How many stories have you written?

4 scripts overall. 2 that I have the most faith in getting produced.

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

I’m very eclectic in my music tastes, but “Rooms on Fire” by Stevie Nicks definitely stands out.

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

No obstacles in finishing my writing, just getting the right people in the industry to read them and love them as much as I do.

10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
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I’m a pop culture guru as well as a news/current affairs/politics junkie. And since 2018, I’ve become more serious about my overall health to the point of regular fitness and better dieting. Though as a foodie, the latter part is difficult at times.

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

A few lingering hiccups, but overall am grateful for the opportunities given to showcase my work.

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

I was sought out by some LinkedIn connections, and the feedback has been positive overall. Once I have all materials I’m waiting for in my possession, I can better market myself to agents and producers.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

CAST LIST:

Red Team Producer – 1 – Sean Ballantyne
Susie – 4 – Andrea Irwin
NARRATION – Adrian Carter
Mayor Tibley – 11 – Sean Ballantyne
Doctor – 2 – Trevor Howes
Green Team Producer – 2 – Laura Afelskie

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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 Josh Brushett (PERSEVERANCE)

PERSEVERANCE was the May 2019 WILDsound Feature Screenplay Winner.

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Josh Brushett: The screenplay is about a young bride to be, in the prime of her life, with everything to live for until her life is unexpectedly cut short. Struggling to deal with the circumstances of her death and the discovery of an afterlife, Sarah Murphy, returned to earth in spirit form embarks upon a supernatural quest for revenge against the man who killed her.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Supernatural drama.

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

Because at the heart of it there’s a story of love and loss, loss of self and love at the same time. And there’s the idea that it could happen to anyone.

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

University project.

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

Probably one of my childhood favourites, either Jumanji or The Parent Trap (remake).

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

I spent almost two years whilst studying Scriptwriting For Film & TV at Bournemouth University on this script and it was my final major project.

7. How many stories have you written?

Not half as many as I’d like yet. Plenty in development. Choosing to focus on the LGBT side of things right now as it’s something personal to me and I always wanted to write a compelling indie rom com.

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

I can never decide my one favourite song because I go through phases where something becomes deeply personal to me. Probably “It Happens” by Busted.

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

Course pressure in my final year of university (nothing compared to the world of work but still), my own anxieties about whether it could possibly be good enough and whether I’d actually done the story justice and ended it at the right place.

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

Reading, watching films and TV box sets. Reading books at home, or listening to audiobooks whilst driving or walking. Basically stories, more than anything I love to be lost in fiction and be immersed in escapism in whatever form. I’m a sucker for a Netflix original series and I think the writers are incredibly talented and am always left wanting more.

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

My feelings were that the script still needs work, I have doubts like any human about my ability. It’s hard not to constantly compare yourself with other writers and it can be very daunting. I took the positives on board and tried to take a step back and look at the negatives and make a plan of how to address them. I entered the festival because I wanted to see if the story was something that would translate on screen and to see if anyone could connect with it.

 

 

 
Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Mother: Sylvie Normandeau
Chris: Brodie Nichols
Narration: Danielle Nicole
Sarah: Tiera Watts
Sylvia: Rebecca Whitby
Robber: David Rowan

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Interview with Screenwriter Nicole De Sapio (The Magnificent Mid-Century Met)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Nicole De Sapio: The Magnificent Mid-Century Met is about the intersecting, professional and personal lives of six famous singers at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House, during the post-WWII period. It is almost as much about the cultural changes of the post-WWII period in America as it is about those singers.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Biopic, musical, and comedy

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

I did some research and was frankly astonished how few movies about opera (as opposed to movies of operas) have ever been made. And, while the real-life stories of the singers in my screenplay are highly humorous and dramatic, they have never yet been the subject of a movie or play. This, in my opinion, is a shame and a serious oversight. I believe my screenplay could really fill a void if produced.

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

Witty, urban

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

Either the original, 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street or the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge. I’ve seen 12 Angry Men (1957) countless times as well.

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

It was a long and convoluted process, as I had originally intended the screenplay to be a biopic of the Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill (who is one of six main characters in The Magnificent Mid-Century Met). That version (titled Merrill of the Met) I began on February 9, 2018. I began the current version, The Magnificent Mid-Century Met, on December 29, 2018 and finished the first draft on February 14, 2019. Revisions took two more months; the final draft was finished by mid-April 2019.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’m mainly an essayist, and I didn’t become interested in fiction or in screenwriting until late in 2016. I’ve written some fanfiction short stories and two biopic-type screenplays.

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

That’s really hard…Broadway is my first love, and I’d have to say that my favorite Broadway ballad is “A Quiet Thing” from a little-known, 1965 Kander and Ebb musical called Flora, the Red Menace. Liza Minnelli sang this song originally.

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

Without a doubt the biggest challenge was deciding what story I actually wanted to tell and then finding the right form for that story. The screenplay didn’t really “take off” for me until I realized that it needed to have more than one protagonist and more than one storyline.

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

Opera, musicals, detective stories, and 19th-century English paintings.

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

Film Freeway is so usable and convenient that I couldn’t imagine my screenwriting life without it.

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

My brother, who is also a writer, suggested I enter the festival. Had I not done so, I would still have no idea how to format a screenplay or how to write proper slug-lines. In those two areas (and in others), the reader gave me indispensable advice.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

LOGLINE: Singers at the post-WWII Metropolitan Opera House face artistic and personal challenges amid cultural and social changes.

GENRE: True Story/Biography

CAST LIST:

Lillian (40s + – 8 – Carrie Schiffler
Narration – Barbara Bergeron
Abe (40s +) – David Occhipinti
Merrill (20s) – 10 – Steve Saet

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Interview with Screenwriter Ronald V. Micci (MARLISE)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Ronald V. Micci: A fragile lesbian and her sister who are in financial straits. Marilise, one of the sisters, is very vulnerable and finds herself the object of more than one set of affections, tearing her between her jealous sister, Leigh Ann, and a number of women. When well-to-do older lesbian seduces Marilise at a garden party, this causes friction with her sister. On a picnic with the older woman, Marilise must break the fact to her that their relationship can’t go on. She pursues Marilise on bike, and is killed in a road accident. Her twin sister seeks revenge. At first Marilise believes she is being haunted by Alisa, the dead woman. She consults a psychiatrist. But in fact, she is being haunted by the dead woman’s twin sister, who is intent on getting revenge and killing her.

Another woman who has taken Marilise under her wing betrays her, and has set her up as a target in a cottage on Montauk Point. But the police have gotten wind of the twin sister, and they are in a race against time to save Marilise from being murdered. The story culminates in gunshots and death on the beach at Montauk. Ergo, this is a love story and murder mystery combined.

2. What genre does your screenplay fall under?

It’s both love story and crime drama (murder mystery).

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

Mostly because it has a genuine emotional core. Most films today are lacking any true emotional basis.

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

Emotionally engaging.

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

The Best Years of Our Lives

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

The screenplay was finished several years ago. It began as a screen short, then I expanded it.

I usually write and rewrite and polish until every beat of the script is as
perfect as it can be (this is the equivalent to probably half a dozen times).

How long this takes can vary. As far as I’m concerned, I’m pleased with the script and it is finished. (It got Honorable Mention, or at least a shorter version of it did, in a screenplay competition in New York several years ago. I subsequently fleshed out a couple of scenes when it appeared that a film student was actually going to shoot the thing.)

7. How many stories have you written?

Three novels, about 60 one-act plays, four screenplays, four screen shorts, two sitcom scripts, a one-hour pilot script.

8. What is your favorite song?

Too many to pick a favorite. Any of the great show standards.

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

Nothing more than the usual grind of writing a script. But a critical turning point is when Marilise is betrayed by another woman who has taken her under her wing. That car scene surprised even me, and added a great twist and suspense to the denouement. It just kind of came out of nowhere.

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

Jazz and classical music, and playing the flute

11. What has been your experience working with Film Freeway?

Actually, I submitted several scripts via the specific contest websites rather than using the generic Film Freeway format, which seems to have locked one script in and which I couldn’t defeat.

12. What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

I thought the feedback was benign and it was clear that they had actually read the scripts. A couple of things eluded the reader, and I never did get feedback on the Marilise screen short submission, probably an oversight. This batch of readers seemed pretty on the ball, didn’t seem to “get it” in only a few

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A gentle lesbian love story between two financially strapped sisters in their 20s in the Hamptons turns deadly when they seek the assistance of an older woman, who comes between them romantically, and whose sudden accidental death leads to a revenge killing and murderous shootout on Montauk Point.

Crime

CAST LIST:

Jeffrey – 1 – David Occhipinti
Leigh Ann – 13 – Ella A
Narration – Michael Ruhs
Marilise – 52 – Barbara Bergeron
Alisa – 57 – Carrie Schiffler

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Interview with Screenwriter Raymond A. Porter (Himal Gold: Murder and Intrigue in the High Mountains)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Raymond A. Porter: A WWII German plane is discovered crashed in Nepal in 1953.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Action, adventure.

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

It’s a great historical action adventure that is based on fact.

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

Epic adventure.

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?

12 months

7. How many stories have you written?

6 books, 8 screenplays

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

Too many to list

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

Finding time, working and family always take up most of my day.

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

Martial arts, i gave up teaching at the end of 2017. And making movies.

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

All good, is straight forward and easy.

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

To get my script promoted. Initial feedback was good.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

In 1953, a British Journalist in Nepal to cover the attempt on Mt Everest, writes an article about an old Nazi cargo plane that has been found crashed in a sacred valley.

Upon reading the article, the Nazi officer who led an expedition into Tibet in 1938, seizes on the opportunity to reclaim the gold that was lost on that fateful flight.

CAST LIST:

Vincent – 3 – Michael Ruhs
Gunther – 1 – Steve Saet
Narration – Carrie Schiffler
Hauptman Weiss – 8 – David Occhipinti
Sebastian – 1 – Steve Saet

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Interview with Screenwriter Morgan Schefflin (L.A.’s Finest)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Morgan Schefflin: The backdrop of the script is about making a one hour TV procedural. However, the heart of the show is about relationships: friendship, love between current/old flames, and love of family.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It is a dramedy, so it falls under the drama and comedy genres.


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

TV and movies are supposed to be entertaining for an audience. I firmly believe that this script is extremely entertaining and scripts are eventually meant to be seen and not read.

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

Witty, heartfelt

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

Rocky

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

I’ve been working on this script on and off for about 10 years. The last year or so I’ve worked with network executives and managers to really show me how I needed to shape this to be what it is now.

7. How many stories have you written?

If we’re talking stories in general, not scripts, then probably 100s in various forms of short stories, scripts, plays, etc. I think I’ve written around 15 screenplays, and I think I have around 30 scripts in various stages of development.

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

My favorite song is Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley.

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

Oh man, what obstacles didn’t I face? For context purposes, I loved writing when I was in elementary school. I really started to get into writing scripts when I was in 7th-8th grade, but I could never find real training in how I should write a script until my mid 20’s. Up until that point, all of my writing techniques were self-taught. When I was looking for colleges I had a really hard time finding a program for screenwriting. I eventually found something at Full Sail University and I learned a lot about what I was missing in this particular script during that time. Last year, I found another program through RoadMap Writers where I can work with Network executives and Managers. That really got me to the point of where it is now. However, I had to work with many various executives and managers because screenplays are very subjective, obviously. Also, this particular script takes place in the world of TV, so it’s getting scrutinized even harder than a regular script would. I’ve been told this will never sell. I’ve been told to try something else. I’ve been told almost everything you can be told to discourage you from not continuing this script, but I’m very passionate about these characters and their stories.

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

I like watching my sports teams and playing sports. Unfortunately, all my teams are generally terrible, so watching them is very painful (Jets, Mets, Nets, Devils). I’m a big movie buff, so I love to watch movies. I don’t get as much time to play games as I was when I was younger, but right now I’m playing The Division 2 and revisiting some older games I didn’t get a chance to finish.

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

My experiences have been pretty good. It’s been easy to submit and if I had a question the people have been responsive.

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

I have entered the festival previous times, but unfortunately I had received a lot of conflicting feedback. Now that I had time to work with Managers and Network executives to fine tune my script, I wanted to see if it had paid off.

It turns out it has!

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Logline: A TV showrunner clashes with his head writer and network executive girlfriend to get his pilot made as promised to his niece before he gets ousted out of the TV business for good.

Genre: Drama, comedy

CAST LIST:

Steve (20s)– 4 – Steve Saet
Josh (50s) 11 – David Occhipinti
Narration Ella A
Ryan (30s)– 30 – Michael Ruhs
Jenny (20s-30s) – 19 – Barbara Bergeron