Interview with Screenwriter Lea Ann Vandygriff (The Camping Lawyer)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Lea Ann Vandygriff: A hilarious comedy about a klutzy lawyer, Jim, who decides on a whim to take his family camping at Yellowstone, which is entirely out of his element. He persuades his best friend Josiah and two other families to join them. Josiah is continuously the brunt of Jim’s failed attempts at everything. The quick wit and clumsiness of Jim and the aggravation of Josiah will keep you laughing.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Feature Comedy

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

This screenplay is like Christmas Vacation at Yellowstone. Take a klutzy southern lawyer, add a Latino best friend and there you have it: A love/hate relationship full of laughter.

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

As Josiah describes Jim, “Warped with Sprinkles.”

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

Christmas Vacation

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

The screenplay, a couple of months. “The Camping Lawyer” is based on an actual trip to Yellowstone with friends. Our group of friends and my husband have given me a lot of material over the years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written a variety of genres: Christmas, Royal, Southern, Western, Rodeo, Drama, Fantasy, Comedy, and Faith-Based. I have six features, four shorts, a TV Pilot and three books. All have multiple festivals and literary awards.

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

Disney’s “Happily Ever After.” This song inspires me to keep moving toward my dreams. I listen to every word; it seems to be talking directly to me!

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

The character, “Jim,” is based on my husband. I lost him to cancer in 2015. The memories were bittersweet. I hope that this will be made into a movie because it would leave a legacy of laughter and smiles, which is something; he wanted people to remember about him.

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

I am passionate about my faith; it has gotten me through many struggles. I would not be where I am running after my dreams without the talents and gifts God has given.

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

I love Film Freeway; they make it easy to keep up with my many screenplays and stats. It is easy to enter the festivals, and they keep you updated on your favorite festivals.

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

I have heard good things about your festival, and I checked out your credentials. We had a slight bump in the road, but you took care of it promptly. Thank you.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

Rebecca: Carina Cojeen
Sydney: Christina Leonard
Narrator: Aaron Williams
Narration: Sean Ballantyne
Jim: Geoff Mays
Josiah: Aaron Maxwell Williams

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

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

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

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama.

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

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

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

Sad gain.

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

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

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

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

7. How many stories have you written?

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

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

First of May by The Bee Gees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

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

CAST LIST:

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

Interview with Screenwriter Chris Desmond (RIFF RAFF)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Chris Desmond: When one of their own gets adopted, residents of a pet store plot to break out, crosstown and bring her back home. Ultimately the story is about the extremes one goes through in order to keep the family together.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Animation/Family

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

I believe that the sacrifice, risk, and determination needed to keep your family together under duress is universal and transcends race, religion, and creed.

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

Misfit pets

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

Blade Runner

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

Originally I sat down to write a short story for my 10yr old daughter while she was going through chemotherapy. Of course, I discovered when it was complete that I wrote it for myself to get through a tough time. But in the end, I had an extremely detailed outline for a screenplay. The actual writing of the screenplay probably took about 6-8 weeks.

7. How many stories have you written?

16 screenplays, 6 original pilots, 6 short films (wrote/directed/produced), 2 webseries (wrote/directed/produced)

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

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

The usual suspects: Self-doubt, my own procrastination, ignoring the proven rules of screenwriting then taking time to fix, and that nagging voice in the back of my head that kept echoing “There is no spec market for animated screenplays. What are you going to do with this?”

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

I love going to the beach. I’m happiest with sand between my toes.

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

I’ve had a great experience with Film Freeway. I have submitted many projects through them and they keep the artist well informed and do a great job of tracking all my projects. I actually found the Feedback Animation Festival there in my search for Animation Screenplay contests.

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

The screenplay had won the Screencraft Family Friendly screenwriting contest and I wanted to see where else I could put it up against other screenplays. Animation screenwriting contests are pretty rare so I was happy to find your competition.  

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

When one of their own gets adopted, residents at a pet store decide to bust out, cross-town and bring her back home.

CAST LIST:

Daisy: Pascale Behrman
Bo: Thomas Fournier
Sonia: Jillian Robinson
Girl: Aimee Poulin
Narration: Kat Smiley
Riley: Bill Poulin
Luc/Jared: David Rowan
Karl: Sean Ballantyne

Interview with Screenwriter Anthony Catino (Fata Morgana’s)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Anthony Catino: It’s about a dying man who travels to the edge of the universe to visit a brothel staffed with alien sex workers who provide extraordinary services, both real and imaginary, so he can end his life with the help of his wife. The twist is his wife has been dead for a very long time.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

The concept is thriller but the only genre it could be written in is Sci-Fi in order to achieve the emotional and visual effects it needed.

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

I wrote this short in Sci-Fi with the goal of seeing it made into a 100% CGI short similar to those on Love, Death & Robots.

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

Everlasting love.

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

The Godfather, but now tied with the Matrix.

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

It took a Saturday and Sunday to write but the concept had been in my head for at least a month before I sat down and cranked it out.

7. How many stories have you written?

5 Shorts, 4 features, a crime comedy about finished then a unique zombie comedy that already has interest as a treatment and a TV series in the works.

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

Most listened to is a toss up. “Every Little Thing She Does” by the Police and “You Wreck Me” by Tom Petty. Love found, love lost. Either one will get the blood pumping and great lyrics. No, I’m not old… just love really great songs with great lyrics… doesn’t matter what decade.

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

No obstacles at all however your judge requested to kick up the tension during their escape and it really propelled the story forward. The notes were great and the rewrite made it much better. Please post that version!

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

Health and fitness. I’m in the gym at least 4-5 days a week to reset the brain.

11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site
?
FilmFreeway makes entering contests easy. Just a few clicks and you’re done. Uploading is simple and to change out scripts for rewrites is easy.

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

I don’t write Sci-Fi, I write thrillers so I was hesitant to enter it in any contest really. Especially it was my first foray into Sci-Fi. I really like the story and feedback from peers urged me to enter it in contests. Yours was the first and I like the festival’s approach and concept.

 

 

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A dying man travels to the edge of the universe to visit a brothel staffed with alien sex workers who provide extraordinary services, both real and imaginary, so he can end his life with the help of his wife.

CAST LIST:

Nuralla: Christina Leonard
Commander: Aaron Maxwell
Narration: Sean Ballantyne
Hogur: Carina Cojeen
Jaze: Aaron Williams
Dex: Geoff Mays

Interview with Screenwriter Michael R. Barnard (EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE)

 Matthew Toffolo: What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Michael R. Barnard:Drama and thriller.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

This project became a personal passion project. Every time I’ve thought it would be irrelevant, I’d get drawn back into its vibrancy and imperative. Today, we watch an administration that wants to shove gays back into the closet and that encourages followers to be violent against everyone who is different.

The subject has been considered too edgy. It’s been at studios, it’s been with producers, I’ve tried on my own to finance it, but people have thought it’s too edgy, they didn’t believe how valid and important it is, and wouldn’t believe an audience could identify with it.

I think they’re wrong, especially in today’s world.

I am trying again to get it into theaters. It’s still for that one guy who was sitting in that diner in Big Bear Lake.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Inspiring. Healing.

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

Casablanca.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

Since 1998. I am waiting for the world to catch up to its importance.

How many stories have you written?

I have written several screenplays, some well-developed and some just rough drafts. I am currently working on a comedy screenplay. I have written a couple books, one a technical manual about computer video when that was new, and the other an historical fiction romance set one century ago. I have written magazine articles and essays.

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

Purple Rain. (Prince was a friend of mine.)


What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Prejudice and funding.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I write about everything that I’m passionate about. Social justice is most important to me. Filmmaking is important to me. Acting is important to me. I am also passionate about classic cars and vinyl LPs.

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

I like Film Freeway and am glad it exists. I have submitted various projects to various contests through it.

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

I have always been reluctant to consider EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE—The Story of a Father and Son to be an LGBTQ story. As I mentioned, I wrote it for the good ol’ boy sitting in the diner in Big Bear Lake bragging that he’d throw out his son if he were gay. Your contest description made me re-think my attitude.

Your initial feedback was interesting and solid. If ever there were someone who actually wanted to team up on really making this movie, I would apply such feedback to make the best motion picture possible.

 

 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

EVERYBODY SAYS GOODBYE–The Story of a Father and Son uncovers those issues on a very personal level: a parent disowns his teenage son who come out as gay. Drastic reality slaps this father hard, though, when he discovers his son may have been the victim of a serial killer killing the boys of the streets of Hollywood.

CAST LIST:

Sauer: David Rowan
Catherine: Jillian Robinson
Narration: Kat Smiley
John: Allan Brunet
Henry/John: Bill Poulin
Sarah: Pascale Behrman

Interview with Screenwriter J. Malia Miranda (ACROSS THE NEON HOURS)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

J. Malia Miranda: Across the Neon Hours takes Reese, a local poker room supervisor, and Alex, a card-playing tourist, on a twelve-hour adventure in Las Vegas. Reese initially coaxes Alex to venture out on the town as a way to distract from her husband’s gambling debts that are finally coming home to roost. While Alex, in Las Vegas to escape the everyday responsibilities waiting for her at home, is fascinated by Reese and her fast-firing wit. The two women navigate the streets of Las Vegas and all that it throws at them including street hustlers, a drunken bridal party, a playboy casino owner, and a crew of philosophical drag queens. It’s a tale of how two strangers can come together and experience a real and transformative connection even in a sliver of time.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Rite of Passage, LGBT, Dramedy

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

First, the script is highly visual.

It shows a lot of heart and realism in a glitzy town that is often a backdrop for outrageousness.

Character-wise, we don’t see enough women on film experiencing a mid-life crisis where they are just feeling stuck. Cinematically, women tend to face “big stuff” like addiction or abuse when they are the lead. There’s a line that Reese says, “Sometimes I feel like I’m being held hostage by this life.” and I think a lot of women feel that way in their 30s and 40s balancing home and work life. But, we don’t often see this in film, how it can sort of rock us sometimes.

Ancillary characters are also unique, colorful, and engaging.

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

Introspective, Moxie

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

Fargo
(it’s really Dirty Dancing, but I was a teenager)

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

I finished the meat of it in 14 days. I couldn’t type fast enough. Because of that, I spent the next 6 months in rewrite.

7. How many stories have you written?

I used to write a lot of short-form stories and poetry. This was my first script. I had so much fun with it that I’m revisiting four other stories and whiteboarding for screenplays.

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

Probably “Elsewhere” by Sarah McLachlan. This was a Coming Out anthem for me.

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

The rewrite was the difficult part. It takes a lot of thought and concentration to keep continuity while revisiting every line.

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

I love playing cards. Cribbage and Poker are my games. Golf is a great escape for me too. Spending time with my almost 4-year old and wife. We have a really fun family dynamic.

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

FilmFreeway is great in that it offers more alternatives than some others that I use.

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

The script is a different sort of LGBT story. No one is coming out here. No one is facing expulsion from their families. No one is out on the street trying to make ends meet. These are important stories to tell. But this story is really a glimpse of two people and their meaningful connection. I feel like it’s important to have simple love stories like this in the genre alongside the heavier messaging.

The initial feedback was really helpful. Saying that Across the Neon Hours was one draft away from something really top-notch lit a fire under me. I knew it was too. This festival was one of the first I entered and the final draft is definitely more streamlined and punchier.
 

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Unable to face the reality of her collapsing marriage after news that her husband has gambled away a small fortune, a Las Vegas casino manager bonds with a card-playing tourist during one impulsive night under the neon lights of Sin City.

CAST LIST:

Dante: Allan Brunet
Reese: Jillian Robinson
Narration: Kat Smiley
Alex: Pascale Behrman

Interview with Screenwriter Greg Emmerth (PALMETTO)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Greg Emmerth: On a basic level, a wayward son returns home for his mother’s birthday. On a slightly deeper level, it’s about how people allow the past, and past grievances and holding onto pain for far too long, to hobble their present lives.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

It’s primarily a family drama.

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

I believe in the story, and that there is an important message in trying to move beyond the sometimes negative circumstances that bring us to where we are in life.

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

I’d call the script a ‘pleasurable burden.’ The story itself in two words I would describe as ‘vicarious dysfunction.’

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

I’m a bit of a nerd, so I suspect the combined Star Trek films would be it. I also really enjoy Dangerous Liaison with Glenn Close and John Malkovich and have watched it countless times since it came out in the 1980s. It’s an amazing character study and amazingly nuanced performances.

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

On and off for over a decade. I just revisited it roughly 6 months ago after about 2 years away from it.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written 5 short films, all of which were produced, two published novels and two unproduced feature screenplays. I tend to work on several projects at once and bounce between them, so I have a novel, a short film and this project all under construction at the moment.

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

At 50, with decades of music under my belt, that’s a hard one to answer. I think ‘One Moment in Time’ by Whitney Houston or ‘I’m Still Standing’ by Elton John. They’re both inspiring in their own way, and have pulled me through more than one rough patch.

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

Finding the time to work on it given the competing priorities, coupled with struggling to call it done and stop tweaking it. A word here, a couple lines there… it’s challenging me for me to not want to edit it.

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

Depends on the season. With winter here if I’m not at work I try to be on my snowboard. It’s a great escape and way to recharge from the week. I love learning. Three degrees down and most likely going back again in a year or two. Lastly, always trying to take the road less traveled.

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

I have not had any issues with them whatsoever.

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

For me it was the feedback and opportunity to see part of it read aloud. I enjoyed the feedback and tend to focus on festivals that provide it. Even when negative, I find value in getting a different perspective. I don’t always follow their notes, but I think I’ve been able to make some pretty significant leaps forward by incorporating feedback into the latest draft.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

Jack Greer, his long term relationship ended, returns to his childhood home in Charleston, South Carolina for his estranged mother’s birthday.

CAST LIST:

Conner: Shawn Devlin
Narration: Hannah Ehman
Jamie: Ron Boyd
Jack: Michael Ruhs