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

Interview with Screenwriter Elizabeth Searle (A FOUR SIDED BED)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

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

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

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Drama, Erotic Drama, Romance, LGBTQ

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

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

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

All Ways

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

Casablanca

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

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

7. How many stories have you written?

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

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

Soul Love by David Bowie

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

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

CAST LIST:

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

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

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

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

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Western comedy

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

We need more comedy westerns.

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

Laughable parody.

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

The Big Lebowski

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

For a couple of years.

7. How many stories have you written?

Just two with a couple in the works.

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

Stairway to Heaven

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

Trying to find an ending.

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

My children.

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

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

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

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

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

Interview with Screenwriter Horton Emory (TRANSPARENT Spec Screenplay)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Horton Emory: My spec script ‘Transparent: Who’s Getting Ali?’ is about using the rare moments of anonymity we have to explore gender.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy Spec

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

Self exploration

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

Best in Show

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

I worked on this screenplay for about five months.

6. How many stories have you written?

In my day job I’m a journalist, so combined with narrative work it has to be at least hundreds!

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

I’m going to hold “A Father’s First Spring” by The Avett Brothers close to me even though I can’t bring myself to listen to it, because my mother sent it to me just before she died.


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

There were two big challenges in this screenplay: first of all, I had to figure out what to do with Maura, since Jeffrey Tambor is no longer with the show and the episode is set after the fourth season ends but before the fifth begins. I let Maura move away and have her own life, but after I wrote the spec Transparent revealed Maura will be dead in the newest season and I wish I had thought of that! I think I was afraid to kill off one of the most prominent transgender characters in television. But now that the show has done it, I think its a brilliant way to wrap up the series. Maura needs to leave the show in a strong, final way and there will be a lot of emotional material to work with in the rest of the characters to end on a strong emotional note, as this show is known to do. (I know that was a rant, but I want to put my respect for the direction the show took out there!)

As far as a more technical obstacle, that had to do with the timeline between writing scenes in both Los Angeles and Israel, and how those would meet up. It was very confusing and it took a while to create a sequence of events that made sense logistically.

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

Media literacy! I used to manage a newsroom and the company was taken over by a man with no media literacy, and boy is that dangerous. I’ve seen first hand that some people who control media aren’t media literate, and that’s how ignorance spreads.

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

I started using FilmFreeway as a festival I was working with was switching from Withoutabox. I had used both platforms and FilmFreeway was so much more user-friendly!

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

I entered this festival because at this stage in my career, I want all the feedback I can get.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

TSA Officer: Allan Brunet
Husband: Diego O’Brien
Len: Justin Martins
Narrator: Elizabeth Morriss
Sarah: Michele Urbano
Ali: Jessica Bowmer
Davina: Victoria Urquhart

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Interview with Screenwriter Louetta Jensen (Bittersweet Serenity)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

The screenplay, Bittersweet Serenity, is about an estranged wife who is desperate to put an end to her failed marriage from a maverick scientist, and joins forces with an endangered family who have been touched by the scientist’s evil. As a result, the wife becomes empowered, through necessity, in order to bring the scientist down and end his tortuous treatment of patients.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Psychological thriller, mystery, horror.

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

It’s the hook which is the specific method of treatments done by the scientist which is the use of holograms in a scientific approach, leaving patients wondering if their greatest fears are real, or a dream, and neither which they can escape mentally.

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

Fear monger.

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

The Witches of Eastwick, and Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds.

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

Many years. It has been adapted by myself and my co-writer from my published, award winning, novel by the same title name.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have personally written 4 novels, 3 screenplays, and many short stories, most of which are published.

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

The Prayer by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli.

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

No obstacles. The words fell onto the pages. No one will stop me from writing my heart out.

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

I’m also passionate about working as an animal advocate and have done this for many decades due to my deep love for animals.

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

Film Freeway is a great and streamlined way to enter submissions.

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

I’ve done so previously and was pleased with the final product.

Watch the Screenplay Reading:

Logline: In the remote mountains of Washington State, there lives an evil and monstrous legend: his name is Dr. Martin Braddock, and he devours souls for a living. The maverick scientist has a brilliant mind and advanced technology, yet he’s about to face his toughest opponent ever . . . his estranged wife, in what becomes a war between the bitter and the sweet.

Genre: Thriller, Mystery

CAST LIST:
Orenda – 10 – Carrie Schiffler
Narration – David Occhipinti
Krystyna (20s) – 21 – Ella A
Logan (20s) – 17 – Steve Saet

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Interview Screenwriter George M. Johnson (THE WONDER)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

George M. Johnson: In The Wonder, an ambitious Edwardian journalist saves an uncannily precocious child from drowning in a pond. The boy, Victor, reads through the library of the local aristocrat and rejects the accumulated knowledge of mankind before trying to communicate his own theory of life. This theory threatens authorities, particularly the local Rector, but also drives the journalist to the brink of insanity. In the end he discovers the boy dead in the same pond and is distraught, but manages to restore his sanity by writing the child’s story so that others may share the wonder.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

I have adapted The Wonder from the early “scientific romance,” as speculative, science fiction stories were called, of the prolific writer J.D. Beresford’s 1911 novel The Hampdenshire Wonder. It has the caché of being the first “superman” story in English literature and probably the first story featuring what we now recognize as an autistic child. The Hampdenshire Wonder was praised by the likes of H.G. Wells, Graham Greene, and Alistair Cooke, among others.

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

We are fascinated by exceptional people who don’t fit in, who are compelled to convey a message more advanced than our capacities can handle – just think about the popularity of films about exceptional children, as in The Room, Gifted, and A Brilliant Young Mind, and stories about genius, such as The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game.

The Wonder taps into our collective anxiety about the unknown, what it means to be human, and the possibility that we do not have all the answers about how the world works, despite our scientific advances and our obsession with information. For these reasons it is a compelling story for our time.

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

Threatening genius.

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

Every so often I return to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a brilliant send-up of a legendary quest.

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

I’ve been at it on and off for several years.

7. How many stories have you written?

I’ve drawn on my expertise in early twentieth-century literature to write several award-winning period dramas, but I also love writing contemporary satirical pieces, such as Mockus, a play about a clown who provokes a desperate Mayor into trying playful approaches to his city’s social and environmental ills, including replacing corrupt traffic cops with mimes.
Some of my other work can be viewed on my website: georgemjohnson.com.

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

Probably John Lennon’s Imagine because I believe in the transformative power of the imagination.

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

Beresford’s original novel, though a compelling read, is rather philosophical and is populated almost exclusively by male characters, so I had to imagine concrete scenes or set-pieces displaying Victor’s uncanny ability to predict seemingly random events as well as to develop a backstory for the unnamed narrator. I decided to weave in details from Beresford’s own life, such as his romance and marriage to his first wife Linda, an actress, in order to make the story more human and compelling.

I had written a biography of J.D. Beresford (Simon and Schuster, 1998) so knew Beresford’s descendants and they were happy to give me permission to pursue this project.

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

I am passionate about peace, social justice, and environmental issues and recently was awarded the Peace Medal from the Y.M.C.A. for my writing and activism on these issues for over 25 years.

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

This platform is seamless. I like the fact that I can keep track of my submissions in one place.

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

I received very discriminating and supportive feedback on my script Peace Pledge, which won a full Wildsound Table Read and so decided to submit The Wonder. The feedback was really helpful, and encouraged me to make revisions.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

A journalist finds himself fighting to protect a boy whose deformity might actually be a link to discovering the origin and true meaning of life.

CAST LIST:

Victor: Shawn Devlin
J.D.: Colin Sandquist
Narrator: Norma Dawn Dunphy
Ellen Mary: Melie B Rondeau
Man: : Neil Bennett

Interview with Screenwriter Andrew Fisk (GEEKS: A LOVE STORY)

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Andrew Fisk: “Geeks” is a David versus Goliath story that takes place in the Silicon Valley. When a corporate buyout takes place, the employees of the company that was taken over are all laid off and their products are stolen.

A group of five laid-off employees band together to start their own company and create a fantastic virtual reality chamber. The president of the mega-corporation that nearly ruined their lives sees them as a threat and results to a number of underhanded, humiliating and illegal tactics to stop them.

Their ability to fight back and triumph over the larger corporation is the core of this story. The title is “Geeks: A Love Story” because the conflict brings people together to form relationships who might not have met without it. They succeed by teamwork, friendship and sacrifice.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Comedy, romantic comedy and even science fiction. The final battle between the five entrepreneurs and the mega-corporation takes place in a virtual reality environment similar to the battles in “The Matrix.” I see this story as a metaphor for corporate warfare and the survival of the individual.

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

The characters are interesting and varied. The original five rebels against the mega-corporation include Shannon Blake, a punk rocker/programmer, and India Moonpeace, a counterculture/new age personality in her seventies. Todd Bergstrom, the inventor of the virtual reality chamber, is forced to come out of his emotional bubble and become a leader.

The CEO of the mega-corporation, Geoffrey Sterling, is a composite of the stereotypical narcissistic, scheming Silicon Valley executives.
The special effects possibilities for this movie are huge. The virtual reality chamber can create entire 3D worlds that people can journey into. Do you want to explore the Amazon jungle? No problem. Go surfing on hundred foot waves? Got you covered.

I think this movie offers a realistic view of corporate life as well. Despite the glossy overhyped picture that some large companies like to present, a lot of them really are horrible places to work. The five rebels are told again and again by their CEOs that everything about their company is wonderful. They walk in the next morning and find out they do not have jobs and the company is closing down. This has happened to me and I want to portray this experience on the big screen.

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

Wild fun.

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

Probably Blade Runner (the original). Followed by Forrest Gump, Dr. Strangelove, Aliens and To Live and Die in L.A.

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

It only seems like forever. I wrote the first draft a few years ago. The version that exists today is very different from the original. The characters are the same but the way the story is presented has changed.

7. How many stories have you written?

I have written five feature length screenplays, a thirteen-episode science fiction limited series and nine short scripts ranging from five minutes to thirty minutes.

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

“Rainy Night in Georgia” sung by Brook Benton, written by Tony Joe White.

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

Mainly, it was my fear of rewriting and rewriting until the story was just the way it should be. Someone said that art is never really finished…at some point it is abandoned. Even after a number of rewrites it just didn’t have the right vibe. I worried that it never would and at some point I would have to abandon it. But now I am completely happy with the latest version.

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

Being outdoors. Hiking, ocean kayaking, exploring new territory and college football.

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

I find that Film Freeway is complicated and exasperating to work with. Several times I have decided not to enter a screenplay contest because I know I will have to go through the Film Freeway maze again.

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

WILDsound did a reading of another feature length screenplay of mine, as well as some other creative works. So this was certainly an incentive. The feedback I received for “Geeks” was incredibly helpful. It let me see the screenplay in a way I had not seen before and got my brain moving in a new direction. I got rid of all the scenes that were slowing the story down and streamlined it. This screenplay is so much better now than it was a few months ago.

Watch the Screenplay Reading: 

CAST LIST:

SHANNON – 3 – ETHEL ABRAY
NARRATION – TED POWERS
TODD – 11 – DANIEL JONES
CD NARRATOR – 8 – OLIVIA BARRETT