Interview with Winning Screenwriter Katie L. Marshall (FALLING STAR)

1. What is your screenplay about?

‘Falling Star’ is about a young pop star who is driven to a mental breakdown by those profiting from her fame. Alexa King is forced to keep her sexuality a secret in the limelight, for fear of losing fans and the profits that come with them. The pressure sees her face a deadly choice until a chance encounter with a hotel chef transforms both of their lives.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

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

Falling Star would help to raise awareness on the prolonged oppression, conventional expectation, and prejudice experienced by queer woman all over the world. For the members of the LGBT community that are still being advised not come out, this screenplay really delivers the message on how important it is to be yourself and happy endings are a possibility. There’s a big gap in the market for LBT movies and TV shows, especially with a positive spin. A movie addressing critical issues within the community will let the audience know they’re not alone, and it’s important to accept who they are and not blend into the ideology of others.

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

Powerful and Romantic.

5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
‘But, I’m a Cheerleader’, because it was the only LGBT movie out there at the time!

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

1 year and 7 months.

7. How many stories have you written?


8. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

Knowing that there were no stories like ‘Falling Star’ out there and I wanted to encourage people to be themselves and also create my very own lesbian ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with a happy ending.

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

It was hard for me to put myself into the position of my protagonist, Alexa, and how difficult it is to cope with homophobia in the music industry as I have never personally experienced it. I watched interviews and read a lot of literature featuring the likes of Ellen Page, Elton John, etc, and it really helped with the research side of the screenplay.

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

I’m a full-time traveller and currently backpacking around the world. Experiencing new cultures allows me to open up my creativity, showering me with new ideas. I maintain my own travel/LGBT blog ‘Round the World Magazine’ when I’m not writing fiction.

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

What I love about the LGBT Toronto Film Festival is that they accept screenplays that only focus on LGBT oriented plots. It is critical for potential audiences all over the world that LGBT media is widely available. Growing up, I used to hunt for lesbian movies and TV shows and the lack of availability made me feel very alone at a young and vulnerable time of my life.

The power of film festivals like LGBT Toronto brings stories and ideas to life and their global showcase is where it all begins for new media. The feedback from the festival was impeccable, so honest and so useful for me to develop my screenplay into something beautiful. 

12. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What has been your experiences working with the submission platform site?
I find the interface of FilmFreeway so easy to use and navigation is quick and easy. I regularly receive email updates on similar festivals to my niche which is super useful  and it allows me to remember upcoming deadlines. I’d recommend the site to anyone who wishes to get their work out there. There’s nothing quite like an ‘award winning’ script.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Driven to a mental breakdown by those profiting from her fame, a young pop star is forced to keep her sexuality a secret and faces a deadly choice until a chance encounter with a hotel chef transforms both of their lives.

Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Brooke: Carly Tisdall
Rachel: Kiran Friesen
Alexa: Alicia Ryan
Man: David Occhipinti


Interview with Winning Screenwriter Ricardo M. Fleshman (KILLING MOSES)

1. What is your screenplay about?

Killing Moses is the account of New Orleans Private Detective Moses Byone and his search to understand the death of a wealthy white lawyer, Jefferson Collingwood, who perished in the fire that consumed the Upstairs Lounge in the summer of 1973. During his investigation Moses meets Creole voodoo priestess, Lisette St. Germain, who is being pursued by the dark and sinister Alexis Beaureparie and henchman Christophe, who are in search of the mysterious silver box she possesses. Moses forges an unlikely alliance with his primary source of information, effeminate antiques dealer Armond Fontenot and also with Lisette as he seeks to protect her from harm. What Moses uncovers about the silver box and Alexis and Jefferson Collingwood’s involvement are enough to make him Alexis’ next target for murder.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?


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

The story is quite original. The elements of voodoo, betrayal, and murder in the 1970s Crescent City are treated not as cliche but as enticements for the audience to draw them deeper into the mystery as Moses seeks to unearth the truths hidden behind all of the deception. It is a tribute to detective/noir stories.

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

Beautifully dark.

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

The Maltese Falcon.

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

2 years.

6. How many stories have you written?

More than 50 stories, 8 shorts novels.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

The story deserves to be a movie.

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

The city of New Orleans, particularly in 1973, is such an integral part of this work. Capturing those important, vital elements of the city- of the Vieux Carre- in Moses and the supporting characters was challenging. I hope I did it justice.

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

Food, Art (classic works) and music. Blues and jazz.

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

This festival was a natural fit for Killing Moses. The feedback I received exceeded my expectations and I took it all to heart. The recommendations were extremely helpful to making this screenplay read/flow so much better and I am a better writer for it.

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

FilmFreeway has been such a wonderful platform to work with and I am glad that it exists. I will use it for many of my future submissions.

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Private Detective Moses Byone and his effeminate partner, former antiques dealer Armond Fontenot get more than they bargain for in the seedy underbelly of 1970s New Orleans.

Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Daniel: Christopher Huron
Lisette: Carly Tisdall
Vanessa: Kiran Friesen

Interview with winning screenwriters Edward Ocean & Michael Sgueglia (THE NOWHERE MAN)

1. What is your screenplay about?

It’s the story of a depressed New York talent agent who inexplicability finds himself back in 1980 just in time to save John Lennon and his own marriage.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?


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

Michael – It has all the good stuff; music, comedy and a Beatles reunion.

Ed – It also has everyones favorite ….time travel.

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

What if?

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

Michael – I’ve seen tons of movies many times. So choosing only one would be impossible.

Ed- “Battlefield Earth”

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

We wrote it 9 years ago and have been tweaking it ever since.

7. How many stories have you written?

Two feature length scripts with treatments for 8 more.

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

Both – Anything Beatles!

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

The decision to use the Beatles instead of a fictitious band because of the licensing expense.

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

Ed – Being a former professional musician it would be music.

Michael – I’m also a singer-songwriter/producer.

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

 More user friendly than the other big submission site. Also the Paypal option was a plus.

12. What influenced you to enter the festival?

It had the qualifications we were looking for.

What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?

Honest and helpful. 

Watch the WINNING Reading: 

Genre: Drama, Fantasy,

Struggling talent agent, Harry Durst unintentionally saves his idol’s life and changes his forever.


NARRATOR: Rachel Rain Packota
Harry: Julian Ford
Mary: Stephanie Haines
Julia: Vanessa Burns
John Lennon: Jason Gray
Stevens: Isaiah Kolundzic
Yoko: Olivia Jon

Interview with Screenwriter Maria Nation (A Street Cat Named Bob, Salem Witch Trials)

It was an honor to chat with the very talented screenwriter Maria Nation. For any new or up and coming screenwriter, this interview is a must read as she gives a lot of insight on her profession and what it takes to succeed in Hollywood. Enjoy!

Matthew Toffolo: Tell us about “A Street Cat Named Bob”? How was the process writing a screenplay based on a best selling novel?

Maria Nation: How much creative control did you have? ** A Street Cat Named Bob is a true story about James Bowen’s unlikely journey from a vulnerable, homeless heroin addict to sobriety (and celebrity!) – thanks to the influence of a ginger street cat who refused to leave James’ side. It was a fun project to write, with interesting characters and the great challenge of creating a main character out of …a cat. I was brought into the project by the director, Roger Spottiswoode, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working many times. It was late in the game, meaning the film was about to go into production but the script needed work. I ended up doing a page one revision. As far as adapting the best seller goes – I didn’t treat it any differently than any other adaptation job. Best seller or not, I think it’s important to respect the original writer and story while adapting it to the needs and limitations (and advantages) of the screenplay form. The key to doing this successfully is to understand which of a book’s elements are necessary for the screen story, which of these beats are cinematic and, when they are not, how can they best be interpreted for the screen. How much creative control did I have? Within the relatively narrow parameters of this particular project (time was of the essence, it was based on a well known story, locations were already being scouted, the director already had an idea of the tone he wanted, etc) I had a pretty free hand. But the notion of “creative control” as it applies to the screenwriter fraught. Unless you write, direct, edit and produce the project single-handedly there are always other creative forces at play. You don’t fly solo. That is the name of the game and if a writer can’t be comfortable with this he or she might want to find another line of work. That being said, there is a moment in the process, when we writers have complete creative control. It’s when we’re alone with the blank page and we go to work on it. As soon as we write the beautiful words THE END, and hand it over to the rest of the team it becomes a collaboration. That’s just the way it is.

PHOTO: A Street Cat Named Bob:


MT: What screenplay that you have written has been your most valuable experience?

MN: I must say they have all been valuable experiences. One of my recent projects, a script based on the sinking of the Costa Concordia cruise liner, pushed me to figure out how to write way outside my comfort zone. It was an action/disaster movie set on a ship. And, because I knew nothing about any of those things, I was pretty sure I was going to get my ass fired. But I studied how other writers write action – how are the scenes constructed? What is the scene description like that sets up the sense of pace and suspense? Etc etc. It was an interesting process – and in the end I didn’t get fired. Valuable experience: “No matter how long you’ve been writing, you’re always a student. Go study.” One of my very first assignments was based on the fine novel, Blue River, by Ethan Canin. I loved the book and figured out how to crack the story and handed in my first draft. The producers came back with such extreme notes – changing who the main character would be, which upended the entire story – that I had no idea how to even approach my second draft. Being a novice, I wrote notes back on their notes, wanting to know what they were trying to go for, etc. In the meantime they had hired the wonderful director Larry Elikann and before I had to launch into the revision that would have ruined the story, Larry told them not to touch a word of the script, and they were lucky to have it. Thanks to him they shot my first draft and I got the reputation for delivering shootable first drafts. (Which of course was a bit of a stretch since it was my first script – but it made my career.) I guess the valuable experience in that one is “hope to god you get a director like Larry Elikann.”

MT: Have you ever been surprised after a production wraps on the success or non-success of a film/TV show you’ve written?

MN: I’m assuming you’ve experienced both pendulums – A film that you assumed was going to be a hit and the audience/critics didn’t respond. And a film that you assumed wasn’t going to do well and then ended up doing very well. William Goldman said it best: “No one knows anything.” So, yes, it’s always a surprise. The network had high hopes for a miniseries I wrote years ago. The Salem Witch Trials had a huge, prestigious cast, with Alan Bates, Shirley MacLaine, Peter Ustinov, Rebecca de Mornay, Kirstie Alley etc etc and the important subject had not been done on US networks, and it was a big deal. It died faster than one of the witches on the gallows. I recently wrote the Gabby Douglas story, which the entire world already knew thanks to the Olympic coverage a year earlier, and two unknowns cast as Gabby… and it has been a huge success – around the world. Go figure.

PHOTO: Winona Ryder in “The Salem Witch Trials”:


MT: How many uncredited “ghost writing” assignments have you had? Do you enjoy working on these assignments?

MN: Boy, I’ve done quite a few. Do I enjoy working on them? First, it’s important to understand that there is no such thing as a “ghost writer,” per se. When I am hired to doctor a script no one knows at the outset if I will get a credit – or not. The WGA has guidelines that define which writer or writers deserve a credit, and an arbitration team of fellow/sister writers makes the ultimate determination. On Street Cat Named Bob I was hired to do a small revision of a couple of the characters prior to casting. But the assignment snowballed and I ended up getting a shared credit. I actually love getting called to revise scripts. All screenwriters fall in love with certain scenes or characters (and if you don’t, god help you getting through your script.) The revision writer brings fresh eyes and there is no loyalty to any scene or beat or character. While I really hate knowing how painful the process is for the first writer (I was rewritten once – and it’s just awful) it is a fun challenge to make a script work; to see the weak spots and come up with solutions. It’s a different muscle than writing from scratch – even though very often the revision ends up being a page one original. But what I really love is that, generally speaking, I get called in to revise a script that is going into production. The pressure to perform is huge. There is no time for procrastination – or many notes from the network or producers. Often the director is already on board and I really l love working with directors (with some exceptions, of course). It’s all business; no nonsense and the entire vibe of the project is different than writing for development or on spec.

MT: What film, besides the films you worked on, have you seen the most in your life?

MN: Probably The Big Lebowski – which has zero influence on my work or career but I could watch it every day and be happy. Or perhaps Chinatown to be reminded of what it feels like to be in the shadow of Mt. Everest looking up.

MT: What makes a great screenwriter?

MN: A great screenwriter isn’t made; he/she is born. But, a working screenwriter? This person needs to build these muscles: determination, patience, imagination, curiosity, diligence, more diligence, humility, a desire to learn the craft, an understanding of human dynamics, human dysfuntionality, an ear for dialogue, a love of the art, a respect for your team – even when they drive you crazy, the art of collaboration – and did I mention diligence?

MT: When receiving notes from Producers and/or Production people on a screenplay you’ve written, what are you looking to receive to help you improve your story?

MN: And what are you not looking to receive? The best notes – rather, the notes I hope to get – respect the script but bring fresh eyes to my work. They show me the weak spots – and push me to try harder. Some of the best notes I’ve gotten are the ones that are the most difficult to hear because I don’t know, at first, how to accomplish them. They push me to dig deeper. The most fun notes to get (if any are fun) come from the production team, because they are 100% pragmatic: “We don’t have a staircase; rewrite the scene with a window.” “We’re over budget. Give us the same, rich story but lose five characters.” They aren’t easy to accomplish but they are pragmatic – not ego driven. The worst notes? The ones from frustrated writers who are directors or executives. Luckily these have been few – but they’re memorable. They aren’t pragmatic. They are completely subjective – and sometimes notes for notes sake.

MT: What advice would you have for people who want to be a screenwriter?

MN: Write. Watch movies or tv. Write some more. Read as many scripts as possible (there are a million online -no excuses). Write some more. Try to get a job as a story analyst (a reader). Do it for free if you have to. Out of college I was paid 50 bucks a script to read, synopsize and critique scripts for various producers and studios. I did this for years. Did you get that? For years. …Read. Synopsize. Critique… It forces you to think about a script in an entirely different way than watching a movie – and it’s better than any screenwriting course you can take. Finally: When you’re writing your script and you think it’s just too hard to go on and you’re tearing your hair out and you’re miserable… congratulations, you’re thinking like a professional writer. Except for, maybe, pouring cement, screenwriting is the hardest job out there. And there are days I’d rather be pouring cement. Good luck. Go tell a story.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Interview with Screenwriter Ryan Katzer (JACK IS PRETTY)

Ryan Katzer’s written short film “JACK IS PRETTY” was the winner of Best Film at the July 2016 FEEDBACK Film Festival. 

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Ryan Katzer: None of us had made a film. Jarek had the equipment. I had the script. Why not? We had to start somewhere with Indy film, and figured a short with limited dialogue would be easy… I said, none of us had made a film.  We liked the story, the fairy tale quality and innocence blended with darkness. The rest was a summer-long blur.

MT: From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

RK: I plead the 5th.

MT: How would you describe your short film in two words!?

RK:  Modern Fairytale? Dark Fairytale? Take your pick. Not sure. Never been that concise, 7 pages transferred to 26 minutes, you know?

MT: What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

RK: Time constraints and limited days at locations each week.

MT: What were your initial reactions when watching the Toronto audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

RK: Joy. Intelligent audience. They got it.

MT: How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

RK: Always loved fantasy and fairytales. Originally it was simply about a protagonist dealing with pain. The protagonist finds a magic box, puts her pain in the box, and the box changes her pain into an avenger of some sort that hunts down the antagonist. Then magic happened. The “what if’s” came into play. “What if the protagonist is a little girl?” “What if the story is inspired by ‘Pop Goes The Weasel’?” “Oh! What if the box is a Jack In The Box!”  Bingo!


MT: What film have you seen the most in your life?

RK: Let The Right One In (Scandanavian Version, not to be confused with Let Me In, American) 9 times. Maybe more.

MT: What is next for you? A new film?

RK:  Just shot “Away From The Ribbon” with some of the team from “Jack”.  After that “Broken Crown”, the first part of the “Jack Trilogy”.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of JACK IS PRETTY:

WILDsound’s Top 20 Robin Williams Movies.

On August 11th I was walking home from a meeting and started texting a friend of mine. We were joking around, taking shots at each other, usual guy stuff, when he all of a sudden got serious in his next text.

“Robin William just died.” The guy was brilliant.”

“Not in Patch Adams.” I replied like the arse I can be at times. I really didn’t believe that he was dead and I was still in joke mode. But then I felt like a douche later on when I got home, looked online and realized he was indeed dead.

“Damn.” “Robin Williams died.” “He was brilliant.”

Perhaps Robin would have liked my smart ass comment. After all, his main job in life was being a comic and always attempting to tread that line of comedy and insensitivity. The closer he got to the line without crossing usually lead to the biggest laugh.

Two days before he died I was out for dinner with my fiance and friends and I brought up how I heard that they were going to make Mrs. Doubtfire 2. Everyone was so excited because that film defines a generation for so many of us. If you think of a great comedy, you remember the first time you saw it and the state of mind you were in. I remember seeing Doubtfire as a young teenager on a double date and having hamburgers afterwards and laughing about what we just watched. It was silly and totally ridiculous and that was the point. It made us giggle over and over again. The man’s legacy is still intact.

Here is WILDsound’s Top 20 Robin Williams movies with a review for each:

The man had an interesting hit and miss movie career. We put The Fisher King (1991) at #1 because it’s arguably the best film he was apart of and it seems to really define the man he really was: All over the place.

His character in The Fisher King is funny at times and depressed at the other times. All the while he’s looking for love and meaning. He needs to find it to rationalize his existence. And I have a funny feeling that’s what he was looking for. Some of us find it. Some of us don’t. And some of us don’t care either way.