Matthew Toffolo: What is your feature film screenplay about?
Toby Roberts: The story is about three teenagers from completely different backgrounds on the run in rural New Mexico with a thoroughbred racehorse. But the underlying theme is the triumph of hope over experience and whether you should grow up doing exactly what your parents tell you or sometimes trust your spirit , abandon convention and go live your dream.
Matthew: Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
Toby: It’s a fun, life affirming story that touches the heart, adults and kids alike. But it’s also got a profound message. I’ll leave it to you to watch the reading to discover that message.
Matthew: How would you describe this script in two words?
Toby: Adventurous fun
Matthew: What movie have you seen the most in your life?
Toby: Midnight Run
Matthew: How long have you been working on this screenplay?
Toby: On and off for years. Quite a few of them!
Matthew: How many stories have you written?
Toby: Stories? Too many to count…I’m always jotting things down. Screenplays? Three.
Matthew: What motivated you to write this screenplay?
Toby: Ultimately, the desire to tell a good, entertaining story. My parents had a lot to do with it in that my upbringing was a little unconventional and I thank them for that. I like to think I share those parental choices in the script.
Matthew: What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Toby: Many. One of the hardest was avoiding procrastination and actually sitting down and writing. Then came the rewriting. In a sense this was more fun but the page count was always increasing as new ideas poured in and deciding what to rip out was extremely tough because once you undo one thread, the whole thing has the ability to fall apart. Then there’s a lot of patch work required. (I’ve no idea why I’ve come up with a sewing analogy as there’s no particular link to finely made clothing but it seems to serve the purpose!)
Matthew: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Toby: Directing. Soccer. And playing squash. On a broader level, taking life by the balls and giving it a damned good squeeze.
Matthew: What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
Toby: As soon as I saw what the festival was about I knew FFTB was the perfect match, there was no hesitation to submit. The feedback was excellent, really opened my eyes to a number of issues I hadn’t considered before.
Matthew: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Toby: Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up,” by which he meant, completing the script. (There are a lot more writers who talk about their ideas rather than get them down into completed script form.) So, bottom line is, write the damned thing! And to those who have achieved this, the next tip is keep rewriting. I too thought my first draft was it, that’s all I had to do…other than write my thank you speech at the Oscars. People told me it doesn’t happen that way…and I ignored them. Now I know. And I bet you most writers reading this will ignore it too. But here’s an indication of what it takes…I’ve done over 50 rewrites of FFTB. It’s won a couple of prizes, there’s been some professional interest, and yet I still dip into it and see ways of improving it. You might think it’s because I’m not good enough. But Woody Allen, one of the industry’s most prolific writers, still rewrites his scripts even during filming.
Director/Producer – Matthew Toffolo
Editor – John Johnson
Casting Director – Sean Ballantyne
— “The Conjuring” meets “A Christmas Carol” when a modern Scrooge hires professional ghost hunters, one of them his former fiancée, Belle.
2. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
— Charles Dickens wrote his holiday tale as a ghost story and no film adaptation has focused on the paranormal, ghost hunting side of things. EVP’s, night-vision cameras, spirit boxes, plus goblins and a spirit-seeing dog add up to a fun, family night at the movies.
3. This story has a lot going for it. How would you describe this script in two words?
— Conjuring Ebenezer.
4. What movie have you seen the most in your life?
— “Scrooge” starring Albert Finney.
5. This is a very tight, emotionally engaging and fun screenplay. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
— Starting with the source material, research into the paranormal equipment, forming an outline and writing on evenings and weekends, it took about four months.
6. How many stories have you written?
— This is my seventh screenplay, most of them comedies.
7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?
— I love all of the ghost hunting shows and the idea of having Scrooge hire ghost hunters appealed to me. Prior to “A Christmas Carol,” Dickens wrote a short story about a goblin who battled wits with a Scrooge prototype known as the Sexton. Once I saw “The Conjuring,” I knew that I could combine that earlier story with married ghost hunters, using Belle as a romantic conflict.
8. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
— Besides the day job? (haha) I would say motivation to fill those blank pages. Screenplay contest deadlines helped move the pen along, but believing in my own writing was absolutely a must. I had to shed the fear that someone somewhere wasn’t already writing along the exact same lines.
9. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
— The Washington Redskins, Wizards and Capitals. Theater. Acting. Politics. Traveling. Eerie movies. Bigfoot. UFO’s. Ghosts.
10. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
— As an actor-writer, I was fascinated by what other actors could do with a reading. It’s really a one-of-a-kind opportunity and a wonderful chance for interested folks to give it a listen. The feedback was not just smoke blowing up the ol’ backside. It was clearly read thoroughly with excellent useful feedback. The enthusiasm found in the feedback makes me think that I have something here. Thanks so much for all you do!
11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
— Believe in yourself and write with passion. Love your characters because you have to live with them for months on end. I found that averaging a page an hour worked well for me. I usually aimed for three pages a night, a few more on the weekends. Don’t pressure yourself if blank pages stare at you some nights. The ink will flow eventually. I write longhand first, ideas flowing like blood from brain to hand. Write on!
I’M GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE, I’M GOING SOMEWHERE ELSE by Laura Morton
Reading of the full screenplay
‘I’m Going Somewhere Else’ is set in the opposing worlds of a Southern family farm and New York City. Meg-Peggy, the youngest daughter of the family, secretly collects wrappers and advertisements for junk foods and dreams of seeing the world. When Albert, a fellow farmer, proposes out of the blue, and the family betroths her to him, Meg-Peggy knows she has to do something. On the day of the wedding she runs off, leaving a note that reads: I’m going somewhere else. That somewhere else is New York City. She befriends Duckie, an old, eccentric woman who owns a bodega in Hell’s Kitchen. Under her wing, Meg-Peggy learns to face her fear, take risks, and appreciate the skills she learned on the farm.
NARRATOR – Elizabeth Robbins
MEG-PEGGY – Bryn McAuley
DUCKIE/MOTHER – Susan Q. Wilson
ALBERT – Cody Crain
CHUCK – Jordan Gray
CHAD – Jason Martorino
ELSIE – Sarah DiMuro
IZZY – Kelly Rae Cruise
ELZA – Joanna Haughton
CHARLES – Sean Ballantyne
NOTE: Actors also playing minor roles in the screenplay