Interview with Festival Director Matthew Rooney (VideoDrunk Film Festival)

Ranking as one of Toronto’s Top Alternative Film Festivals, Videodrunk is a small indie/experimental/underground/genre film festival that will be taking place in Toronto this November and December at Farside. The festival is run by filmmakers and video artists and aims to present an eclectic collection of films in an almost mixtape sort of way to audiences in a non-formal easy going non-cinema environment. We’re basically a party film festival. Amateurs, students, DIYers and pros all are treated as equals.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Matthew Rooney: We’re providing a fun event for filmmakers to show their films in a different atmosphere than other festivals around Toronto. We’ve given filmmakers that might not get a chance because of their genre or style get a chance to show where they might not have.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

A little more party-like than last year I’d say thanks to the venue we’re using being less gallery/theatre like. We’re also trying to build a line up that’s a little more off the wall than past years but also more accessible at the same time. We like having active and energetic crowds but film loving crowds that are respectful of what’s going on.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Be enjoyable or interesting. Pretty simple.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

I do even with smaller festivals. I feel a lot of them have rules that are too strict and sometimes genre festivals have a narrow scope of what fits their festivals.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Love of film, the fun of the final festival and the satisfaction of a job well done.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Simply amazing.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

This one is a little tricky because there are so many factors at play with it. For example, I might be moving out of the country in the next 2 years and maybe Videodrunk retires or goes on hiatus or moves with me and brings its style to Luxemburgish or goes digital or my friend Emil takes it over and turns it into his Uncanny Beauty Film Festival. I don’t know, we’ll see.

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

Not sure, maybe “Duck Soup”

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Can’t answer that because any answer I give will be wrong.

How is the film scene in your city?

We have 100 some odd festivals and dozens of productions (both big and small and domestic and international) going on at any given time plus some amazing video stores. It’s very strong. Strong enough that TIFF makes traveling around downtown nearly impossible.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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Interview with Festival Director Terrence Sanders (Platform Film Festival)

Platform Film Festival’s mission is to celebrate the masters of filmmaking and discover the next generation of innovative creatives. Platform is the connective tissue that bonds the wondrous union between art and film. PFF will present an uncensored view of the World through the most important and relevant artists and filmmakers creating 2D and 3D work without fear, monetary incentives or artificial borders. PFF is a creative forum where like minds can have a sense of community being celebrated by the publlc-at-large and their contemporaries.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Terrence Sanders: Platform Film Festival mission is to provide a necessary platform for filmmakers in hopes of creating a greater awareness for important films.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

TS: Eclectic programming with an artistic bend. Films that entertain and educate. New discoveries that will resonate with the viewer long after they leave the venue.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

TS: Voice, substance and vision.

Do you think that some films don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

TS: It’s a power struggle whenever money is part of the equation. Each film submitted is competing for exposure and notoriety. Each jury favors a different trend, celebrity, subject matter or theme on a yearly basis. What’s favorable this year might not be favorable the next. Sometimes the unknown underdog is the winner and most times whether we like it or not it’s the financed studio favorite.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

TS: The love of the medium. I owe everything that I am today to the transformative power of cinema. I want to share great films with my audience.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

TS: It’s been great. We were going to partner with Withoutabox but the process was complicated to say the least. Filmfreeway was simple and personable. It was a great fit. I hope to grow with this company and community.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

TS: Joining the list of respected, important and relevant film festivals in the World.

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

TS: I’m a film freak. I have literally watched 5 movies a day for that last 25 years. I’ve seen everything. A few favorites are; The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Libertine, A Pure Formality, The Royal Tenenbaums, Blue Caprice, Ballast, O Brother Where Art Thou?, In the Mood For Love, Maderlay, I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, Gangster No. 1, etc.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

TS: Three words: writing, cinematography and performance.

How is the film scene in your city?

TS: I live in Los Angeles – what do you think?

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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Interview with Festival Director Orvil Kunga (Afrikans On Film Festival)

A unique opportunity to see films rarely seen on the big screen. A well attended festival noted for shining a light on the multilayered aspect of Afrikan filmmaking. It boasts informed discussions, workshops, a unique Afrikan craft market and great cultural food (vegan options available). With performance, poetry and story-telling thrown in for good measure. A true Afrikan experience that will tingle the senses, inform, insight and educate.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Orvil Kunga: Afrikans on Film festival has been successful in premiering work for filmmakers who are often overlooked in the wider discourse of mainstream cinema.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

Our festival exists solely to promote the multilayered aspect of African centred, creativity. Those who attend our festival should expect films from the African continent, along with African centred films from US, UK and Europe. Many of them are UK premiers. All have been selected because they speak to the essence of the on-going journey of the African body.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

We look at films across the board. Animation, documentaries, drama and even music videos.

There is no criteria as such. As the curator, I am interested in films which skilfully portray where African filmmaking is now but also where these contemporary stories sit within Africa’s uniquely spiritual nature of story-telling. Whilst a few of the films screened might be made by non-Black, African people (either from the continent or the diaspora), it is ultimately, the African-centred nature that forms the main criteria for selection.

Do you think that some films don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Certainly. African people within the creative industries are often marginalised in the West and the African narrative has almost been erased from mainstream TV and cinema globally. The representation of the African body has historically been mediated through a white (all too often male) gaze. This is problematic and has severely hindered the African’s ability to tell our human stories to the world.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Our lived experience guides our passion for creating a platform for pushing the multi-prismic nature of these stores. It is great when we see this work on the big screen. It’s great when we see a room full of young and older people, their eyes wide open looking at the screen, in total awe at the quality, richness and range of these stories.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

Its been amazing! Although we’ve been running for 6 years, we’ve not tried FilmFreeway before and have been blown away by the amount of submissions received in such a short space of time since registering on the site. If there is a gripe, then it would be that some people avoided (deliberate or otherwise), the fact that we seek African films. Films either made by Africans or films which focus on African people.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Our Afrikans on film festival has been serving films to the public for over 5 years, free of charge. Which is amazing! It has been partially funded by a small organisation in London, called Peckham and Nunhead Free Film Festivals, who receive funding from the local borough of Southwark and thankfully collaborate with us in order to get these beautiful films on screen. Whilst the ‘free’ film festival may well continue under this relationship, Afrikans on Film as a subsidiary film provider, seeks wider sponsorship as we aim to push the festival to twice a year and provide pop-up screenings throughout the year. We hope to provide an out-reach programme, working with creatives here in the UK and linking them with creatives around the African world. If all goes to plan, by 2020 we should be bigger and better!

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

Aah difficult one! Black Girl (Ousmane Sembene), Sankofa (Haile Gerima). BAFTA nominated, Short film – Mwansa The Great (Rungana Nyoni), watched and shared many times! Battledream Chronicles (Alain Bidard). An animated feature from Guadeloupe. The first feature from Guadeloupe is a gem on many levels and I’ve watched it too many times! Summer Of Gods (Eliciana Nascimento), Oya Rise of The Orishas (Nosa Igbinedion). Award-winning web-series Ackee and Saltfish (Cecile Emeke).

I know you said ‘film’ but an unfair question deserves an unfair answer!lol

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film speaks to an inert truth, appeals to the viewer through codes and tropes which unites the soul and lingers on, connecting others as its memories ripple.

How is the film scene in your city?

In London the independent scene is vibrant.

Online platforms have changed the game as cities/filmmakers become more and more interconnected.

Although all the big and medium films come through this city, the home of BFI’s LFF (London Film Festival), Afrikans on Film festival, attempts to serve a need and we feel, remains among the best places to see unique work from up-coming filmmakers who are equally passionate about sharing the Afrikan story.

‘K’ in Afrikan represents a disruption from the contemporary spelling, echoing the politicised presence of the festival and the consciousness of Afrikan-centred creative.

 

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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Interview with Festival Directors Roger and Shelley Gillespie (COPA SHORTS FILM FESTIVAL)

COPA SHORTS FILM FEST, INC. launched its first film festival in February 2017.  It is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that focuses on creating a great learning and entertainment experience for filmmakers, screenwriters and film lovers locally, regionally, nationally, and worldwide. The festival takes places at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle in Maricopa, Arizona about 35 miles from downtown Phoenix.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Roger and Shelley Gillespie: Copa Shorts Film Fest, now starting its second year of programming, has succeeded in highlighting talented filmmakers of short films and screenplays. In a state-of-the-art digital venue, we showed 56 short films in our first festival this February. The films were from around the world and the U.S.

In addition to showcasing films, we provided four screenwriters the opportunity to have table reads of their short screenplays. Each of the four finalists, from four different states, could see their name on the screen and their words voiced by actors.

We also are succeeding at offering workshops to provide hands-on learning experiences for new and upcoming filmmakers for free.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

Our 2017 festival was held in February of this year. For 2018, attendees can expect more experiences to learn and enjoy film and screenplays. We’re doubling the festival workshops so attendees can have an opportunity to learn from professionals about above and below the line skills. Attendees can also relax in our fabulous location, UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, to see the films and experience the screenplay table reads.

We’re in our submission period through October 13, so we don’t know all of the films and screenplays that could be featured in February.

However, we have added a category for military veteran films and we’re seeing some excellent early entries. We’ve also added a separate category for high school filmmakers, as well as college filmmakers.

At our VIP and Wrap Award parties, we’ll be showcasing award-winning Native American musical performers, Native Spirit and Arvel Bird. The parties will be a chance for film attendees, filmmakers, and screenwriters to network.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

CSFF accepts films that are from two to twenty minutes (including credits) in the following categories: Native American, high school student, college student, military veteran and in genres of animation, comedy, documentary, drama, horror, and sci-fi.

The selected films are reviewed by Arizona State University film students and film professionals. We examine story, technical, acting, and overall impact of the film.
For screenplays, we expect screenplays to be no longer than 15 pages and also examine dialogue as one of the major criteria.v

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Potentially, some film reviewers may not have expertise in reviewing films. This could lead to personal bias.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Our team offers this festival because we love films and we want to provide opportunities for talent to be encouraged and showcased. We offer educational workshops to help filmmakers improve their skills. And, in our growing city, we like the idea of providing a major cultural artistic event to attract people.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We have had an extremely positive experience working exclusively with FilmFreeway. Their staff has been responsive when we had questions (We were a first-time festival this year) and everything worked smoothly.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

By 2020, we expect that the festival will be at least a day longer to provide more workshops, more submissions, more attendees, and really strong repeat business.

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

I’m a romantic. I’ve probably seen Pretty Woman tied with Dirty Dancing the most times in my life.

Roger has seen High Plains Drifter the most.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film is one that makes you think, has a memorable premise, characters, and technical aspects that all work together to create something you want to see repeatedly and talk about with others.

How is the film scene in your city?

Maricopa is a new city that has grown exponentially in the last 14 years. Our festival location, UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, was built almost five years ago. Films shown tend to favor blockbusters. We typically have to travel out of town to see art films, indie films and shorts programs.

In our community, there is an avid following for films from school students through senior citizens. Maricopa is home to several current and former filmmakers, screenwriters, Hollywood film professionals and actors. Several worthy locally-made films were shown in our festival.
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BIOS:

Roger and Shelley Gillespie are co-founders of Copa Shorts Film Fest, which began as a desire to create an event focused around film for our community of Maricopa, Arizona.

Roger Gillespie is a screenwriter, producer, film critic and host of the monthly “3-Hour Movie Critic” event at UltraStar, who has been involved in film, broadcasting and journalism since high school.

He has independently written and co-written over 10 screenplays including quarter-finalist for his full-length feature, Saving Liberty, in Francis Ford Coppola’s annual, internationally-renowned American Zoetrope Screenwriting Contest.

An alumni member of Ball State University’s Film and Broadcasting School, and Hal Croasmun’s Screenwriting U, Roger is the first to tell anyone that he can teach you how to format a screenplay in a few minutes, but “it’s the story that matters, and that takes a little more time.”

Shelley Gillespie multi-faceted background includes years as an award-winning journalist (The Communicator, Arizona Republic, Times Publications), an educator and adjunct professor (CAC, NAU), writing coach, marketing consultant and author. (Hiking for the Couch Potato: A Guide for the Exercise-Challenged.) Shelley also shares writing credit for Saving Liberty with Roger.

She has raised millions for not-for-profits, managed training programs and events, and created marketing programs for a shopping mall and corporations.

Shelley holds a BA in English from Vassar College and an MS in Educational Administration from State University of NY at Albany.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT Screenplay or TV SPEC Script
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Interview with Festival Director Michael Kamel (DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival)

Founded in 2011, the annual DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival (DCPFAF) is a 501c3 nonprofit, volunteer-run enterprise that showcases the work of Palestinian filmmakers and artists around the world to audiences in the Washington DC metro area.

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Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Michael Kamel: The DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival (DCPFAF) prides itself on creating a space for Palestinian subjectivity.We highlight the voices and stories of Palestinian artists from around the world. Filmmakers show audiences their debilitating morning commutes to Jerusalem through the infamous Qalandiya checkpoint, the horrors faced during the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, and life as a refugee in Greece. These are all stories that need to be heard.

But Palestinian subjectivity is also just that – life from the eyes of a Palestinian. One of our founders, Noura Erakat, describes it as not a Palestine festival, but a Palestinian festival. We’ve featured a short film about personal nostalgia and loss, a fictional animation on a street artist, and even a 1-minute fashion film. No Palestinian story is off the table!

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

You should expect to laugh, cry, and move! The experience this year is loosely centered on Palestinian innovation in all forms, brought to the audience through several artistic mediums. Festival goers will be treated to a carefully curated selection of films that tackle topics from Palestinian image-making to Palestinian political prisoners, a live storytelling event featuring local DC Palestinian talent in partnership with the Boston-based Palestinians Podcast, the Hollywood writer-director-producer-actor extraordinaire Cherien Dabis, a new twist on the dabke (Palestinian folk dance), and more! There is truly something for everyone.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

All of our films must be written, directed and/or produced by someone who identifies as Palestinian. We then evaluate them based on three criteria: production value, entertainment value, and creativity. Our programming team discusses each film, their position and impact in the festival lineup, and what we would want the audience to walk away with.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Each festival has their own broad mission and yearly vision; sometimes, a phenomenal film just may not fit into the festival’s scope for that year. However, within Palestinian cinema, good films tend to receive their recognition because filmmakers and audiences realize that’s their chance of success. We must support our own artists because that’s how they succeed both within Palestinian cinema and beyond.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

A volunteer-run festival is truly a labor of love. Everyone on our team truly believes in and supports Palestinian artists, and is passionate about creating a space for them to share their work. We want to ensure that Palestinian art is getting the reach it deserves, and that people in our region aren’t missing out.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

FilmFreeway has been a blessing for our festival, streamlining the process and ultimately making it easier and more accessible.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

2020 will be the tenth year of the DC Palestinian Film & Arts Festival. I see our festival celebrating the past decade of Palestinian art, and building a platform for the next decade. We love to push boundaries. In 2016, for example, we teamed up with Shared Studios, Mercy Corps, and Gaza Sky Geeks on an audiovisual portal that connected artists, musicians, performers, and festival attendees in DC to their peers in the Gaza Strip, Palestine. It was amazing to see people dancing, singing, and talking literally across oceans and borders. We’re all about pushing the envelope like that, and we intend on continuing that trend into our tenth annual run and beyond!

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

I can’t lie, I’m not a person who watches movies more than twice (even if I love a film). Still, at the moment, the film I’ve seen the most times in my life has to be Moonlight. I can never get enough of that movie.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A great film shakes you to your core.

How is the film scene in your city?

The DC film scene tends to focus on documentary filmmaking (usually political), given the fact that we are the nation’s capital. Several Hollywood productions have even shot in DC—Jackie, VEEP, and House of Cards amongst others. You see how those three productions alone deal with politics in some way, shape or form?

There is also an amazing independent film scene. Howard University alone is a pioneer in the area, with professors like Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust) and Haile Gerima (Sankofa). I’ve had the privilege to work alongside some amazing filmmakers from Howard.

American University’s acclaimed film program is home to remarkable filmmakers, including the Palestinian filmmaker Najwa Najjar (Eyes of a Thief).

And, of course, I have to mention my alma mater, George Mason University. Our film program has also been pushing cutting-edge filmmakers and works to the forefront. Shout out to the amazing faculty, including Giovanna Chesler, Lisa Thrasher and the Emmy-nominated Hans Charles (Director of Photography on the Oscar-nominated 13th).

I’ve often encountered people who think that DC filmmakers are only churning out documentaries about the White House. In actuality, our artists create so much more!

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ABOUT MICHAEL KAMEL
Michael Kamel is a local filmmaker and the Curator and Co-Director of the DC Palestinian Film & Arts Festival. His film work often explores themes of identity, loss, and relationships. Subjectivity fuels his content, and he strives to provide a nuanced platform and voice for often unheard subjects. You can view more of his work at michaelkamel.com.

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT Screenplay or TV SPEC Script
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Interview with Festival Director Sina Dolati (TORONTO NEW WAVE)

The Labyrinth Pictures was founded in 2016 by Sina Dolati, Emmanuel McBride and Shaq Hosein as a multi-purpose production company, producing independent film (fiction and commercial), as well as hosting events and other services under The Labyrinth umbrella with the aim of cultivating the Toronto filmmaking scene. Our summer Events Coordinator Farah Mannan has also had a large role in helping this event come to life, as well as Rangga Luksatrio who has helped us in reaching out to Toronto musicians.

The 2017 rendition of the Toronto New Wave showcase is the first public event hosted by the company, screening a multitude of short films from independent Toronto filmmakers, as well as including performances from Toronto indie bands. The event takes place at 7 PM, Saturday August 5th, at Cinecycle.

Interview with Festival Director Conor Armstrong Sanfey (ELEVATION INDIE FILM AWARDS)

The Elevation Indie Film Awards has been set up by Indie Film makers for Indie Film makers. We understand the difficulties of gaining recognition for your work and want to shine a light on the vast talent of Independent filmmakers from around the world.

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Matthew Toffolo:What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Conor Armstrong Sanfey: At elevation, we endeavour to give filmmakers feedback on all submissions, weather they are accepted or not to screen. We ensure that all films are watched, and filmmakers go away with constructive feedback. We specifically support indie filmmakers, by providing them a platform for showcasing their work.

What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2017)?

To view a wide diverse programme of innovative independent films.

What are the qualifications for the selected films?

To view a wide diverse programme of innovative independent films.

Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

No we feel a lot of the major festivals do not give enough attention to independent films. With some not even watching entries at times.

What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Our motivation comes from our experience as indie filmmakers ourselves. We want to provide a support system for independent filmmakers, and provide them with constructive feedback and a platform to showcase their fantastic work.

How has your FilmFreeway submission process been?

We have been getting films from all around the world. The standard has been fantastic, and we can’t wait to see for.

Where do you see the festival by 2020?

We hope to continue expanding the festival, and hopefully hold more live screenings.

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

. Shawshank Redemption.

In one sentence, what makes a great film?

A film that transports you into another world, and most importantly entertains.

How is the film scene in your city?

The film scene in Dublin it thriving, especially in the independent film scene.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 20-50 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto, and Los Angeles at least 2 times a month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

SUBMIT your TV PILOT Screenplay or TV SPEC Script
Voted #1 TV Contest in North America.
Screenplay CONTESTSUBMIT your Short Screenplay or FEATURE Script
FULL FEEDBACK on all entries. Get your script performed