Winning Feature Screenplay Reading – INCURABLE, by Jeff York

Winning HORROR Feature Screenplay for January 2017.

INCURABLE
Written by Jeff York
CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Hugh Ritchie
JIM – Robert Notman
CATHERINE – Victoria Kucher
SARAH – Olivia Jon
DR. NEUBER – Julie Sheppard
GABRIEL – David Occhipinti

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Romance

Jim has ALS. Feeling he has no hope, he wants to end it all. Then he meets Catherine – who is a Vampire!

Get to know the writer:

What is your screenplay about?

INCURABLE is about Jim Reed, a man in his early 30’s, with his whole life ahead of him, who is stricken with ALS. He contemplates suicide to avoid the painful death sentence that the disease usually is, but then he meets Catherine Adler, a woman whom he will soon discover is a vampire. They fall for each other and then Jim decides to let Catherine bite him to give eternal life and thwart his ALS forever. Of course, becoming a vampire is not that easy and that’s where the drama ensues. Jim discovers that there’s a whole helluva lot more to his new lease on life, as well as his relationship with Catherine.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Because it deals with vampires it readily falls into the horror category, but it is also a romantic drama as it really examines the relationship that develops between Jim and Catherine. I’d also argue that it has an indie character study feel to it as it is far from the typical violence and gore found in the horror genre. INCURABLE is more head and heart than than blood and guts.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

INCURABLE is a more unique horror tale for the reasons I listed previously, but also because of the unique proposition that enables Jim to accept Catherine’s offer to turn him. Because she’s rich and gets her blood supply from the black market, Jim will not have to kill anyone to sustain his vampirism. I’ve never encountered the idea of murder taken off the table in a vampire tale.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Character-driven horror.

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

“Jaws” is my favorite film of all time, and truly set the template for INCURABLE in that it too was a character-driven piece that had thrills and chills, yes, but it never lost sight of the complex humans in battle with the shark.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

It took three months to write originally, with a few months of rewrites after that incorporating reader’s notes, friends’ opinions, contest feedback, etc. From there, it did very well in contests, but I’ve always tweaked it along the way. As the saying goes, you’re never really done rewriting until the film is in the can!

How many stories have you written?

I’ve written nine movie screenplays, two TV series pilots and pitches, and a theatrical play. (I also write a movie blog and am a film critic, but those are different stories!)

What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I love horror but often found myself cheering for the monster to defeat the stupid characters being pursued. It occurred to me that the genre needed more complex storytelling as well as characters. I’ve always been a fan of vampire lore as well, and wondered if one could be a vampire without killing. The idea of a rich vampire who didn’t have to kill for blood, who could buy it on the black market instead, came to me shortly after that.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Editing. Writing isn’t difficult for me, but honing, polishing, editing, really examining every word – that is a lot of work. And it’s a challenging and incredibly detailed kind of intricate surgery as well.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I am passionate about movies, the arts, cats, animal rights, and politics, those less so these days with Trump’s victory. I worry we’re going into some very dark days ahead.

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

I loved that such an organization felt a similar passion for horror. And that winning entries would be read by actors and filmed for all to see! I’ve always loved table reads. Also, the feedback I received from the festival was terrific. And I rewrote INCURABLE to reflect the terrific suggestions.

Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

Be patient. Writing takes time. Connecting with people who can help you with your scripts takes time. Waiting for someone to find the money to greenlight your script will likely take a lot of time. Thus, enjoy being a writer no matter what the outcome, and if you’re lucky to get your work on the big screen remember that’s the icing on the cake, not the whole cake.

***

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editing: John Johnson


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Horror Best Scene Reading – THE LEGEND OF YAKATUTCH by Sean Francis Ellis

Watch the winning January 2017 Horror Best Scene Screenplay Reading.

Best Scene from the screenplay THE LEGEND OF YAKATUTCH Screenplay
Written by Sean Francis Ellis

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Horror, Action, Sci-Fi

In the Canadian wilderness, a snowboarding champion must embrace his indigenous legacy to save his girlfriend from a legendary creature, which has kidnapped her in order to become human once more.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Julie Sheppard
CLAUDE – Hugh Ritchie
ELDER – David Occhipinti
THOMAS – Robert Notman

Get to know the writer:

What is your screenplay about?

A young man, the descendant of a First Nations warrior, must embrace his destiny in order to save his girlfriend from a legendary creature, which has escaped its icy prison and threatens his small Canadian town.

The story explores our relationship with nature and the loss of traditions that once kept us in balance with it. It is a redemption story, and a coming-of-age story, about the passing of traditional values from one generation to the next.

What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Action, Adventure, Horror.

Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

“The Legend of Yakatutch” is inspired by a long tradition of ‘Creature-Features’, which includes blockbuster franchises “Jurassic Park”, “Jaws” and “The Mummy”. Recent hits like “Godzilla”, “Pacific Rim”, The “Twilight” Series and “Snow White and the Huntsman” prove the genre remains popular internationally, with many more examples on TV, like “The Walking Dead”, “True Blood”, “Grimm”, “The Vampire Diaries”, “Roswell”, “Smallville”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Supernatural”, “Hemlock Grove”, “Haven” and “The X Files”. These hit movies and TV shows all bring to life incredible monsters that excite our imagination, and take us to the fascinating worlds they inhabit.

The mystery of Bigfoot, or Sasquatch, and the creature’s Asian relative, Yeti, have always fascinated the public. Thousands of stories and reported sightings have spawned a culture of pseudo-scientific research, known as ‘cryptozoology’. The character of Yakatutch combines elements of this legendary ‘cryptid’, with Canadian First Nations mythology. But unlike Bigfoot, Yakatutch is a creature that was once an ordinary man.

As humanity faces the threat of extinction caused by our lack of respect for the environment, the conflict between modern man and a creature that represents our primal nature, is a timely one, reminding us that we need to respect the natural environment and learn from the past, if we are to survive. But it also tells a coming-of-age story, about a young hero embracing his destiny through rites of passage that connect him to his heritage and First Nations identity. He must embrace the past to save the future.

The outdoor, ‘filmed on-location’ visual elements of the script would be compelling on the cinema screen. The spectacular frozen wilderness is a dramatic backdrop to the action-adventure elements in the film, with sequences on glaciers and mountains, and within the forests and small towns of the Yukon Territory. Action elements such as snowboard chases, helicopters, airplanes, and off-road vehicles, combined with ancient threats, such as the mysterious curse that created Yakatutch, and his journey to redemption, would produce an exciting and emotionally engaging movie. The mix of First Nations and European/Canadian culture found in the Yukon will also set “The Legend of Yakatutch” apart from recent films in the genre, and give the film broader audience appeal.

How would you describe this script in two words?

Nature triumphs.

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

Hard to say for sure, but probably “Superman: The Movie”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, or “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.

How long have you been working on this screenplay?

I started writing a version of this script in 2004. It had many of the same elements, but has evolved significantly. I’ve reworked the story several times, with various titles, including “Out of Bounds”, “Prey”, and “Claws”. I’ve also worked on several other feature and short screenplays during that time, but mostly this one.

How many stories have you written?

Dozens since I started writing short stories in school, but there are many more I haven’t written down.

What motivated you to write this screenplay?

When I started this one, I’d written two screenplays in very different genres. The first was a sort of Romantic Comedy with Action, the second was a Crime-Drama with Comedy. So, I wanted to write something closer to what I love watching most, which are movies with lots of suspense, action, and elements of sci-fi or horror. As a nine year old, I was inspired by the Wampa Snow Monster from “The Empire Strikes Back”, and always thought that creature deserved a movie all its own. I felt sympathy for it, living in isolation inside its cave. It was frightening, and Luke killed it to save himself, but it wasn’t a monster in the usual sense. It was just an animal. So I thought it deserved to have its story told.

I was also motivated by my interest in extreme sports like snowboarding, my love of snow-capped mountains, and the cinematic potential that goes with a creature stalking people in the frozen wilderness. As I did research into the Yukon Territory, I became fascinated with the history of the area, the protected wildlife parks and the First Nations who live there. I added these elements to the story and built them into the creature’s backstory.

What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

Many years worth! The obstacles were mostly about making time and finding a space where I could write, and sacrificing other things to make time (like a steady income!). After spending a year or so on the script, I went to the US and stayed for several months at a time in Los Angeles, for about 5 years. I survived on a very tight budget, and after interning and finding a short-lived assistant job, I decided to live as a struggling writer, writing in cafes and libraries. It was lonely, exhausting work. I spent most of 2007 & 2009 writing in LA, then from 2012 to 2015 (back in Australia), writing either part time or full time. At times I had no money, no social life, and my relationships suffered. I invested a lot of savings in the process. I pitched regularly, paid for professional coverage and sought feedback as often as possible, to improve my writing. I had help from a producer in Australia, who was a sounding board for several years, helping me edit and tighten the story. The feedback improved over time, and I believed I had something with potential, so I pressed on. It was a lot of sacrifice, but I learned a lot about writing and myself.

Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

I love everything about film and have been making films since I was 10, using super 8 equipment, then video, to shoot, direct, edit and produce short films. I love history, sociology, art, design, architecture, dance, choreography, music and language, as well as travel and great food. I’m also passionate about social justice, environmentalism, conservation, and the preservation of art for educational purposes.

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

I have entered the festival and received feedback before, which was helpful, so I knew the contest and the services they offer. The feedback I received was encouraging and gave me something new to think about, which I hadn’t really considered before. But I felt some frustration too. It’s always hard to be told what is lacking, or not working, after so much hard work. Feedback is a great way to start you thinking, and to make you look at your story from a new viewpoint. That’s always valuable. I think it helps to get several viewpoints and find a consensus.

Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

While developing your abilities as a writer, develop other skills and passions as well, whatever they are. Balance is key to productivity. Along with good health and plenty of sleep. Observation is a crucial aspect of good writing, and so much of writing is done when you aren’t at your desk. Once you know the concept and the dramatic need of your characters, play the movie in your head whenever you can, so the pacing becomes clearer. Then, you’ll be prepared to drop something if it doesn’t move the story forward. Outlining is so important, and I think the more time you put into plotting the story first, the easier it is to write scenes that will stay in the script.

***

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editing: John Johnson


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Feature Screenplay Reading: FIEND, by Jeff York

Watch the July 2016 Winning Feature Screenplay Reading.

FIEND, by Jeff York

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Crime, Mystery, History

When famed Jekyll & Hyde author Robert Louis Stevenson turns out himself to be a dangerous split personality, the only one who can save him and London from his fiendish alter ego is a maverick American psychiatrist with daring, unconventional methods.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Sean Kaufmann
PRINCE – Michael Kazarian
STEVENSON/WOLFE – Robert Notman
BURKE – Devin Upham
CLAY/CARTLER – Neil Bennett
ANNE – Elizabeth Rose Morriss
FANNY – Mandy May Cheetham

Get to know the winning writer Jeff York: 

1. What is your screenplay about?

It’s historical fiction, based upon two men who were contemporaries of each other in 19th century Europe. Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scotsman living in England who wrote the famous story about split personalities called “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.” And Dr. Morton Prince was an American psychologist working in Salpetriere Hospital in Paris treating split personalities and other psychosis. The two never met, but with so much in common, I deemed that they should.

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

“Fiend” would make for a elevated thriller that the Cineplex could use more of these days. It’s kind of a cross between “Sherlock Holmes” and “The King’s Speech” and it has a lot of smarts and a lot of heart.

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

Historical faction.

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

“Jaws” is one that I watch all the time, even when I come across it on TV, and see something new and amazing in it every time. It in itself is an elevated horror movie that has so many layers and nuance, in addition to being very primal.

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

All told it took me about a year to get “Fiend” into tip-top shape to start entering it into contests, where it has done very well, but I still tinker with it here and there. One never really stops rewriting until it’s filmed and in the can. And even after that, there may still be reshoots and additional rewriting!

6. How many stories have you written?

I’ve written 8 feature scripts, 3 television pilots, 1 short film script and a play.

7. What motivated you to write this screenplay?

I am a history buff and was drawn to Stevenson’s history as a man who was sick most of his life and longed for a life where he wasn’t hampered by his frailties. Hence, he wrote things like “Jekyll and Hyde”, as well as “Treasure Island.” His writing about mental illness and dissociative personality disorder (split personalities) in “Jekyll & Hyde” was incredibly insightful, such that there were those who wondered how he could grasp it all so well. Then, when I found out about Prince’s work in the same area and how Salpetriere wanted the rest of Europe to follow suit in bettering their treatment of the mentally ill, it struck me that there could be a entertaining juxtaposition in those two stories.

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

The balance of fact and fiction. Most movie bio’s take a ton of liberties with the real story, and because this one was clearly made up, I didn’t have to be quite so faithful. Still, I wanted to be true to the actual history known of the two men, and striking the right balance between reality and fantasy is what presented the biggest challenge.

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

I love movies, theater, art, reading…most anything from the arts world. I have an orange tabby so I’m partial to cats. And I find current events and politics to be endlessly fascinating and spend a lot of time watching MSNBC. (I’m quite the liberal at heart.)

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

I love those that embrace horror, and it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to connect with similar fans of the genre. The notes I received were superb, and I incorporated all the terrific suggestions into the rewrite of the script that was recorded. So thanks for making it better!

11. Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

Breaking into Hollywood is very difficult, and you’ll run into a lot of pretenders and wannabe’s. Gravitate towards those who remain positive in their response to your work, or at least encouraging, and realize that not everyone is going to do cartwheels over what you’ve written. Still, if you really enjoy writing and want to be a cinematic storyteller, keep at it and you will find advocates. You just need to find that one who also has money to make your script into a movie. That is THE struggle, but if you’re good, write a lot, and remain persistent in learning, rewriting, writing more and more scripts, and keeping the faith, you’ll find yourself getting closer and closer. And hopefully that day when you get the dream call, you’re ready for it all.

****

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo http://www.matthewtoffolo.com
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

Watch the April 2016 Horror Feature Screenplay Reading

Submit your Horror Screenplay to the Festival Today: https://festivalforhorror.com/

Feature Script: DEAD NORTH
by Alexander Nachaj

SYNOPSIS:

Genre: Horror, Comedy, Adventure

Survivors battle zombies and rival groups in post-apocalyptic Northern Canada

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Frances Townend
OWEN – Rob Notman
MAG – Christina Santos
PILOT – Kaleb Alexander
CAINE/STEIN – Jarrid Terrell
BARKER/REESE – David Occhipinti

****

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo
Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne
Editor: John Johnson

Horror/Zombie Feature Screenplay – DEAD NORTH by Alexander Nachaj

Watch the Horror Feature Screenplay Winner for April 2016.

DEAD NORTH by Alexander Nachaj

Genre: Horror, Comedy, Adventure

Synopsis: Survivors battle zombies and rival groups in post-apocalyptic Northern Canada

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Frances Townend
OWEN – Rob Notman
MAG – Christina Santos
PILOT – Kaleb Alexander
CAINE/STEIN – Jarrid Terrell
BARKER/REESE – David Occhipinti

Get to know winning writer Alexander Nachaj

Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?

Alexander Nachaj: Dead North is a story about a group of survivors trying to, well, survive in a soon-to-be frigid zombie apocalypse in Northern Canada. Though I can’t help but think that the apocalyptic setting along with the monsters is largely a backdrop for where a story like this could take place, make sense and help build the tension and stakes. After all, the zombies aren’t the greatest threat in this world; it’s other people and the environment they navigate.

MT: Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?

AN: Because I think people will love it. It’s filled with the kinds of things people want to see in movies, especially those big summer blockbusters. It’s got plenty of action and exciting visuals, lots of tension and conflict, and hopefully some characters the viewer can care about and root for. Even though it’s an original story, with a few twists and spins on existing ideas and conventions, it’s not so different that people won’t know how to relate to what’s taking place on the screen. Also, I suppose who doesn’t want their screenplay to become a movie? These kinds of things are meant to be seen, not just read.

MT: How would you describe this script in two words?

AN: Bloody fun.

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

AN: There’s a handful of movies that I seem to re-watch constantly, but the winner for most viewed would have to be the original Planet of the Apes with Charlton Heston. The number of times I’ve watched that movie as an adult has probably overtaken the number of times I watched Star Wars as a kid. I’m also only half-ashamed to say I’ve seen Apes’ wonderfully awful sequels (all four of them) almost as many times as the original movie.

MT: How long have you been working on this screenplay?

AN: I had the initial idea for the screenplay a few months before I sat down to write it, probably at the end of summer when that first autumn breeze rolled in through the windows. At the time it was just some ideas for scenes, visuals and possible character dynamics. When I finally sat down to write it, the whole story really just poured through like I had turned on a tap and it wouldn’t stop. I churned out the first draft during a somewhat sleep-deprived 72 hours in order to make the first deadline for this festival, actually.

MT: How many stories have you written?

AN: While I’ve written a few shorts, this was the first real feature-length screenplay I’ve completed. I’ve spent a lot of my creative time since then keeping track of ideas, scenes and characters that I’d like to incorporate in future, feature-length stories like this one. I’ve also been writing plenty of short horror stories. Since January, I’ve completed four stories and am in the process of adding two more to the list.

MT: What motivated you to write this screenplay?

AN: Definitely the thrill of putting together a complete, standalone story and potentially seeing it come to life. Though I’d be lying if I said having a festival deadline only a few days away didn’t help! Deadlines have a way of motivating me like few things do.

MT: What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?

AN: Remarkably, not that many. When you have a story in mind, have the time and the motivation, I found that it was pretty easy to get it on paper and finish it. I suppose clearing up my weekends to write and then later edit was the largest challenge. Not everyone wants to keep seeing “busy, writing” every time they text and sometimes other projects have deadlines that can’t wait either. Fortunately, everything lined up perfectly for me.

MT: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

AN: It might be an odd thing to hear coming from a guy who just wrote a screenplay that contains flesh-eating monsters, but I’m actually kind of passionate about my vegetarian lifestyle; that is to say, I’m thrilled that I live in a city where I can afford to be a vegetarian and know tons of other people who share my habits. It’s clearly not possible for everyone, so I definitely feel fortunate to live in a place like Montreal where it is.

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

AN: I found out about the festival only a few days before the initial deadline (which turned out to be for the best), so I was really motivated to try and finish something and enter it in time. When I received the feedback on my first draft I was honestly blown away not only by how positive it was, but also how helpful it turned out to be with ironing out the kinks and polishing up my story. Even just the little details and observations the festival reviewers sent me made a huge difference in helping me produce the screenplay it is today.

MT: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

AN: Finish what you start, no matter how unpleasant it might feel at times. Just push through that wall. Also, deadlines really help. If there’s no room for procrastinating, you tend to do it less. Lastly, submit your work to festivals and competitions and have others read it. You’ll never realize how important feedback is until you receive it.

****

Director/Producer: Matthew Toffolo

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editor: John Johnson

Watch Best Scene Horror GATES OF HELL Screenplay Reading by Pamela Green

Submit your Horror Screenplay to the Festival Today: https://festivalforhorror.com/about/

Best Scene from GATES OF HELL Screenplay
by Pamela Green

SYNOPSIS:

The best scene expert reading of the feature screenplay. Full screenplay to be performed on March 13, 2016 at the festival.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Susan Wilson
EVERETT – Aieron Munro
ATTENDANT – Robert Notman
MABEL – Maya Woloszyn
DALE – Charles Gordon
JEREMIAH – Paul Falkowski
NURSE – Antosia Fiedur
WORKER – Rochelle Burke

Today’s Horror Screenplay Reading: GATES OF HELL Screenplay by Pamela Green

Submit your Horror Screenplay to the Festival Today: http://festivalforhorror.com

Best Scene from GATES OF HELL Screenplay
Written by Pamela Green
Read 10 Questions with the writers

SYNOPSIS:

The best scene expert reading of the feature screenplay.

CAST LIST:

NARRATOR – Susan Wilson
EVERETT – Aieron Munro
ATTENDANT – Robert Notman
MABEL – Maya Woloszyn
DALE – Charles Gordon
JEREMIAH – Paul Falkowski
NURSE – Antosia Fiedur
WORKER – Rochelle Burke