Oscar the Cat in our Appalachian home

Here’s an interview with Matthew Toffolo CEO of the Wildsound Feedback Film & Writing Festival on 3.8.2020.

1. What is your screenplay about?

A scientist in Antarctica trying to save the penguin population from extinction ends up having to fight the militaries of China and the U.S. to save the planet Earth from Noah’s Flood 2.0 when a giant solar superstorm hits Earth and melts the polar ice cap.

2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?

Thriller, Sci-Fi, action/adventure

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

Hollywood is way behind the curve in informing the public about the many threats to the environment.  Some major environmental organizations have complained about this in position papers.  I guess Hollywood just doesn’t know how to get the idea across without seeming condescending or preachy.  “OMG. Another environmental disaster flick? No effing way.”  HELSTAF highlights two major environmental issues that people don’t know much about: the danger of Freon to the ozone layer (China is still manufacturing Freon-11) and the threat of a solar superstorm (which would knock out the entire electronic infrastructure for decades – i.e. no GPS or smartphones for 15 years).  Global warming, as threatening as it is, is just a subplot. So you can still scare folks about global warming and not appear to be far-left liberal activist about it.  All three major issues are related in the story in what one reader called the “ozone war.” LOL. I put all the hard-core tech details on my website whclark.com if you want to learn more about these issues. Lots of beautiful photos of Antarctica there.  Great place to live if it wasn’t so damn cold (although in February 2020 it was in the 70s!)

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

Gripping, authentic. Plus: readers like that every problem the heroes solve causes three more, and that there’s a steady beat advancing the action forward.  Readers also like the sheer scope and scale of the drama.  Whatever that means.

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

The sci-fi trilogy of Dune

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

Ten years. It was an autobiographical novel (Behold Leviathan, free PDF copy) before that; so make that 20 years. The original drama was set at the real HELSTAF facility at the US Army White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where I got into a boatload of trouble when I was in the service. Think sequel… White Sands is only a few miles from the 1947 Roswell UFO crash site. Actually, there were two sites – the craft HIT on one side of White Sands, BOUNCED, and CRASHED on the other side near Roswell, NM. The military said it was a weather balloon, but balloons don’t behave like that, do they?

7. How many stories have you written?

I have five feature-length thriller screenplays which I have been working on for ten years via notes, critiques, and feedback.  Please tell me screenwriting gets better than this. Do all my best friends for the rest of my life have to be characters in my screenplays?

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

I like the theme song from Flashdance, “What a Feeling” by Irene Cara. Lousy movie, but a great song.

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

I’ve been through at least 30 coverages on this one project. The biggest issue was I tried to say too much. “The plot is too complicated, and you need to take some of the complexity out and focus on the character’s arcs.”  I’m an engineer, very smart (close to a Ph.D. in mathematical physics) and very technical. I write the kind of stories that appeal to me.  Which doesn’t work so well with everybody else.  It’s hard to have lots of science, which readers say adds authenticity to the story, and to explain it well. So, with each draft, you cut out some tech things, get notes, see how that works, etc. Also, I have really bad vision problems (100% disabled veteran), which is frustrating. (Excuse me, but does anybody ever actually make money doing this screenwriting stuff?)

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

I’m an engineer by trade, and my passion is energy conservation.  I published one of the first textbooks on the subject with McGraw-Hill back in 1997. A second McGraw-HIll text published a year later, on (saving energy in) electrical design, is still in print, still the first edition.  I can only hope that I’ve helped some folks reduce their carbon footprint.  Free copies and software on my website whclark.com

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

I like you you can upload new drafts with CoverFly for a small fee (with some contests) and that they keep a running tally of your scores.  And, of course, you get the same great feedback from Wildsound (best in the industry). 

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

As usual, I think all the feedback is terribly wrong and the comments are unjust, cruel, bigoted, prejudiced, and hurtful.  A few days later I cool off and discover that everything they said was spot on, and after making their suggestions the material is greatly elevated.  Over the years I’ve used all the major coverage services and all the major screenplays that give feedback.  A couple of years ago I decided that Wildsound gives the most consistently best feedback out there, comments that I can depend on and trust. Since I started using just Wildsound feedback the material has gotten consistently better.  So, thanks.

P.S. Oscar was a shelter cat.  I adopted her right after she’d gotten HIT by a car. She lost one eye. Her hindquarters don’t work so well, either, and I built steps all over the house so she can get up to the kitchen counter, windows, etcetera.

Ahhh.  The sacrifices one makes to be a screenwriter…..

Hah! Can you spot Oscar’s step in the above photo?