Many festivals do well to provide encouraging feedback but I find that the WIldSound experience was a real game changer for me. The feedback, when critical, was offered in a way that challenged me. Some festivals will just say “this works, this doesn’t”. and that’s about it. And that’s nice. But when you guys first critiqued Rum House, I not only understood what was really wrong with the script but I also felt very charged and excited about the changes that came to mind. My first script has real solid momentum now because of WILDsound.
– Michael Sieve, On submitting to the WILDsound Screenplay Festival (Review)
Micheal Sieve’s script GIVE MY LOVE TO ROSE, was the December 2014 winning Short Screenplay.
Watch the script reading here:
NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
THOMAS – Chris Huron
ROSE – Erin Boyes
JOHN – Julian Ford
HARRIS – Andy Bridge
GUARD – Aaron Rothermund
MS. PIKE – Frances Townend
A man is released from prison after spending 15 years serving a murder he didn’t commit. His first order of business is to give a letter to Rose.
Q&A with Writer Michael Sieve
Matthew Toffolo: What is your screenplay about?
Michael: The script is loosely based on a Johnny Cash song of the same name which a friend of mine has the rights to. He sent me the mp3 and instructed, simply, “write about this”. The song tells the story of a wanderer who comes across a man who has been stabbed and is dying. In the song, the dying man is the convict who was released from prison and traveling home to his family. I made some changes to pursue the DNA exoneration angle. It’s a hot topic and a constant source of embarrassment to the broken and ineffective judicial system in our country. America represents 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. Land of the free, indeed! And every week another story begins to circulate about yet another man being exonerated after serving years, even decades, behind bars.
MT: Why should this script be made into a movie?
Michael: Judicial reform is one of our country’s most prominent needs and yet, thanks to the greed and want as perpetuated by our own elected officials, reform is a near impossibility. I like the idea of finding more of these stories, of pressing the public with more information as it regards prosecutorial misconduct and just plain lazy law-making that snowballs into faulty convictions and unreasonable sentences.
MT: Your feature script RUM HOUSE was the first screenplay we performed in 2014. And now your short script is the last script we performed. You sandwiched our festival in 2014. Any reactions on that?
Michael: It all just overwhelms me. Rum House was a very personal story for me to tell and I never wrote it with the idea that someone might read it, much less like it, much less that it would win the awards that it has, topped by this exceptional honor from your festival. Rum House was my first try at a screenplay. I wrote several others between RH and Rose. By the time I finished Rose I knew I was doing something that I loved and that I was doing it well. And that is all I have ever wanted from life! That I was able to win twice at WildSound is a most unexpected reward. I am humbled and grateful. The awards are nice but the feedback from WildSound has made me a far better writer than I ever thought I was capable of!
MT: What has been your favorite movie you’ve seen in the last 2 years?
Michael: Another Earth comes quickly to mind. That little indie darling wowed me. I was just blown away. Brit Marling just rocked my world!
MT: What influenced you to write this script?
Michael: As mentioned, the Johnny Cash song. And the lives and hearts of those critically humbled by wrongful prosecution and harsh prison sentences for crimes they never committed.
MT: How many stories/screenplays have you written?
Michael: 6 completed features, including my latest, a Stevie Ray Vaughan bio-pic (my first paid gig!) and about 4 shorts. 5 more features are outlined and I just started a romantic dramedy set in the after-life called “PurgaStory” which I think will turn a few heads and, hopefully, hearts. I have been told point blank that this will be the one that gets me to the next level. So, it will be in your hands shortly WIldSound!
MT: Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?
Michael: I’d like to be a very active and profitable part of the independent movie industry. The independents are coming on strong and I give them as much attention as I can. I was recently told by a literary agent in Beverly Hills (name withheld) that, after reading 3 of my scripts she was moved to tears, that it was some of the most engaging writing she had read in years and that she couldn’t possibly represent me because, in her words, “as I turned each page I knew there was no way in hell I could sell this in my town!”. It was the most inventive compliment I think I have ever heard. So, I am aching for the smarter ranks, for the independent core in need of good writing. And, as I have seen repeatedly, it is a movement that is well supported by some very excellent writers. It is my goal to rank among them!
MT: Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?
Michael: It varies now as I have new people in my life, new exciting connections. Generally, I write for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening, leaving me some time to really focus on the stories during those hours in between. The afternoon is reserved for brainstorming, for challenging my plot lines, for picking things apart and putting them back together. Its easy to tell a story. It’s a tremendous challenge to tell a really good story. I focus on the challenge and that requires a good deal of time and energy.
MT: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Michael: I firmly believe that reading is a huge part of what makes a writer a great writer. I have a passion for 19th Century English and Russian Literature. And I mean the actual books, not the nooks and kindles. When you pick up Tolstoy you know, by touch alone, that you are about to step into a very big, very involved world. I don’t get that sensation at all from the electronic devices. So, books are a passion for me. Romance. And people who get “it”.
MT: What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Festival?
Michael: The feedback, first and foremost. Many festivals do well to provide encouraging feedback but I find that the WIldSound experience was a real game changer for me. The feedback, when critical, was offered in a way that challenged me. Some festivals will just say “this works, this doesn’t”. and that’s about it. And that’s nice. But when you guys first critiqued Rum House, I not only understood what was really wrong with the script but I also felt very charged and excited about the changes that came to mind. My first script has real solid momentum now because of WildSound.
MT: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?
Michael: The old axiom of writing what you know is good. But sometimes break out of the box. Study something you don’t know. Write about that. Read as often as you can. Study your genre and get to know your characters deeply. Don’t write for the agent or for the producer or for the audience. Write for you and only you. Make your story authentic and smart. And never, ever give up! All writers start off hopeless and that, I feel, is the hallmark of a good writer in the making!
Matthew Toffolo, Interviewer BIO
Matthew Toffolo is the current CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival. He had worked for the organization since its inception in 2007 serving as the Short Film Festival’s moderator during the Audience Feedback sessions.
Filmmaker of over 20 short films and TV episodes. Took over full reins of the WILDsound Festival in May 2013. From then to the end of 2014, he’s presented over 90 movies at the monthly FEEDBACK Film Festival in Toronto, plus has had over 60 screenplays and stories performed by professional actors at the bi-monthly Writing Festival.
Go to http://www.wildsound.ca and submit your film, script, or story to the festival.
Go to http://www.wildsoundfestival.com and watch recent and past winning writing festival readings.