Category Archives: Feature Screenplay Review

Deadline TODAY: SUBMIT your FEATURE Screenplay to the Writing Festival

Deadline TODAY: SUBMIT your FEATURE Screenplay to the Writing Festival
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Watch WINNING Screenplay Readings – Watch videos of past winners performed by professional actors

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WATCH Recent Winning Feature Screenplay Readings:

February 2015 Reading
Written by Verlynn Kneifl & Laurie Larsen


William Clark recalls the perilous Lewis & Clark Expedition and its aftermath, casting a startling new perspective on the impetuous life and mysterious death of fellow explorer Meriwether Lewis.


NARRATOR – Holly Sarchfield
Lewis – Andrew Farr
Clark – Ryan Fisher
Various Roles – Geoff Mays
Various Roles – Andy Bridge

January 2015 Reading
Written by David M. Hyde


When lawyer Tom Johnson drives his car into a local firework stand, which is owned by former preacher Marvin Temple. This sets up a chain of events that bring people to faith and understanding of what life is all about.


NARRATOR – Susan Q Wilson
Tom Johnson – Rob Young
Marvin – Barry Minshull
Susan – Krista Morin
James/Richard – Todd Dulmage
Justine/Amanda – Alissa DeGrazia
Ben – Jacob Klick
Brenda – Mandy May Cheetham

December 2014 Reading
Written by David Redstone


A Navy ex-SEAL goes independently active to rescue his kidnapped niece from the ghostly world of undersea ‘Neathers’.


NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
TOM GILMORE – Julian Ford
DEREK GARNET – Andy Bridge
RAY KELVIN – Aaron Rothermund
VARIOUS PEOPLE – Frances Townend


Interview with Verlynn Kneifl & Laurie Larsen, February 2015 Feature Screenplay Winners

    Watch the Feature Screenplay reading of “TO DIE IN TENNESSEE” (the Lewis & Clark story)


    NARRATOR – Holly Sarchfield
    Lewis – Andrew Farr
    Clark – Ryan Fisher
    Various Roles – Geoff Mays
    Various Roles – Andy Bridge

Matthew Toffolo interviews the winning writers Verlynn Kneifl & Laurie Larsen:

Matthew: What is your screenplay about?

Verlynn: William Clark recalls the perilous Lewis & Clark Expedition and its aftermath, casting a startling new perspective on the impetuous life and mysterious death of his fellow explorer, Meriwether Lewis. Lewis died on his way to Washington to defend actions he’d taken as governor of the Louisiana Territory. He was troubled. He was known to be ill, probably with malaria, which was not an uncommon malady at that time. He died at Grinder’s Stand, an isolated accommodation for travelers on the Natchez Trace. James Neelly, a man of dubious character, informed Thomas Jefferson that Lewis had died by his own hand. Neelly was later known to be in possession of some of Lewis’s personal effects, including an expensive set of custom-made pistols. No official investigation was ever conducted into Lewis’s death. Lost in the pages of history were the words of a witness, a black man who insisted until the day of his death that Governor Lewis was murdered at Grinder’s Stand.

Matthew: Why should this script be made into a movie?

Verlynn: Recently, a niece in California sent me a magazine clipping titled, “What is the most gripping true story you’ve ever read?” Answer: The Journals of Lewis & Clark. The story of the Lewis & Clark Expedition and its aftermath is one of the most dramatic events in American history, yet with the exception of “The Far Horizons” (1955), which fell far short of tapping the tremendous possibilities of the subject matter, no major film has ever been produced on this subject.

Matthew: If you can go for dinner with one person dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Laurie: Laurie (co-writer): Clint Eastwood. We have a business proposition for him.

Matthew: What was your favorite television show as a kid?

Verlynn: Nothing comes to mind. I was more interested in wandering the outdoors. I grew up on a ranch in The Devil’s Nest, an area of hilly, rugged terrain on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. Here, on a hillside, a curious formation of trees and brush clearly spells out the word, DEVIL. (This anomaly is especially startling when viewed from the air.) According to Native American lore, outlaws Jesse and Frank James once hid out in this area. Our ranch was about eleven miles from Calumet Bluff, where Lewis & Clark met with the Yankton Sioux at the end of August in 1804.

Matthew: Who was your hero growing up?

Verlynn: Zane Grey. I checked his books out of the library, then went back and read them all over again. I think it was the first time I began to wonder what it would be like to be a writer.

Matthew: Where in the world would you like to travel to that you haven’t been yet?

Verlynn: Off the western coast of Scotland lies the isle of Bute. Here in ancient times dwelt the clan of MacRididh, later anglicized to MacKirdy. Five MacKirdy brothers were the only survivors of the 1666 English massacre of the Scottish Presbyterians. Coming upon an unattended open boat, they crossed the treacherous North Channel of the Irish Sea in a blinding snowstorm and found refuge in northern Ireland. The oldest of the five was my ancestor. He was a direct descendant of King James IV of Scotland. He married Margaret Stewart, whose lineage traces back to King Robert I, also known as “Robert the Bruce.” I’d like to walk in their footsteps and see some of what they saw.

Matthew: What’s been the best year of your life?

Verlynn: The year I attended Frederick Manfred’s creative writing class at the University of South Dakota. He taught me to believe in possibilities.

Matthew: Besides your writing talent, what else are you good at?

Verlynn: I won an art course from Art Instruction Schools in a Draw Me contest when I was sixteen. I learned to look at the world in a different way. The contrast of shapes and colors, the effects of light and shadow. I love the visual arts.

Matthew: Do you have a favorite possession?

Verlynn: I thought about material possessions, things I could probably live perfectly well without (and not have to dust every now and then). I decided to go for the intangible. Second to my family, I value my relationship with co-worker Laurie Larsen. Years ago, after I’d won an award for the first play I’d ever written, Laurie called me out of the blue. We belonged to the same church. I knew her as an accomplished area musician who’d played in Nashville. I was stuck in the worst case of writer’s block I’d ever experienced, but Laurie had an interesting idea for a play. We went on to write eleven plays. One of these has been earning royalties for over twenty years. Then out of the blue, Laurie gave me a book about Lewis & Clark . . .

Matthew: What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Festival?

Laurie: We liked what we read about WILDsound. After working with Matthew Toffolo on our screenplay, we’re not surprised to note WILDsound is now rated “Most Significant” at MovieBytes.

Matthew: What has been the best compliment you have ever received?

Laurie: When WILDsound read our screenplay and commented, “This story really needs to be told.”

7 Questions with the November Feature Screenplay Winner ELAN CARLSON

Today we like everyone to get to know the talented screenplay writer Elan Carlson. The feature script winner for her script CAHOOTS. Watch it here:


When their fishing village is invaded by brutal immigrant thugs, a Chinese family runs for secret shelter, asking help back to China from a pair of bickering Scottish and Irish rail hands who work a remote railroad spur and breakfast on beans and beer. Smitten by La Ling’s strength and beauty, Haggis twists Ketch’s terrified arm until he agrees. Now, all terrified, they join together undercover and set forth in a survival of scheming, conniving — whatever it takes.


NARRATOR – Becky Shrimpton
HAGGIS – John Goodrich
KETCH – David Schaap
LA LING – Anjelica Alejandro
VARIOUS – Sean Ballantyne
VARIOUS – Stephen Flett


1. What inspired you to write this screenplay about the railroads in the 1800s?

My inspiration to write of 1800’s railroads must have started when I was a little kid and LOVED the trains — the sound as they came and went thru town, when we got to ride, their beautiful structures… It was awhile before #0110 came to be a story.

2. Did you do a lot of research on this time to prepare for your script?

I schooled early in Berkeley, CA. Loved every trip to San Francisco, so finally moved there. Spent every moment possible in Chinatown, wallowing in the food, exploring every shop, neighborhood — and listening. Even bought their Chinese newspapers for special gift wrap.

One night I dreamed clearly of a Ruby/LaLing women standing in a shabby old western bar. With her back to me she was pleading with a man leaning against the bar — never saw his face. “She” stayed with me from then on — every day more intense for me to get to the library and find her story.

After work on evenings and weekends, I began prowling the books and discovered more and more the heart of our early Chinese tale. Which spoke of the time of Chinese emigration from Canton in its economical ruin — people in deep suffering — starving to death. Mostly men came to work the mines and new railroads or needed funds. There was one flourishing center of prostitutes in Chinatown (not the auction house), but CAHOOTS ladies chose man’s labor in disguise. So now I hear my “dream lady’s” story of how her whole self connects to the railroads’ two quirky, compassionate rail hands and how the five become bonded forever in the shelter of the trains. Makes me wonder if that really happened …

3. The interesting thing about your script currently is its tone. It reads like a PG family script for all to watch, but with racism, prostitution, and other mature plots. Was this done on purpose?

Yes — :o) — spent tons of time researching and learning, learning, learning! (and loved it!)

I met my “dream lady” with a sense of deep familyness, then researched and learned her real story — I’m sure, she needed to be heard.

4. Who would be your main target audience for this script?

Main audience target would be all adults, not any youngies, for sure.

5. In a perfect world, what actors would you love to see casted in the the main roles?

Wow! — my first feeling is George Clooney with Matt Damon as Ketch. They live their talented lives in true compassion and understanding of all others. And their ages would be fine with the roles. Wow — would that be “perfect” or what?!

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

ALL that brings peace, prosperity, joy and love to everyone everywhere!!!

7. What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Script Contest?

I’ve always loved the movies I see that carry the approval laurel of Toronto International Films.
When I was searching my email for festival entries on Withoutabox, WILDsound popped up — I “WHOOHOOed” and popped in my submission.

Elan Carlson BIO

My second-grade teacher was first to hand me a pencil to create a story. For years, other teachers did the same, and I came to embrace my inspiration with my own pen. First by publishing stories in Berkeley Gazette’s Human Interest Column and to writing PR columns for Phoenix Gazette.

Graduating on to working full time day job, my boss let me skew my work hours to get time off to work in film and to begin screenplay studies. My mentors were Richard Walter UCLA, Dov S-S Simens, Syd Field, Robert McKee, John Truby, William Goldman and Dave Trottier. I have had Linda Seger’s and Richard Walter’s supportive critiques on my beginning scripts. With studies complete in Feb 2003 I signed onto Trigger Street with my first draft of CAHOOTS. It was a daily reading/feedback to other writers and learning their feedback for me. Three months later in May 2003, I had to drop out of TS to care for my ailing dad (then my mom), so CAHOOTS came away with a rating of “Excellent — 11 out of 1,837.”

When my parents came to rest, I moved to Colorado Springs to be with my family in 2014. Here I discovered my first year in submitting screenplays to film festivals — a treasure being Toronto’s WILDsound Festival, who has mentored me with hours and pages of expert feedback and acceptance of CAHOOTS for promotion.

As of this writing, La Femme Film Festival, has awarded CAHOOTS a Finalist Laurel, and Women’s Independent Film Festival has chosen CAHOOTS as first place winner in their script competition.

Deadline is TODAY to submit your own feature script to the festival: