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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.”

Interview with Angelina Carkic, First Scene Screenplay Winner (LEGRAND)

An e-mail announcing the existence of this opportunity was sent to me. I liked what they offered and I sent them my work and logline. Their feedback was particularly constructive. The person actually read and understood the story. I thank them for that and would recommend their site to all writers.

– Angelina Carkic, on the WILDsound experience.

    Watch the First Scene Reading of LEGRAND:


    NARRATOR – Ryan Fisher
    Legrand – Geoff Mays
    Foulard – Andy Bridge
    Thibodeau – Andrew Farr
    Clair – Holly Sarchfield

Matthew Toffolo interviews Angelina Carkic:

Matthew: What is your screenplay about?

Angelina: LeGrand is about a celebrated French detective who mourns the death of his unrequited love and unable to stay in the place where everywhere he turns he’s reminded of her he plans to leave the country. When a dismembered leg turns up in his antique shop, a hedge for his retirement, LeGrand takes on a last investigation and follows clues to New York.

There, the precinct captain insists he has no right to investigate and pairs him with a disgruntled detective, who is himself dealing with his own separation from wife and family and has been relegated to a desk job. At first angry to be encumbered with the persnickety French man he soon realizes LeGrand is no ordinary policeman.

It becomes soon apparent that the little man in tight fitting suits, peculiar moustache, exhibiting quirks, is far from a hindrance. LeGrand almost immediately sets the pace with the American detective trying to keep up. Detective Hopkin’s demands for evidence to support LeGrand’s suppositions and a body to prove murder, are soon provided and the two start to work together.

But the antagonist and his hit man aren’t sitting back either. With the Captain of police in their pocket they know LeGrand hasn’t been able to tell anyone of his discoveries. All they have to do now is get rid of LeGrand and Hopkins and all their carefully set plans will fall into place. Cornered in a cafe and refusing to allow the mysterious hit man, Mr. Smith, from applying his switchblade, LeGrand walks towards the exit. When three shots in the back drop him, Hopkins is devastated. He’s become attached to the little man. But LeGrand has his own carefully laid plans and the FBI swarm the premises and kill Smith. The protagonist is arrested.

Much to Hopkin’s dismay LeGrand wasn’t injured. He sees him again some time later at the site of a murdered female octogenarian. Bribed with tickets to a play and possible introduction to a famous actress, Hopkins agrees to give LeGrand access to case files of the latest murders. They set off on another investigation.

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

Angelina: This is a crime drama, a genre popular with the viewing public. The central character is a French detective, transplanted to New York City, a fish out of water, but, it is the Americans who, in his presence find themselves out of their depth. An intelligent protagonist with peculiar habits and appearance, he will bring a smile to the viewer. This is an entertaining twist on the crime drama.

Matthew: How long have you been writing stories?

Angelina: I’m a dreamer who has devoted the last three years to writing full time.

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

Angelina: Peculiarly and without any reason, the movie, Skellig with Tim Roth, triggered something in me that sparked my need to write. I think I saw this particular show twenty times in a period of three weeks. Now, when I look at it I don’t know why. Since that initial fire was set under me I’ve written fifteen scripts.

Matthew: What artists would you love to work with?

Angelina: That is dependent on the project I would be working on. However, I have become a fan of Tim Roth and think it might be fun to work with him. There are many artists whom I admire but it would be premature to suggest at this time they might work on something I have created.

Matthew: How many stories/screenplays have you written?

Angelina: Fifteen. Five worth mentioning.

Matthew: Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?

Angelina: It’s my goal to keep writing and producing scripts that will entertain. This profession is a ship that isn’t easily steered. Winds of luck can easily blow it off course as well as guide it to a safe career. We’re probably as good at daydreaming a career path as we are at daydreaming a story. Rich and famous? Maybe that would be the most satisfying answer.

Matthew: Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?

Angelina: My best work happens in a noisy coffee shop. The world around me disappears and the story comes to life on the pages of my notebook. I’ll vegetate a few days and something will tickle my mind. I create the character then imagine where he’ll go and what he’ll say. Once a story has been madly penned into a first draft I go back, edit and rewrite.

Matthew: Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?

Angelina: It’s my goal to keep writing and producing scripts that will entertain. This profession is a ship that isn’t easily steered. Winds of luck can easily blow it off course as well as guide it to a safe career. We’re probably as good at daydreaming a career path as we are at daydreaming a story. . Rich and famous? Maybe that would be the most satisfying answer.

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

Angelina: I’m a multiculturalist and thus enjoy movies from different countries. I particularly find the quality and sheer volume of the movies the French produce, inspiring. Yes I can understand most of them.

My family is also important to me as well as my friends. I only have a few but they are there for me, part of my support group. They also help inspire my writing.

I used to paint and sketch and loved doing it and have had two exhibitions in Montreal. That was a while ago. Now I find peace in my writing.

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

Angelina: Keep writing. It’s about the creation of the work. Anything that comes out of it is the cream on the cake. Enjoy the writing.