Tag Archives: sean ballantyne

Interview with Chris Payne, winning playwright (Veils of Justice)

    Watch the Winning Stage Play reading of ‘VEILS OF JUSTICE’ by Chris Payne


    NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
    Mazen Tomedo – Vince Jerad
    Lynn – Ida Jagaric
    Chris – Rob Salerno
    Doug – Jim Canale
    Gerrie – Danielle Nicole
    Miriam – Alissa DeGrazia

Matthew Toffolo interviews playwright Chris Payne:

Matthew: What is your stage play about?

Chris: A wife finds out that her husband has accused a young Saudi of beating, torturing and raping him, but the Muslim male defendant’s Jewish female’s lawyer shows evidence that indicates innocence – triggering the wife’s journey with her gay brother through fear, betrayals and prejudice in post 9/11 New York City.

Matthew: Why should this play be produced?

Chris: No shoulds… but the play could add value and draw paying audiences in several ways:

– Heighten a sense of connection and compassion between potentially antagonistic groups (Muslims/non-Muslims, Jews-Muslims, Straight-LGBT… an early draft received Honorable Mention from the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation’s contest for plays based on actual events that position LCBT life in positive ways, Wives and Husbands when one is hiding LGBT orientation, etc.)

– Strengthen audience commitment to take a stand for justice by witnessing ordinary people caught in extraordinary decisions the force them to choose between fear and trust, loyalty and justice, safety and truth …and to deal with their own sexual prejudices and proclivities in many forms.

Matthew: How long have you been writing stories?

Chris: Five years.

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

Chris: African Queen. Close second: The Russians Are Coming.

Matthew: What artists would you love to work with?

Chris: Wishful thinking for this play: Maryann Plunkett as the wife. Too many wonderful Jewish actresses to choose for the Defense Lawyer and Prosecutor. Same for the attractive fit 30-something gay brother. Haaz Sleiman as Saudi defendant. Vincent D’Onofrio as the husband. Douglas Hughes Director.

Matthew: How many stories/stage plays have you written?

Chris: Stage Plays: Four full length plays (all in various stages of revision), six one acts. One Novel; One Book of Poems. Several stories.

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

Chris: Working with a theater group, (stage and/or online Internet, maybe even a social justice organization like the Center for Constitutional Rights or Human Rights Watch, but one that incorporates the power of theater to tell stories)…

… anyway, as I was saying before I started musing, in five years, I’d like to be working with a group that creates stage plays that capture stories about ordinary people around the world who have made extraordinary stands for fairness and justice.

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

Chris: I work a day job three days a week and write Fri-Mon, some evenings, sleeping late, seeing friends for lunch or dinner, writing the rest of the time. I used to layout the story, using my own mix of structures from Syd Fields, Robert McKee, Vogel’s version of Campbell’s Myth… but I’ve recently finished Hal Croasmun’s Pro Series and am part way into his Master Class where he synthesizes insights and gives daily assignments that imprint the techniques used by great writers to avoid boring exposition and heighten dramatic focus.

…But before, during and after I focus on structure, I go into a creative trance that follows the characters. Sometimes I haul them back in, sometimes, the characters loosen me up and make sure I change the structure.

Then I have the mortifying readings with talented, generous actors, interview them and willing audience members, then rewrite/revise, start over.

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

Chris: My children. My cat. Lovers. Friends from all around the world in New York City. Connecting with people in struggles for fairness and justice in ways that Archbiship Tutu and his Truth and Reconciliation folks would see as really fair, not partisan. (Everyone thinks their cause is fair and just – even Hitler – so the waters can get muddy. All sides in my play that WildSound is reading believe they are right.)

Matthew: What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Festival?

Chris: I think a notice in Linked In’s Independent Theater Artists and Producers’ discussion group. I have had three table readings and learned/revised each time. But organized the readings, did a little coaching, had a director for some of the actors in the first reading, and another reading was after placing as Finalist in a contest. I applied to WildSounds because I think I will learn a lot by listening online to a reading where I have nothing to do with selecting or speaking with the actors about the story, characters or my intentions – either it will come through, or it won’t. More fodder for more rewrites!!

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

Chris: Not until I prove I can find a theater willing to produce my work and audiences who feel the time watching my plays – or, for some, interacting with them or discussing them after, was fun and had value for them.

Interview with Emily Cirillo, winning TV Spec writer (VEEP)

I entered the WILDsound Festival because all of the great things I read about it and the wonderful feedback provided by the fest. The reviews were very accurate; I’ve had a great experience with WILDsound.

– Emily Cirillo, on the WILDsound experience.

WATCH Emily’s Winning TV SPEC Screenplay: VEEP “Town Hall”


Narrator – Frances Townend
Selina – Jacqueline Brown
Amy – Julia Vally
Sue – Alicia Payne
Mke – Charles Gordon
Ben – Neil Kulin
Adam – Kaleb Alexander
Jonah – Sean Ballantyne
Dan – Rob Salerno

Matthew Toffolo interviews Emily Cirillo:

Matthew: What is your “VEEP” TV Screenplay about?

Emily: The episode, titled “Town Hall”, is about Selina trying to connect with millennial voters after disparaging poll numbers are released. Dan and Amy, fighting for the Campaign Manager position, have different ideas on how to win them over. And Jonah makes things more difficult for Selina and the staff after he accidentally opens a virus that crashes their office server. The episode culminates at a Town Hall event Selina attends at a local university, where she realizes winning the youth vote is easier said than done.

Matthew: Why does this episode script fit into the guidelines of the show?

Emily: I think it “Town Hall” fits into the guidelines of a typical “Veep” episode with its fast pace, multiple subplots, and biting dialogue. A major theme of the show is how working in government is like a spinning wheel. People are always working in DC, but if you aren’t in power than it’s almost impossible to get anything done. The episode features Selina going through the ringer, but in the end she’s still an unpopular candidate amongst youth voters.

Matthew: How long have you been writing stories?

Emily: I’ve been writing screenplays for about a year and a half.

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

Emily: Scream. It’s a perfect blend of horror and satire. It’s one of my favorite films. I’ve seen it more times than I can count.

Matthew: What artists would you love to work with?

Emily: Jenji Kohan, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Joss Whedon and the Broad City ladies.

Matthew: How many stories/screenplays have you written?

Emily: I have completed two television scripts, and I’m currently working on my first feature as part of a program I’m enrolled in at Emerson College.

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

Emily: Ideally, I’d be in Los Angeles and writing for television.

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

Emily: I don’t have one set routine. I try to create a different routine for every project I work on, from where I write to what I listen to. For this particular spec, I’d go to the library and write for about two hours every day, while listening to punk female-centric Songza playlists.

As for a method, I have really extensive outlines. I beat out every storyline, make character maps, and move cards around my story board until its perfect. I plot as much as I write.

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

Emily: I’d definitely have to say music. I’m always listening to something. If I wasn’t pursuing a career in writing, I think I’d teach myself the bass and try to take over the world like Kim Gordon.

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

Emily: Be fearless and follow your gut.

Interview with First Scene Winner Jacob F. Keller, (The Curse of Sam Hain)

It was the first contest I’ve come across that didn’t require an entire screenplay to be submitted. A first scene allows for a much more focused effort on polishing a really good sample. Getting those 5-10 pages right takes a few days to a week while an entire screenplay can take many weeks or months to get right. Plus, the price of submission made it much more appealing. Really, there was nothing to lose.

– Jacoob F. Keller, on why he submitted to the WILDsound Festival (Review)

    Watch the 1st Scene Reading THE CURSE OF SAM HAIN:


NARRATOR – Frances Townend
Belenus – Sean Ballantyne
Sam Hain- Neil Kulin
Daughter – Julia Vally
Rider – Kaleb Alexander
Wife – Jacqueline Brown
Man #1 – Charles Gordon
Man #1 – Rob Salerno

Submit your First Scene Screenplay:

Matthew Toffolo interviews Jacob F. Keller:

Matthew: What is your screenplay about?

Jacob: The lone survivor of a crash landing on a distant world becomes the surprising savior to the aborigines facing genocide.

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

Jacob: It’s Cast Away meets Alien. It is a story that is can be both visually and metaphorically engaging with its strong ties to Dante’s Inferno. It is also a role that a lot of actors fight over. It has a lot going for it.

Matthew: How long have you been writing stories?

Jacob: It started in junior high. So, 20 years? Yeah, that’s about right.

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

Jacob: Easy, Ghostbusters. Probably watched it 30-40 times. I can almost quote the whole thing.

Matthew: What artists would you love to work with?

Jacob: It’s not so much about who I work with but what kind of projects I would want if I could choose. There are properties I would love a shot at, things nobody has thought about developing or projects that haven’t gone anywhere. I’ll work with anyone that has the same passions I do.

Matthew: How many stories/screenplays have you written?

Jacob: Last I counted 7 finished, and another 4-5 in various stages of development.

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

Jacob: Ideally, still living and working in Hollywood developing any number of projects in various forms.

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

Jacob: I try to get an early start and save personal errands and such for the afternoon and evening. If I flip it, I’m usually too worn out to sit in front of a computer for 3-4 hours. I also try to break it down in chunks. If I write one scene or get a problem figured out, I’l reward myself with some Netflix or playing one of my video games. And I always walk away mid-scene so I know exactly where to start the next day.

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

Jacob: Old school, 8-bit video games. I play almost every day as a break between projects. And my family. I have one brother but many, many cousins all across the country and we try to stay in touch as best we can over Facebook.

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

Jacob: Don’t follow trends or write what you think a producer or executive wants to read. Write what you want to write. Your passion will shine through and the right audience will find you.

Watch Veils of Justice, Winning Stage Play reading by Chris Payne

Stage Play Reading: VEILS OF JUSTICE
by Chris Payne

    Watch the FULL PLAY Reading NOW:


Accusations of violent rape and armed robbery by an established older American man against a young gay Saudi. If the accusations false, why? Can a Saudi get a fair trial in NYC after 9/11?


NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
Mazen Tomedo – Vince Jerad
Lynn – Ida Jagaric
Chris – Rob Salerno
Doug – Jim Canale
Gerrie – Danielle Nicole
Miriam – Alissa DeGrazia

Deadline Feb. 10th: SUBMIT your FULL PLAY or 1st ACT PLAY. Get your works showcased at 2015 festival events. FULL FEEDBACK

WINNERS get their stageplay read at the Writing Festival.

WATCH the recent WINNING STAGEPLAY Readings –

Interview with Sean Elwood, Winner Best Scene Screenplay January 2015

When I read that each script would get feedback on how to make it better, as well as the winning script getting a full reading at their event using actors really piqued my interest. It’s always great to get constructive criticism on something you’re very serious about, no matter what it is, and WILDsound definitely delivered on their critique toward my script. The other perk of entering the festival—having your script performed—seemed interesting to me as well, as I’ve never heard of that approach coming from a screenplay festival.

– Sean Elwood on the WILDsound Experience

    WATCH BEST SCENE from “I’M STILL HERE” by Sean Elwood


    NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
    Ryan – Vince Jerad
    Kayla – Alissa DeGrazia
    Receptionist – Danielle Nicole

Interview with Sean Elwood:

1. What is your screenplay about?

“I’m Still Here” is a dark, psychological thriller that focuses on Ryan Stovall, a young man who is involved in a car accident that nearly kills him. After he’s discharged from the hospital, he begins to experience strange occurrences throughout his home that lead him to believe that his near-death experience has opened the door between the living and the dead. As he attempts to investigate the paranormal activity, he soon begins to realize that his very own sanity may be at stake, and that it’s not just the dead that he needs to worry about.

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

“I’m Still Here” is a fresh take on the psychological thriller genre that will keep you guessing until the very end of the story, and even by then it will continue to leave you thinking. It contains subtle horror elements that don’t include jump scares or frightening images, which today’s horror seems to solely rely on, but rather elements that affect the human psyche and make you question your sanity. Financially speaking, “I’m Still Here” can accommodate any budget, as it features two main and three minor roles, and technically includes only four small locations. There is no need for any CGI or extravagant special effects, but instead a director who possesses knowledge in holding suspense and delivering thrills.

3. How long have you been writing stories?

I have been writing stories since elementary school, starting off as shorts that involved my friends and I escaping from evil ghosts and monsters, and developing into screenplays, both shorts and features, by late middle school up until now.

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

Gosh, that’s a hard one. I tend to watch movies I like over and over again, but I would probably say the movie I’ve seen the most in my life would be the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake, which I find to be an obscure movie I would watch frequently. It made a pretty big impact on my life since it was one of the first films that helped jumpstart the early 2000s zombie craze (plus I was only 14 when it came out, and I had a very obsessive personality at the time). It’s the movie that made me become obsessed with zombies, which I wrote a lot of stories and scripts about. Anything and everything about me was zombie.

5. What artists would you love to work with?

Steven Spielberg, George Romero, Danny Boyle, Mike Cahill, Neil Marshall, Alfonso Cuarón

6. How many stories/screenplays have you written?

Too many to count! I would say I’ve written at least 40-50 screenplays, both shorts and features, ranging from horror to thriller to drama and comedy. I’m definitely a horror guy, though.

7. Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?

I’m actually currently studying for a degree in mortuary science so I hope to see myself working in a mortuary in 5 years. I love screenwriting though, and I would even like to open a screenwriting class one day to anyone who is interested in the field. Plus, working around dead bodies in a morgue will give me some great ideas for my next horror script.

8. Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?

Lots and lots of brainstorming. Brainstorming in the shower, brainstorming on the toilet, brainstorming at work, brainstorming everywhere! If I come up with an idea, even for a scene in a script, I write it down somewhere. But as far as routines go, I tend to write down a lot of ideas for a script and flesh out the story around them, fitting those ideas into scenes that are most appropriate for the story. It’s not traditional in anyway, but it’s what helps me write a script, and if it works, it works. I also consult my friends and get their opinions on my stories. I figure that the best opinion is from the general audience. I like to go for what they want, not what Hollywood wants.

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

I’m passionate about photography, the outdoors, and the universe. I’d love to be able to go to space one day, and I hope that we put more effort into space exploration, because it’s actually really awesome if you sit down and put in the time to read about it.

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

This will sound really cliché, which I try to avoid, but what the hell: don’t give up. You will get turned down. You will have people not like your script. You will have major writer’s block. But don’t let any of that get in the way if you have a passion for screenwriting. Take any criticism and use it to your advantage. That’s how I learned and it’s definitely made me a better writer.

WILDsound Performers 2014

In 2014 WILDsound showcased over 60 readings of screenplays, stories, and stageplays. We used over 100 professional actors to perform the roles.

Check out the headshots and info on the WILDsound actors for the 2014 writing festival:

The casting director was Sean Ballantyne for AACTION.com and Casting Workbook.

The busiest actors for WILDsound in 2014 were (click their link):

Becky Shrimpton:

Fran Stecyk:

John Goodrich:

Rob Notman:

Val Cole:

Actors are some of the top talent who work in the Toronto area where many Hollywood feature films and television shows are filmed.

1st Scene Screenplay Reading from WAYFARERS by Arnon Z. Shorr

I’ve been submitting “Wayfarers” to a bunch of places. The notion that some of it could be performed seemed interesting – it’s a twist on the usual screenplay contest, and in some ways, it’s more valuable to me as a writer-director.

– Writer Arnon Z. Shorr. On what influenced him to submit to the WILDsound Screenplay Festival

WAYFARERS was the November 2014 co-winner for best 1st Scene Screenplay. Watch the reading now:


A sci-fi Exodus in a Mad Max setting – a post-Apocalyptic journey of physical and cultural survival.


NARRATOR – Amaka Umeh
ABE – Geoff Mays
JAKE/DRIVER – Rob Notman
MOSHE – Sean Ballantyne

WILDsound’s Matthew Toffolo chatted with Arnon Z. Shorr about his screenplay:

Matthew Toffolo: What’s your screenplay about?

“Wayfarers” is about a group of refugees in a post-Apocalyptic wasteland who are fleeing an oppressive regime that has outlawed all forms of religion.

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

There’s something familiar about “Wayfarers”. Refugees, victims of persecution, fleeing their oppressors to cross a sea and reach a promised land… It’s lifted from the pages of the world’s bestselling book. Cecil B. DeMille was so taken by the “Exodus” story that he brought it to the screen twice. This year, Ridley Scott tries his hand at the world’s greatest narrative of freedom. The Bible, despite our modern discomforts with religion, remains a universal narrative. But “Wayfarers” brings a new twist to the ancient tale. The setting is not long ago, nor far away. The characters are new, though their plight is well-known. Beneath it all, the themes of cultural rebirth and redemption remain powerfully present. That’s what makes “Wayfarers” a sci-fi adventure of biblical proportions.

MT: What influenced you to write this screenplay?

I’ve been working on “Wayfarers” for long enough, and with enough other projects keeping me busy as well, that I’ve forgotten entirely how the story came about, or what prompted me to write it in the first place. I do remember a friend telling me about dune buggy adventures in the Imperial Sand Dunes. Something in that sparked the idea. But how I got from there to writing a post-Apocalyptic sci-fi Bible story? I have no idea!

MT: There’s a lot going on in these first 10 pages and the actors were all excited to perform it. How would you describe your main character Abe? What makes him unique and engaging?

Abe is a man who hasn’t come to terms with who he is. He’s persecuted for following a religion that he doesn’t entirely believe in, that he doesn’t quite comprehend. He has tried to cast off the shackles of faith before, but finds they’re ever intertwined with his very identity.

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

I studied and taught film history, so there are many great films I’ve seen many times, but “Jurassic Park” came first, and beats them all handily. I must have spent an entire summer destroying that VHS tape two hours at a time.

MT: What artists would you love to work with?

There’s a guy named Marek Denko who builds and photographs Mad Max –style dune buggies. I’d love to see what he could do for a film like “Wayfarers”. I don’t know if he even has production design experience, but it would be neat to put him in charge of vehicles and see what happens. As for other artists, there are plenty. I’ve got another screenplay that I’d love for Michael Chabon to re-write. Lately, I’ve been really impressed by Miles Teller, too. Gosh, I could just keep listing people!

MT: What are you passionate about in life?

Movies, Religion, Family, Knowledge, Truth.

MT: Do you have a set routine when writing? Any advice you like to give to other writers?

I’ve only ever successfully written features in big gulps. I’m not good at writing a page here and a page there. The first draft of “Wayfarers” churned out in seven weeks (and it was during those seven weeks that my son was born – so it’s not like I had nothing better to keep me busy). It helps that I tend to be very technically precise, so as I’m writing, I don’t have to worry about revising things so they’re technically correct.