When is a Screenwriting Contract NOT a Screenwriting Contract?

 

written-contract-600x276 Not long ago, I engaged in a long negotiation with an overseas production company- Templeheart Films based out of London, England, and their principle, Lyndon Baldock- regarding developing a new concept, story line and horror screenplay around a certain location in which they had previously secured for filming. This relationship was a long time in development for me at Shark-Eating Man Productions, as we had done several “freebies” along the way for them and their associates. I counted Templeheart producers and their stable of actors, directors and producers as valuable contacts and good friends, as we seemed to enjoy a symbiotic relationship of mutual support for a couple of years at least. Lyndon and I Skyped on several occasions; he seemed like a straight-shooting, trustful fellow, very pleasant and seemingly easy to work with. I immediately felt comfortable about the new business relationship and was excited about the future of the screenwriter/producer partnership.

Templeheart Films have about a dozen produced horrors, most straight-to-DVD, and have relationships with European companies as well as Red Box for distribution, so I was pretty sure this screenplay, if good enough, would be produced and, eventually, marketed and sold. A contract was submitted to me, and while the money was not what I’m used to, this wasn’t about the money at all. I was looking long-term and working with a reputable producer. One benefit was that I was able to bring along a couple of writer friends and give them credit as well, giving them their first produced writing credit, and this was exciting for me. I always find it a thrill to help others achieve their goals whenever possible.

Outside of the compensation, the contract stated some very hard dates regarding deadlines, and penalties should those deadlines be missed; penalties for the writers being late, and penalties for the production company being late in payments and/or notes. These are fairly common protection clauses, and the contract was reviewed by attorneys on both sides of the agreement. This contract was signed in May 2015.Horsehead

It was explained to us that the director had a screenplay written, and while he was a very talented director and self-promoter, he lacked any real writing skills, so they wanted to see what I could do. After a few weeks, and some brainstorming with the other writers, we came up with two very strong story lines, and submitted one- which Lyndon loved, much to our pleasant surprise. He emailed me explaining that he will review further and submit notes immediately.

I waited…and waited. No notes were forthcoming.

I sent a reminder email regarding the notes; still no response.

It should be noted that the first draft was written and forwarded for review PRIOR TO ever having received the down payment to start the project- which I NEVER do. In this case, I felt that we were more than working associates and more “friends” and felt I could trust them, perhaps more than I should have.

Also in reviewing the contract again, I noted that if the Mr. Baldock did not respond with notes within an eight-week time period, the draft submitted is considered final and acceptable, rendering the contract completed and making all payment immediately due.

After ten weeks of no contact, and no feedback notes on the first draft submitted- and, most importantly, NO down payment paid- I fired off an email to Mr. Baldock requesting immediate payment of the down payment and the payment in full for the contract, outlining where he and his production company breached his own rules:

“The engagement shall commence on the 12th of June 2015 (the “Starting Date”).
                 
1.1                    The Writer shall deliver the First Draft to the Company as soon as is reasonably practicable but in any event not later than six (6) weeks from the Starting Date and in this respect time shall be of the essence of this Agreement.

1.2                    The Company may within six (6) weeks from delivery of the First Draft give written notes to the Writer following which the Writer shall deliver to the Company the First Draft Revisions as soon as is reasonably practicable but in any event not later than three (3) weeks from the date of the said notes and in this respect time shall be of the essence of this Agreement.

1.1                    the sum of $xx,xxx payable as to $x,xxx on the delivery of the First Draft and $x,xxx on approval of the Shooting Draft or if no revisions are requested by Company six (6) weeks following delivery of the First Draft; and…”


In summary, Mr. Baldock failed to fulfill ANY of his legally promised obligations per the signed contract created by his own company’s attorneys. He failed to meet any of the deadlines HE set, and he failed to make any of the payments as promised. Eventually, the down payment was wired to my bank through a bank transfer, but this was months after the fact, and weeks after the deadline. Now, I was requesting payment in full, per the contract.

Screwed

What was Lyndon Baldock and Templeheart Films response to this request? They simply recreated a second contract, with NEW due dates and requested I sign that.

Well, naturally, you can imagine what I told them. I requested another Skype with Mr. Baldock, but suddenly, he was no longer interested in Skyping with me. I only wanted him to look me in the eye when explaining to me how he could lie and cheat me out of a legally binding contract. He must have known this too, which is why he refused. In his effort to get me to sign the revised contract, he stated “Let me know if you prefer something else and we’ll see if we can agree to something.” I told him what I preferred is that the other contract be satisfied, i.e. paid off as contractually obligated, before I’d even consider entering into another agreement. Needless to say, he refused. I took my script, and haven’t spoken to them since.

Now, many will say “sue the bastards!” This is quite difficult to do when you’re talking about another country, and they know this, which is why I handle out-of-country agreements quite differently these days. It’s a shame you have to find out the true character of someone through these kinds of awful experiences, but I trust this is not the first time they’ve done this kind of move. I now realize everyone’s your “friend”- providing you give them free work. When you start asking for them to pay for it, or pay for their mistakes, then you start to see what they’re really made of. Don’t think for a second that if I was late in my obligations- by eight, ten twelve weeks- or didn’t deliver at all as promised, they wouldn’t have had the same response. Of course they would. After all, this is still a business. Apparently, a business in which not everyone who passes themselves off as legitimate company can be trusted.

A signed contract isn’t necessarily a signed contract, unless, of course, you’re willing and prepared to chase it all the way in court at great expense. This is a slam-dunk winner, but far too costly and not worth it to me.

So I wrote about it instead.

 

Ask “THE SCRIPT MENTOR” No. 10

interview2  For one reason or another, I seem to get a lot of interview requests. These run from legitimate book interviews, like Dave Santo’s “Screenwriting: A Practical Guide for Writing a Film” (http://www.amazon.com/Screenwriting-Practical-Guide-Writing-Film-ebook/dp/B00KF0M25G) to school newspapers, student research, and those considering screenwriting as a career. I thought I’d take this time and answer many of these questions for all who are interested to access:

 

  1. How did you get into screenwriting?

In my case, it started with a joke; a play on words, actually. Driving down the 405 freeway one early Sunday morning on my way to an awards show rehearsal and set-up, I thought of a joke, which lead to, what I thought, was a funny character that I later called “Junior Simple”- a village idiot, who through incredible and accidental events, becomes a multi-millionaire virtually overnight, and saves his town from an evil land baron. This was the premise of my first concept. Having been in the Hollywood arena for a number of years already (not in production or writing, however), I did own a few copies of scripts. Using them as a basic model, I devoted twenty hour days and typed out the first draft in six weeks- in Word. My wife edited it for grammar and spelling; I told her there were absolutely NO spelling errors and she only found about 100. Needless to say, the script was horrible. The story is great, and I’ll still work on it at some point, but the script itself was terribly done. Why? Because I had no idea what I was doing; I had absolutely NO FOUNDATION of having learned the craft. I spent the next two years, and every day since, learning more and more about the screenwriting craft.

 

 

  1. What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me depends upon where I am during certain projects, and where my concentration is at the moment. At the moment, I’m producing a television reality docudrama about the lives of a group of Elvis Tribute Artists, so I’m engaged in raising funds, working on a shooting schedule, staying in touch with the cast members which we chose this past winter. I recently completed a paid screenwriting assignment for an overseas production company, and we hope that gets produced sometime this year. I’m also lining up a number of ghostwriting and book adaptation assignments from various clients. These contracts have very strict, often tight deadlines, and I’ve yet to miss a deadline, and that’s very important to me, so the writing always takes priority at the moment. I also do as much networking as possible on social media. Personally, my formula for time spent on social media is 2:1 work. If I spend 8 hours working, I try an additional 4 hours in networking and touching bases with people in the industry. This is a very important, yet an often overlooked or abused part of the process. Sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. can be real time-sucks if you’re not careful. Try to keep it as close to business as possible until your work day is over.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Do you ever bring your work home with you?

Yes. In fact, I work from home, that’s how much I bring it home. But, yes, in a way, I still “bring it home”. I discuss my business day with my wife, and my kids often ask about the projects I’m working on, but home and work crisscross in other ways, too.  I just had my taxes done, and I’ll be a portion of my accountant’s name as a character in a future script. My son gave me the name of the character for “Secret Agent Bob” script. My other son had creative input in my screenplay “Undead Redemption”. My daughter’s personal experience during a tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Al and the events surrounding our Alabama football team that year was the impetus for the concept of the script “T-Town”. I think every script I’ve written has at least one line of dialogue that was actually spoken by one of the kids, which struck such a chord with me; I had to include it somewhere. The home is a big influence on the writing, much more than the other way around.

 

 

  1. How do you juggle your private life with your work life?

I’m 56 years old, with 2 children in college, 2 kids with full-time jobs, and one boy soon to be a senior in high school. I don’t HAVE a private life! But, in all seriousness, I could see how this might be an important question to those several decades younger and considering this as their career. As in ANY career, be it screenwriting, acting, electrician, dog walker or office worker, you put into it what you want out of it. I’ve never had an 8-hour work day or a 40-hour work week in my life. Almost every job I’ve ever held, from my days of being a police detective, was a salaried job, or I was running my own business so I was often the first one in and last one out. I’m not sure if that’s because I had a great work ethic and I was super dedicated, or because I worked harder, not smarter, but in either case, I was not a good example of juggling a social life with a work life. These days, I have found a better balance. I still work long hours, but I do so looking out over forty-plus acres of land and trees, surrounded by all sorts of wildlife and mostly peaceful serenity, which helps me to be successful.

 

 

  1. Do you work with a lot of people in your job?

On a daily basis, the answer is no- I usually work alone. I have enjoyed several collaborations over the years, with various writing partners including Rick Brady (“Secret Agent Bob”); Brent Jones (“Bad Priest”, “Model Family”, “Taking Credit”), and Nancy Newbauer (“The Tomb”), among others, but as a general rule, writing is a solitary existence. While I may not work with someone directly, you are always working in conjunction with others on various projects. I’m an Executive Producer with Owen Ratliff on his feature film “Black Salt”- the first superhero feature film in history with a lead originally written as a minority character. I’m also the Executive Producer of “Debris”, a Nicole Jones-Dion horror script. I currently ghostwrite for a number of clients, many of them well-known celebrities, and I also adapt novels into screenplays. It helps tremendously to be able to work along, but able to adjust and work collaboratively as well when the situation calls for it.

 

 

 

  1. What is the best advice you could give someone who wants to make screenwriting a career?

I alluded to it earlier; get a solid foundation in the craft. However you choose to do it. My advice would be to forego all of the other advice about what books to buy, what courses to take, what “gurus” to listen to- it’s all a waste of your time and money. Buy Dave Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible” and read it, cover to cover, several times. Keep it next to you while you write. The only other thing you’ll need to purchase the screenwriting software, “Final Draft”– whatever version is current. Don’t cheat yourself on this. There are free software packages out there, but most of the people in the industry use- and expects- Final Draft, so don’t stand out as a newbie. Those two purchases will put you light years ahead of others when starting out.

Taking any technical writing courses, or any of those $1100, 8-month screenwriting programs are a total waste in my opinion, at least at this stage (to me, their rip-offs, even later). Write on subjects you know and in genres that interest you. They may not be the best selling genres, but you’ll be more interested in the craft.

Learn- always, but don’t go crazy with all of the conflicting information out there; you have to live in L.A., you don’t have to live in L.A., enter contests, don’t enter contests, follow a formula, formulas are for losers; etc. Soon, you’ll find someone in the business whose opinions and advice you trust and they’ll help you through it.

 

FRAUD ALERT- Amlan Basu, Master Screenplay Writers Academy

thR2B8MJCFRecently, I accepted an invite to “link in” with a gentleman named Amlan Basu, who describes himself as a director and screenplay writer from the Master Screenplay Writers Academy out of Maharashtra, India. I then noticed that Mr. Basu was posting about ten screenwriting-related articles a day, most of which were informative, instructive and laden with screenwriting and filmmaking advice. I immediately thought two things; one-this guy seems to really know quite a bit about the craft and industry of screenwriting, even though I’ve never heard of him before, and two- he’s prolific in his article writing.

I reviewed as many of the articles as I could- and there were about fifty at this point, in a very short period of time- when I came across one that read very familiar to me. While checking it out, I realized this “article” was a word-for-word plagiarized writing of a blog article I had written years before. I then began checking each and every article that he posted and claimed to have been written by him. At no point in any of these articles was there a disclaimer indicating that the article was “reprinted from”, or “reprinted with permission from”, or credited in any way to the original source, or the original writer. Many of the articles were stolen from the blogs of Ken Miyamoto and off the Screencraft website, but the articles were plagiarized from all over the screenwriting world, going as far back as 2010.

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This is not the first time I’ve encountered and uncovered plagiarism in the screenwriting world. A few years ago, I discovered that a self-described screenwriting “guru” had posted a blog article written by another (published)screenwriter, and attempted to pass it off as his own. While highly questionable, we can’t prove it was anything other than a one time mistake. I also exposed a couple of screenwriting job newsletters who claimed certain jobs as ones that they had recruited, to the point that they wanted their clients to respond to the ads stating that they found the post through their newsletter. It was discovered that they were actually cutting and pasting from a number of different FREE sources, then selling this information through their newsletter(s).

Mr. Basu, however, takes plagiarism to a whole different level.

I reached out to Mr. Basu and informed him that I was aware that he had plagiarized my own blog article and reposted it- without crediting me- and ordered it removed immediately. I also informed him that I had checked all of his other “articles” and that he needed to immediately remove any and all postings on LinkedIn Pulse and everywhere else that he copies from other sources without providing the original source material proper credit. We’re not talking an aggregate site that accumulates screenwriting articles  re-posts them on a different site, with author credit. We’re talking a straight line, cut-and-paste job.

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Amlan Basu of “Master Screenplay Writers Academy

Mr. Basu responded, indicated that he would “consider removing the articles”. The next day, all but three of his first articles were removed, but then, he added two more posted Pulse articles. A quick and easy check of these articles revealed that they were compiled, word-for-word, from various Quora responses by screenwriters in a question posed on one of their forum discussions. You’ll notice, from his “article”, the advice he provides sounds very disjointed and random- and that’s because it is. It comes from several different people over several different months. It’s still all stolen words and concepts.

I reached out to Mr. Basu once again, and he responded by telling me “You can do it what you want. May I have taken some lines from Quora but my own views also there.”

He added “I have a credit of several full length script and I am teaching the screenplay writing successfully!!!!”

Ironically, in advertising his screenwriting master academy, he refers to himself as the “yardstick of originality and excellence”. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but I suppose when someone calling himself a screenwriter and director is plagiarizing original written material from other writers, it’s not a stretch to think that they’d make fraudulent advertising claims as well.

Further irony, in checking his Twitter account, on March 13th, he tweeted “Plagiariism (sic) is the malpractice for writer”– misspelling and all.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

His Master Screenplay Writers Academy (MSWA) blog can be found at mswainfo.blogspot.in. It has dozens upon dozens of screenwriting articles, none of which are credited to the original source. If you or someone you know writes a lot of screenwriting articles or advice columns on screenwriting, you might suggest to them to peruse this website and see if their written articles are being stolen and passed off as someone else’s work.

More than likely, they’re not even aware of it.

UPDATE: When last checked, Mr. Basu removed all but two posts, adding a third that was obviously his original article. One look at this article- less than 100 words, and clearly obvious that English is his second language- you’ll know immediately that it is more than likely original to him. We are pleased that Mr. Basu saw the error in his ways in attempting to pass of other writer’s hard work as his own and instead has decided to do the right thing and write original material. We will be keeping an eye on his posts to make sure he stays on this track.

ECCENTRIC STORIES- PART DEUX

scamalert  About a year ago, I posted an article about my suspicions over an ad found on Craigslist from a “John Alexander” of Eccentric Stories. He advertised various screenwriting services, including adapting books into screenplays and ghostwriting. At that time, I placed a call into Mr. Alexander, and within a few short minutes of time, it was fairly obvious he knew very little about the craft of screenwriting. He didn’t seem to have a grasp on the common terminology often used in screenwriting, and was less than forward with his pricing schedules and due dates, etc. It was clear to me this was a scam, and said as much in the article.

The other day, I was contacted by Kenny Wilson, a most recent customer of Mr. Alexander, who expressed his sincere regrets of not having seen my article prior to signing on with Eccentric Stories and paying a hefty sum for a screenplay adaptation of his novel. Now, there were many red flags along the way, as Mr. Wilson now admits, but at the time, he was a bit more trusting of the man. As with many con artists, they have a skill to win people over and convince them they’re on the level, which is why they are so successful, after all. Mr. Wilson paid John Alexander the sum of one thousand dollars ($1000) to adapt a 700+ page Action novel into a screenplay, and this transaction took place at the end of 2014. Here it is in March 2016, and he has yet to see a written word.

Mr. Wilson has managed to get a hold of Alexander during much of this time, and he was strung along, being told the project was coming along fine. Towards the end, when Mr. Wilson had had enough, and demanded his screenplay, he received a call from a “family member” of Mr. Alexander’s, claiming that he had a heart attack. Mr. Wilson was able to speak with him later still, when he was told that the script was done, and he (Alexander) was flying him (Mr. Wilson) out to Los Angeles- all expenses paid- where he had scheduled a number of meetings with various studio executives interested in purchasing the script. Mr. Wilson was highly skeptical, but he did re-arrange his work schedule to be on the safe side.

He never heard back.

We will be assisting Mr. Wilson as much as we can in helping him recover his money and recover his project.

Some important points to consider when you’re looking to hire a screenwriter for a paid assignment such as an adaptation or a ghostwriting job. To read a 700 page book and then adapt it into a viable screenplay beyond a first draft is, at the minimum, a four-to- six month job (length of time varies depending on the writer, of course). I’ve done screenplays in six weeks, and I’ve done them in sixteen months. No one of any real skill level is going to charge $1000 to do that for you; that’s less than $1 an hour. I might charge $1000 just to READ a 700-page, self-published book, because I know what it’s probably going to read like!

Next, you should ALWAYS get a written contract, outlining EXACTLY what you’re going to get for your money. I will give you an idea of what I always provide in my contracts:

A) The start and end date(s);

B) The hourly rate;

C) The number of hours expected for the project;

D) Payment terms; half down prior to start; final pay prior to receipt of final draft;

E) Guaranteed first forty pages for review;

F) One (1) FREE rewrite

I will also tell you I have friends and connections in the business that I can send the project to if I believe it’s warranted, because I do. I have a number of people who will read anything I send them because they not only trust my writing skills, they trust my judgment of things I forward. There’s absolutely no guarantee of any option, purchase or production, unless I choose to produce it myself, and that’s not entirely likely either. Anyone who makes promises like that, are who tells you about all-expense paid trips to meet studio executives- take your money and run, because that’s what they’re going to do!

 

 

“Just Like Elvis” Docudrama Trailer, Starring Wesley Hurless

justlikeelvislogo2 Shark-Eating Man Productions presents a brand new segment clip from the upcoming television docu-series, “Just Like Elvis”. This segment stars former Marine, and current ETA, Wesley Hurless!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haJzSNm4e-Q

**Please subscribe today, as future episodes may only be available to channel subscribers.

Thankyouverymuch!

Producer Bio: Geno Scala of Shark-Eating Man Productions has been involved in a number of feature film projects including “The Girl at the End of the World” (2014), “Mirror Lake” (2013), “The Dick Jones Project” (2013), and a half-dozen other films. He serves as Co-Executive Producer for Owen Ratliff’s upcoming feature film “Black Salt”; the first superhero film in cinematic history written for a minority lead, as well as the multi-award winning horror film, “Debris”, written and directed by Nicole Jones-Dion. He and writer/producer Brent Jones recently developed the television reality series “Model Family”, about the goings-on inside an exclusive South Beach fitness resort that caters to the rich and famous. Mr. Scala was one of the Executive Directors of Operations for the 72nd Academy Awards presentation, as well as the Grammys, Blockbuster and Soul Train awards presentations.

Welcome Back, WILDsound!

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While the following two (2) blogs are actually reprinted from earlier submissions, I do so to “welcome” the newest follower of The Script Mentor blog, “1stcenescreenplay”- the latest money-grab from the King of Money Grabs, Matthew Toffolo and WILDsound. WILDsound has previously been exposed by us after having identified over 24 different contests. Mind you, in the past, there have been no announced “winners” of these contests, yet this small factoid doesn’t prevent them from marketing, spamming, and generally harassing thousands of screenwriters by bombarding them with contest announcement spam. We see that, only recently, various winners have been getting announced; we believe it is as the result of these blogs; but we don’t believe the perceived value of the winning prize meets or exceeds the actual submission cost.
In the past, we’ve also uncovered the number of fraudulent profiles created by Matthew Toffolo on sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Stage 32 in an attempt to create many employees, when, in fact, most of these people didn’t exist and certainly were not employed by them. This façade was necessary to try to explain how a company could review a feature film screenplay, a novel and a poem all within the same time frame for their advertised contests, and with equal credibility. Obviously, these contests are not real, and the employees are not real. The money they take in for these contests, however, is very real.

Today, we welcome 1stscenescreenplay to read these re-prints and remind them that, while hundreds of screenwriters may be naïve enough to continue to be victimized by these groups, we will continue to expose the frauds and crooks of the screenwriting business in our effort to clean up the industry. This campaign has resulted in tremendous cost to us, personally, as well as attacks on our reputation resulting in loss of income. However, this only strengthens our resolve. The number of letters we have received from grateful screenwriters who have either been saved from being a victim, or who have fallen victim to these types of services and wanted to share their own personal story, has been staggering.
In the end, it is up to YOU to decide which contests you’d want to enter. Our blog provides contest tips of what one might want to look for in a contest before investing their hard-earned money in a submission fee. We hope you take some time to review these tips as well.

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WILDsound Owner Matthew Toffolo; “We Made Mistakes…and I Sucked!”

(Reprinted from 2014)
Last week (10/14), out of the blue, this blogger received a lengthy email from Matthew Toffolo, the current head of WILDsound Festival and website. You might be familiar with WILDsound, if not through their endless spamming, or their multiple LinkedIn and Facebook “employee” profiles, but perhaps through several articles written here, and elsewhere, describing some of their shady practices in operating screenwriting contests. The list of complainants about this company is practically endless, and many of those have chosen our various threads to air out some of those complaints.

Now, I haven’t had any contact with Mr. Toffolo for well over two years- and never on a personal basis- so his email did take me back.

“Hi Geno. Just wanted to reach out to you…but I wanted to talk with you before a column is posted about this site and yourself.”

A not-so-veiled threat, I see. What is this all about? As the email continued, he explained how he was contacted by (a known scam artist whose name will not be mentioned here) someone he described as wanting “revenge” – and was asked to join forces with them to have his WILDsound “website traffic to help respond to you”. This is (known scam artist whose name will not be mentioned here) weak attempt to have as many “bad reports” out on the internet, so anyone wishing to Google me or my various companies will see fake reports and claims of rip-offs and complaints. They’ve tried this several times in the past, and continue to fail epically. Matthew added that he’s heard how “polarizing” I am, yet in the same breath, called me “amazing”.

He also admitted to having heard/read all of the things I, and many other people, have been saying about WILDsound- presumable about their sleaziness, lies and questionable business practices- and stated, unequivocally,…

…“Your opinions of WILDsound have some validity.”

BINGO!

WILDsound has made its mark by operating over twenty contests (24, to be exact), which can easily be considered “money mills”. You’d be hard-pressed to find ANY announced winners of their “Poetry Contest”; their “First Ten Page Contest”; their “Best Novel Contest”. Yes- they have come up with a contest for just about every writing format.

We anxiously await the “Best Sanskrit Contest”.

While they promote these contests through a series of heavy spamming via emails, tweets and Facebook posts, one could assume they have professionals on staff who are “experts” in each of these formats. You can’t really verify this through their website; hell, you can’t even find a contact email on their site other than general information. They do expect the writer to submit their payment (from $10-$60 on up) depending on the contest, and await some results.

These results would rarely come, unfortunately.

After I began writing about my personal experience with WILDsound and my email exchanges with Mr. Toffolo, many, many people began speaking up, and I soon realized this wasn’t an aberration, but more of a pattern; a sleazy, disgusting pattern of scamming screenwriters.

As Matthew and I exchanged emails, I explained my original situation with their organization, which he quickly side-stepped, claiming that he did not come into control of WILDsound until May 2012. Now, here is where the confusion starts: my email exchange with him took place in February 2012. He quickly back-tracked and said that previous employees, who he claims were doing some “sketchy things”, including attaching HIS Twitter handle on all of their fake (ahem) profiles , was now responsible for attaching his email signature on these communications, which he had never seen until now.

Where I come from (law enforcement), we call that “implausible deniability”- in other words, “the bullshit meter is off the chart”!

He sadly admitted also that winners of his various “contests” were not announced for as much as six months at a time. He ended this first email with a request for us to bury the hatchet, as he was “wondering if we could come up with some sort of arrangement”.

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WILDsound Owner Matthew Toffolo; “We Made Mistakes…and I Sucked!”

(Part II)

After receiving an email from the owner of WILDsound Film Festival, Matthew Toffolo (see Part I), where he wanted to discuss my very public opinion about him and his organization, supported by many others as proven through their comments in various threads on the subject, he offered a “peace offering” of sorts. Calling it “an arrangement” he proposed the following:

“I can always help you out with garnering more traffic to this site (www.thescriptmentor.com) and your Facebook/Twitter pages.”

He added: “And I LOVE to give you a new set of notes on that script you sent us awhile back and forward them to a new set of reading. Free of charge, of course.” (This is verbatim, complete with the misspellings, sentence structure errors, and punctuation issues).

In return, he wanted to “chat” to give him the opportunity to explain some of the various “half-truths” in previous postings and articles. After his opening salvo, which I took as some sort of threat of writing some sort of “column” about me (I’d love the publicity – but does he really “know” me?), I responded with an email of my own. The email basically highlighted what I know are more lies from just his first email;

1) He claimed he had NOTHING to do with WILDsound prior to May, 2012, yet he sent a total of five emails, complete with his signature and from his email address, all in February 2012.

2) He admits that the previous employees were sleazy; he called them “sketchy”, and is at a loss as to why they all had fake profiles on many of the social sites, and why they all used his Twitter handle “matthewtoffolo” as their own.

3) Even while calling these employees “sketchy”, he would neither confirm nor deny whether they were STILL employed at WILDsound (we have since confirmed that many ARE still working there).

4) When presented with copies of the emails from 2012, he still denies sending them: “And the amazing thing is when you originally submitted to us and had the issue of coverage, I wasn’t around- but you think it was me!”

We exchanged our personal telephone numbers with one another, and I encouraged a Skype session, so I could look him straight in the eye as I offered up these facts. I’m pretty much an expert in interrogation, or in this case, simple questioning, and very few are able to bullshit me for too long. There are hundreds of felons still in prison as a result of this particular skill set.

Needless to say, I did not hear from him again.

I wrote back several days later, reminding him that he had failed to respond to my follow-up inquiries; after all, he reached out to ME initially. I received an onslaught of emails, explaining why he took so long to respond (“this is just my YouTube account”, even though I just hit “reply” to the email he sent ME). A second email minutes later attempted to explain how WILDsound has been advertising “winners” to their contests- over 70 in the last 18 months. The winning entry in any of their 24 contests results in having your script/novel/poem/first scene/TV script) read aloud by a table of (unknown) actors. He, once again, reiterated that he had “ZERO idea of who signed off” on those emails to me, adding “It angers me, actually!” Apparently, so angry, he’s not attempting to find out who did it. Truth is, he knows he did- “But why would you believe me? You don’t have a reason to.”

He’s right about that.

Toffolo continues to avoid any responsibility for any past misdeeds, and instead lives by the theory that if you say it long enough, people will eventually believe it. He claims that this is the “magic of the Internet, it’s free speech and you can say whatever you feel is right and the truth.” Actually, Matthew, you can’t, and I suspect you’re saying that as you and (a known scam artist whose name will not be mentioned here) prepare yet another public relations attack on me and my family, or attempt to destroy my reputation. One cannot just “say what they believe” if it is damaging to one’s reputation. That is illegal. What I say is truth, as it is backed up by mounds of documentation. I suggest you have the same should you consider such a strategy.

Since his last email, dated 10/16/14, I have called him several times, and texted him at all of the available numbers provided by him. I have checked the site again, and noted recent announcement of contest winners who have had their winning scripts read. Perhaps he is making an effort to change, but much more has to change in order to undo the damage he did to his reputation over the past several years. The list of unhappy customers or harassed writers is disturbingly long.

Screenwriters and Filmmakers Networking Through LinkedIn

Tom-Cruise-Steven-Spielberg-Producer-Post-SilhouetteThe art of networking- making connections within your industry- is a learned craft, much like the craft of screenwriting itself. There are many ways to “skin” that proverbial cat, but some ways are just better, more effective and less time-consuming than others.

Here are my quick-ten tips:

1. Accept the fact that it WILL take time and dedication: You HAVE to put aside a certain amount of time and do it consistently. If I’m scheduling a four-hour write day, I will factor in half of that time for networking: 4 hrs. writing, 2 hours networking.

2. Join groups: Perhaps ninety percent of all LinkedIn groups are total time-sucks. They are filled with self-promotion and re-postings of published articles. Join them, check them out, and after a few weeks if that’s what they are, then dump them.

3. Decide what you want from the group: If you are looking for helpful information, guidance, etc., find a group that is operated by a person in your industry. If you are going to treat it more as a social network, looking for friends, I suppose it doesn’t matter much.

4. Choose the group carefully: Check the profile of the owner and/or moderators of the group. If the owner is a legal secretary, for example, and they operate a group for screenwriters, chances are they’re not managing the group closely enough. With these sites, anyone posting a question is pushed off the front page- with no responses- in a matter of minutes. A closely moderated group will often prevent that type of thing from happening.

5. Reach out and “touch” someone: LinkedIn allows you to “endorse” someone. Do it! This begins a connection.

6. Welcome newcomers: Don’t post a welcome; send a personal message. Share your experiences. Make the note personal.

7. Do not hesitate to link in: If you are in the same group, that’s the opening you need. Don’t send the “standard” pre-written invite. Personalize it. Let them know you saw something in their profile that compelled you to want to meet them.

8. Review profiles thoroughly: I spend several minutes reviewing every profile before I send an invite. I look at where they live, their website, their employer, their other groups, their influences, and their other connections. I rarely invite someone with no previous connections.

9. Learn what and where the bogus profiles come from: If the person requesting a link in or group entry has no writing or entertainment background whatsoever, no information of their profile is available, and their photo appears to be less than legit, I avoid them altogether. Usually they’re from another country, and I don’t need to spam or the hacking worries.

10. If they could benefit by knowing someone else in your network, introduce them: LinkedIn has a way to do this through the site. Do it- it’s a nice thing to do.

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