There has been much discussion as to past commentary about the website WILDsound out of Canada. The site is owned and operated by Matthew Toffolo, and boasts about hosting an annual film festival. Besides having possibly the worst-LOOKING website in the history of websites (apart from my own, of course), it claims to run the following competitions:
Feature film screenplay
TV Pilot Spec
Horror Film Contest
Classic TV Script Contest
Sci Fi/ Fantasy Film AND Script Contest
Comic Book Film and Script Contest
That’s an amazing array of competitions; imagine the amount of staff it must take to read, review, and provide feedback on all of these entries? Keep in mind that each contest requires and entry fee, which may range between $25 and $65, or higher.
A few years back, I entered the screenplay competition, as I was entering several competitions that year with what I thought was a fairly strong entry. I paid the additional money for feedback, and a few months later, I got the review. The person providing the review stated that by not including scene numbers in my SPEC FEATURE SCREENPLAY, I will “never be taken seriously by agents or producers”. As we all know, this is wrong on so many levels, so I reached out and contacted Mr. Toffolo. Unfortunately, that’s pretty hard to do. His contact information is nowhere to be found on the site, and he’s pretty hard to track down. Fortunately for me, I was linked in with him through the business networking site, LinkedIn.
After explaining my issues with the feedback and the “contest” with him (never did hear who “won”, if anyone ever did), he offered $5 back. Five dollars- a Starbucks mocha grande. I made it clear this wasn’t acceptable and began listing the screenwriting organizations to which I was attached to, a member of, or working for at that time. This resulted in a network of several thousand other writers who, I explained, would hear about this incident if $5 was the best he could offer. Eventually, he relented, and re-paid the entire entry fee, along with his sincerest apologies for the “unprofessional review” I received.
Fast-forward to present time, as each of us has been inundated with their continuous spam emails regarding their website and the contests. I had also received a number of LinkedIN requests from various women (and a few guys), wanting to connect AND to join our forum groups. As you all know, I do a tremendous amount of due diligence on almost every member, in my efforts to prevent the spam mails, spam postings and the stealing of our personal contact information. It was during this due diligence search that I discovered the following:
1) With one exception, NONE of the members had a profile picture of themselves. They all had dog photos.
2) Their profiles were basic, incomplete, with the only contact information being through WILDsound.
3) All of their twitter handles were “Matthew Toffolo”, the owner of WILDsound.
4) All of their links fed back to a WILDsound blog or the WILDsound website.
5) The forum groups “Best of Screenplay Contests” and “Submit Your Loglines” are two groups owned, operated and moderated by WILDsound and/or one of it’s “employees”Let’s look at some of these “people” specifically:
a) Zahra Factor– when Googled, the only reference to a Zahra Factor is the LinkedIN profile, with Mr. Toffolo’s information. “Zahra” received two recommendations through LinkedIn; one from Janice Freedman (two words: “Bright Future”) and Carson Deitner (two words: Terrific human”); her job description indicated as being a PA for WILDsound, where she “learned from terrific people”. She gave a LinkedIN recommendation to someone known as “Screenplay Writer”, calling them “An old soul”.
b) Carson Deitner– when Googled, the only reference is, again, the fake LinkedIn profile, with a picture of a dog- a prairie dog. Both the Twitter address (Matthew Toffolo) and the website go back to WILDsound. He gave on recommendation, to Ms. Factor, calling her only a “terrific human” (nice compliment, btw).
c) Larry Rothchild– when Googled, the only correctly spelled reference to this person is the LinkedIn profile, where by this person was listed to been a writer for 63 years, and an employee of Paramount for 61 of those years. Now, that would mean this person is over 80 years of age, which isn’t the issue. The question is- if he’s been writing for over 60 years, most of it with Paramount, has he not had a single credit anywhere along the line?
Needless to say, I conducted similar in-depth research on other WILDsound “employees”- Jen Francis, Jen Anderson, Irene Hopkins, Yealsa Hunter, Poetry Davis, Carrie Anderson, Jake Finkelstein, Thomas Bamburger, and on and on. If the LinkedIn profiles- pretty much the only bios available of them on the Internet- are anywhere close to an accurate portrayal of the person (as required by the LinkedIn User Agreement), then all of these people share Mr. Toffolo’s twitter feed, and all of them have let their looks go to the dogs.
So, I ask you: is this the work of a stand-up legitimate company? Are these “profiles” of employees the one’s you want to promote as your own? Is this the company whose contests you’re willing to shell out $40-$60 for, with feedback like that, and where you never know who won what contest? In my 17,000-plus contacts, I’ve never once come across anyone who has ever won a WILDsound contest, and if they have, had enjoyed any significant fruits of that victory. Not one.
The research has been done. Feel free to do your own. If you read this and still are willing to participate in any venture promoted by this company, all if can say is…
…you’ve been warned.