A Walk on the WILD side…

thCABPBZ5RThere 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
Short Film
TV Pilot Spec
Essay Contest
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.


21 thoughts on “A Walk on the WILD side…

  1. bmellor2013

    Thanks for this. Just got my first ‘invitation’ to submit something to their competitions; perhaps $200 in the hope they might read my novel…. I thought I’d better do a little research, just in case I was ever tempted.

    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      Just sharing some personal history, as well as the information I gleaned during my own investigation. What did you eventually decide? If you go to moviebytes.com, there are report cards for each organization running contests. You can see what others have said as well. Good luck, and I hope you keep reading. A new entry should be going in any day now…

      1. alannalp

        That’s great news! I’m actually an aspiring novelist so I need all the help I can get in the world of professional writing!

  2. serendipitydoit

    Thanks for that! I thought I would do a bit of double-checking as I also received a request from Carson Deitner, and a follow-up e-mail in which I was informed I could skip the entrance fee because it was a personal invitation. It’s hard to know who one can trust on the internet.

  3. toscaskiss32

    Thanks for this. At some point I received a LinkedIn request from “Zahra”; not sure why I went ahead and accepted, since I’d never heard of this person, nor did I know anyone who knew her. My LinkedIn page is a tumbleweed-filled ghost town, as I’ve never properly attended to it, and am still wary of putting information up. I’ve gotten emails from her, touting some of this stuff you wrote about, and now “Larry Rothchild” wants to connect. Unless he’s a pro baseball player, this is the only real hit I got, relating to him. So now I know to ignore it, ditch “Zahra,” and move on. Thanks heaps, as the Aussies say.

    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      You’re welcome, my friend. I’ve been on them since they’ve been victimizing unsuspecting writers for years. Last count, they have something like 25 different contests, and I’ve yet to ever read about or see a single “winner” from any of them in any year- and I have a network of 20K people and read scripts and bios constantly. Keep in touch, here and in our LinkedIn groups “Script-To-Screen Network” and FADE IN:” because I have several others coming up that I will be exposing. Enjoy your day, and thank you for reading!

    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      At least, with buying a goat, you get something out of it. If you spend it on them, you’ll end up with what goats leave behind. One bad field oyster like these guys ruin the reputation of good competitions for about a hundred other organizations. It’s a real shame, and the only way I know to combat it is through educating the naive and unsuspecting. Thank you for commenting!

  4. diannegreenlay

    Oh, if only I had read this BEFORE I entered both their “First Chapter” contest and One Act Play submission late in the fall 2013! I submitted both a first chapter of one of my novels (that has won or been shortlisted for 14 book awards,) and also submitted a one act play ( that was voted “Audience Favorite” at a Fringe Festival). The feedback I got on both was fairly brutal, which is OK, except that some of the comments were erroneous, (misquoted text, completely wrong scene referred to – a dream scene – and there isn’t one…) which led me to believe that neither piece had been read carefully. I feel, in my opinion, that this WildSound site is a TOTAL SCAM AND BORDERS ON BEING FRAUDULENT.
    Writers,spread the word, far and wide!

    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      Hi Dianne! The event that opened my eyes and started this “investigation” into them, which has yielded a tremendous amount of unscrupulous details, is when I submitted a screenplay for coverage. The comments they provided included, but were limited to “by failing to include scene numbers in the screenplay, which producers count on in reviewing the project, you come off as an amateur”. Now, besides the fact that, at the time, I was an amateur, we all know that scene numbers are NOT part of a spec script. After much back and forth with Matthew Toffolo, he eventually gave in, explaining that the reader MUST have believed they were reading a TV script (even though it was clearly marked as a feature, and sent to their feature screenplay review department). I did, in fact, get my money back, but it didn’t stop me from trying my damnedest to uncover the fraud and warn the rest of the community. I’m only sorry I didn’t get to fast enough to protect you, as well, so yes- spread the word to your friends and groups. Let them know The Script Mentor is on this- and OTHER fraudulent companies out there.

  5. Claudia H Gruy

    Wow – I’m glad I am not blond enough to believe everything on first sight and googled for reviews first! Gee, guess you just saved me 40.- – I’ll get some Sushi immediately! I am writing novels, so I guess this isn’t my nest either – but should my book ever come close to be turned into a movie – I’ll know where to go to ask 😉

    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      Well, it’s nice to know this small article had such a wide-ranging effect and helped to prevent more writers from becoming victims. I’ve been on their trail for years, and yet people continue to fall for their scams. They must be up to 25 different contests, and at least 30 different profiles on LinkedIn; all the same person of course. I wish I could stop it altogether, but you can only do what you can do.

      Good luck with the novels, and if they ever need to be adapted (that’s the rage now in movies), let me know!

  6. internetmarketinginfo

    I got robbed by them several times lol. They are bullshitters, as far as I realized with my little interaction with them. Shame I won’t get my money back. Anyways I sent request to join ur linkedin group, thanks

  7. Paul Ski

    Thanks for the info on these guys. I was already skeptical – as is my nature – but then I saw on their website they spelled “Offers” with a “zero” instead of an “oh.” Something’s wrong when I’m proofing their marketing materials better than they are.

    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      That’s true, Paul, and that would be a red flag- if not for all of the OTHER red flags! The fact that you found a typo on that horrible website- I mean, how can you even READ enough of it to find that? It’s a mess, and an excellent reflection on their company and their services. Speaking of services, you would be doing a great service to your fellow writers if you would spread the word about them, and tell them to read this blog for exposing scams in our industry and updating these stories. Thanks, and thank you for following!

  8. teerudacille

    Just got a Twitter follow from them (@NovelFest), and started to follow back, until I looked into it. On their website (which is terribly designed, as you said), they claim that each “professionally performed” screenplay or novel will be viewed by “100000s” of people. Now, obviously, that’s a lie, but I wanted to see just how many views each of their “professionally performed” screenplays or novels got on Youtube. A whopping 20 on one, 450 on another, and various numbers in between. Plus, each scene or chapter is performed by the SAME “professional” actor.

    It is so sad that this guy preys on innocent people who just want to get their work noticed. I know I have been desperate before and seriously considered paying money for services that claim they will get your book in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of readers. So glad I found your post, so I could confirm my suspicions that this was a scam! Thank you!!

    1. thescriptmentor Post author

      When you offer 25+ contests for every conceivable medium- and NEVER hear about a winner or any prizes- you can bet he’s raking in the cash, as more naive people move up to replace those who’ve learned their lesson after the first time. I’m doing my best to warn the masses, but I still see and read about people falling for their garbage. At least, you did your due diligence and weren’t victimized. I’m sure there are several legitimate sites out there that do help the novelist. A friend of mine has used GWE (http://gwextra.com/); not sure if this could help you at all. Good luck, and thanks for reading!


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