Last week, 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 Jacob Stuart of Screenwriting Staffing Utopia – 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 SSU’s 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, he 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.”
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 profiles (ahem), 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”.
Tune in for the next posting to see EXACTLY what this “arrangement” entailed, as well as my very detailed and specific response to his letter.