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.
(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.”
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”.
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.