screenwriter to watch
Joshua Toro is a director, writer, and producer based in New York City. Last May he graduated with honors from Yale College’s Theater Studies Program, where he explored everything from filmmaking with Student Academy Awardee Jon Andrews to playwriting with Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Margulies. Since completing his studies, Josh has acted as a script consultant for Audible-bound podcasts and adaptations of James Patterson and Tom Wolfe properties. His award-winning, debut short film, “Suspicion,” earned Yale’s Lamar Prize in Film and screened at the 25th Austin Film Festival. Josh is currently shopping around several short scripts and writing his first feature.
How did you break in or get your start in screenwriting?
During college I took a screenwriting seminar and loved it—even more so than my theatre writing classes at the time. So the following semester, I tried to sneak into an advanced filmmaking workshop, but because I hadn’t taken the required courses, the professor gave me the boot. He did, however, invite me to apply to his summer film intensive at FAMU. I got accepted, and it was the best five weeks of my life—a true baptism by fire. After the program finished, I enrolled in that same professor’s year-long film workshop, where I made “Suspicion,” and I’ve been working on the craft ever since.
Writer and Director of “Suspicion”
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
Every film professional worth his or her salt offers the truism, “all excellent projects start with an excellent script.” Well, there’s a reason. Not only does a tight script encourage bang-up performances and ease the editing process, but it also helps insure your financial investment. A couple trusted readers whose tastes differ slightly from your own ensures rewrites from a more comprehensive vantage point. Some notes won’t click, but after several days, others will make perfect sense. In the end, the script benefits big time. Don’t be in a rush!
What was the hardest scene or project you’ve ever had to write? How did you navigate the challenge?
I’d have to say “Suspicion.” Not only did it go through a handful of challenging rewrites, but my research into American mass shootings greatly upset me. Having a lighthearted, one-act farce to work on at the same time made for some much-needed creative counterpoint.
What was a major turning point in your career?
Getting accepted into the Austin Film Festival. Hands down.
What are you working on right now?
I’m in the midst of polishing a new short script, “Rage,” about a browbeating business man who jeopardizes the safety of himself and his child in a road rage incident. That said, it’s a little ambitious for a personal venture, so I might back-burner it for a while. In the meantime, I’ll be chipping away at some other shorts and a feature-length adaptation of Oedipus.
What are some of your favorite movies?
2001: A Space Odyssey, Birdman, The Birds, Cars, The Godfather, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Her, Kill Bill, La Grande Bellezza, Moonrise Kingdom, The Other Guys, Planet of the Apes (1968), Taxi Driver
Who are some of your favorite screenwriters?
The Coen Brothers, for one. Aside from their breathtaking range, they never underestimate an audience’s intelligence. Few screenwriters so elegantly let viewers put two and two together, rather than simply giving them four. I admire Stanley Kubrick for this same reason—and his masterful approach to adaptation. Adam McKay and Paolo Sorrentino are also right up there for me.
Share a memorable experience at Austin Film Festival.
Early into AFF, my colleague and I were headed to a happy-hour event, and we hadn’t figured out how to get there from our screening beforehand. An incredibly nice projectionist from the venue saw us buried in Google Maps and showed us to the get-together. We ended up hanging out with her for the rest of the night and the entire festival!