Script-Com’s James. V. Hart to share HartChart, toolkit

By Tom Wood

He didn’t know it at the time, but the lessons that James V. Hart learned in the process of writing and re-writing his script for Bram Stoker’s Dracula are something he still sinks his teeth into even today.

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Screenwriter James V. Hart will attend a screening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula at Full Moon Cineplex in Hermitage on Friday, June 21, followed by Hart’s master class at the Script-Com symposium on Saturday, June 22, at Lipscomb University. To attend both, plus receive a year-long membership in the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, the cost is $50. A mix-and-mingle buffet for Friday’s screening is $15 at the door. 

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and shot for $40 million, Dracula was one of the biggest hits of 1992, grossing $82.5 million nationally and $215.8 million worldwide — the ninth-highest grossing film of that year.

Hart will be in Nashville on June 21-22 to headline the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s 2019 Script-Com Screenwriting Symposium. Events kick off Friday evening with an optional buffet/mix and mingle with Hart prior to a screening and discussion of his Dracula script at Full Moon Cineplex in Hermitage. Then on Saturday, Hart will be the featured speaker at an all-day symposium at Lipscomb University’s Shamblin Theater.

Besides Dracula, Hart’s credits include Hook (1991), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Contact (1997), Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (2001), Tuck Everlasting (2002), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—The Cradle of Life (2003), Sahara (2005), August Rush (2007), Epic (2013), the 2014 TV series Crossbones, and 2019’s The Hot Zone min-series on National Geographic.

A great body of work, to be sure, but it is his HartChart — which he describes as “a decoding ring that allows you to create a character-driven narrative as opposed to plot-driven” — which is having the greatest influence on the next generation of screenwriters.

The HartChart has been touted in writer’s film festival presentations for 20-plus years with hand-drawn charts. In 2015, developer Guy Goldstein approached Hart at the Austin Film Fest with the idea of the HartChart app and Toolkit to help writers map stories and characters. It will be a major part of the Master Class he’ll teach at Script-Com.

“It’s hard to keep a good vampire down, so we’ll be revisiting Dracula in Nashville,” Hart said. “I’ll be doing a Master Class on Dracula using the Toolkit and the HartChart, which actually the first movie I ever charted was Dracula. That’s when I first applied all the stuff that I teach.”

Hart describes the script problems raised by Coppola and the ensuing chaos of the Dracula post-production and screenings that led to the idea — necessity — of a HartChart. He compares the HartChart’s basic questions to the fundamentals of journalism — answering who, what, when, where, why and how — to tell a story.

“They’re altered a bit from the … the big five,” Hart said. “Mine started with Coppola when we were doing Dracula. I got a call from him during post-production. We had some disastrous previews and I got a call from him about three or four months before the release.

“Basically he said, ‘Get on a plane, get out here. I hate you, I hate the film, I hate the script, I hate the cast, I hate the studio, I hate everything about this movie. And I want to show it to you.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I can’t wait to see that’ because I’ve spent 15 years of my life on that project.”

Hart caught the next flight from New York to California and got right to work.

“Francis, he set me up in the Godfather screening room downstairs at Zoetrope, and didn’t even come down to say hello — just said, ‘call me when you finish watching the film.’ And I sat there for the next 2½ hours getting drunker and drunker and hating viewing,” Hart recalled. “Oh my god, this is terrible.’ And he called me and said, ‘you didn’t call me after the film,’ and I said, ‘I hate it too, I hate you too, this is horrible.’ ”

So they got busy looking at all the footage, the cuts, everything over the next two weeks.

“And we found that it wasn’t reshooting the scenes, it was pieces of narrative that we had either lost or ignored or forgotten or cut out because we didn’t think we needed it,” he said. “The footage showed us where our needs were — the fallouts, the holes — so we went through and we actually did a draft of the script based on the film that was edited. And (we) only went back and shot pieces; we didn’t shoot whole scenes or new scenes, we went in and filled in the narrative.

“And I kept saying to Francis, ‘there’s got to be a way to head this off at the pass, there’s got to be a way to catch this before we’re in the editing room.’ ”

After Dracula’s success, they talked about how to fix a script before it needed fixing.

“He said, ‘why don’t you start with these three questions?’ And he gave me questions that are basically journalism-based, but they’re about character. “And I went, ‘why the hell didn’t we do this before we wrote the script and shot the movie?’ They’re very simple, and I’ve expanded them into another eight to 10 questions over the years, and it’s where I start all my work. It’s basic journalism.

“But it’s about character—not so much about who, what, when, where, and why—but it’s what do you want, what do you need, what do you fear, what are you afraid of? What’s your goal? Why now? They’re basic journalism patterns, but they’re about character.

“We developed this over the past 20 years and now there’s an app called the HartChart which follows the heartbeat, the emotional journey of the characters as opposed to plot. And I use it every day. It’s been used all over the world and directors, writers, editors — the ones that are devoted to it swear by it. And I owe it all to Francis…thank you Francis.”

Hart says it’s a useful tool for writers at all stages of their career, even for those who are attempting to break into the business in the later stages of life.

“Listen, I’m not supposed to have a career right now at my age (he’s 72) but I still kind of have one,” Hart said with a laugh. “But the good news is there’s more buyers now than there ever were before for television. That’s where they have to hire writers at the same times every year because they need new content. And yes, they all say they’re looking for IP (intellectual property), but they’re also looking for young, unknown writers who have good ideas who can put stuff on the page, who can write character, and yet there is an appetite for new voices whether you’re young or old.”

Hart also recommended that budding screenwriters take advantage of other opportunities like attending festivals and entering contests. He mentioned the Blacklist, Screencraft, the International Screenwriters Association, and a few others.

“You have forums now that we didn’t have when I started out. You have these portals where writers are posting and putting up their material, and there actually are people in the business — 200, 300, 400 people in the business — who are paid to read everything … to canvas these contests at film festivals where awards are given. There are these platforms that didn’t exist when I started. And they’re being paid attention to. … And I would urge everybody there (in Nashville) to take advantage of that.”

Scroll down to order Script-Com tickets:

2019 Script-Com Tickets – Non TSA Members

Includes admission to June 21 screening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with screenwriter James V. Hart, all-day admission to June 22 Script-Com conference, plus one-year membership in Tennessee Screenwriting Association.

$50.00

2019 Script-Com Tickets – Current TSA Members

Discounted price for current TSA Members. Includes admission to June 21 screening of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with screenwriter James V. Hart and all-day June 22 Script-Com conference.

$40.00

TSA Challenge: Write a short Rom-Com

Rom-Coms are back in vogue at the movies, so we’re throwing down another screenwriting challenge in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Write a five-page or less romantic comedy script to celebrate the occasion. Bring copies of your script to our Feb. 13 meeting at Watkins where we’ll read them aloud. See you there!

NOTE: TSA meetings open to all. Challenge open to paid TSA members only. Update your membership here.

12 Days of Screenwriting Gifts: Day 12

So now that you’ve gotten some of the essential tools out of the way for the screenwriter in your life (see our previous entries in the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s highly practical 12 Days of Screenwriting Gifts), it’s time to round out the list with some other must-haves. The prior list of gifts, with the exception ink cartridges, were all pretty inexpensive and perfect as stocking stuffers. Today’s final gift selections can be a bit pricier on the gift-giving scale.

For starters, your screenwriter needs screenwriting software. Now, there are free versions you can use, such as Celtx or WriterDuet, which are perfectly fine for just getting started. But eventually your screenwriter will need a more savvy version. WriterDuet is proving to be increasingly popular among screenwriters who wish to collaborate on scripts. And, of course, the industry standard continues to be Final Draft.

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Once you’ve reached Fade Out on your screenplay, you’ll want to register it with the WGA or, more importantly, with the US Copyright Office. Check out their websites for all the details. They probably don’t offer gift cards, but you can always drop some cold hard cash on your screenwriter in a nice card or stocking.

Cash is also handy for screenwriters seeking script coverage/feedback from professional services, be it ScriptReaderPro or even the Nashville Film Fest.

Speaking of film fests, you can’t go wrong with a cash gift for contest entries. There are tons of them and the entry fees can range from under $50 to over $100, depending on which one and when you decide to enter.  Passes  to film festivals or conferences like Atlanta or Austin are also welcome gifts.

Finally, don’t forget to gift your screenwriter with an annual membership in the Tennessee Screenwriting Association. It’s super cheap at just $25 and provides your screenwriter with constructive feedback from fellow screenwriters, educational tips and tricks, friends and fellowship with other screenwriters and filmmakers. It may be the best $25 you’ll spend.

Whatever you choose, we hope you’ve enjoyed our list of highly practical screenwriting gifts and have a great holiday!

12 Days of Screenwriting Gift Ideas: Day 7

Now that you’ve got a stack of index cards on which to plot out your story beats, you need something on which to display them. That’s where our latest gift idea comes in, in our exclusive Tennessee Screenwriting Association 12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas. Today’s idea:

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Bulletin Board

These come in a variety of sizes, but you’ll want one big enough to display your three acts. That could mean as many as sixty index cards, give or take. The cool thing about this is the ability to put up, take down or rearrange your cards as needed until you are satisfied with the story you are telling. The bottom line is, all your key scenes and pivotal moments are easy to view as you type your opus into your software program.

Like we promised when we started this list, all of our gift ideas are highly practical and useful to screenwriters. They may not be glamorous or have much of a wow factor to them, but they are essential tools to use.

12 Days of Screenwriting Gift Ideas: Day 3

Welcome to Day Three of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s 12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas. Each day until Christmas we’ll feature another terrific and highly practical gift idea for the screenwriter in your life. On Day 1, we proposed ink cartidges. On Day 2, paper. So, without further ado, Gift 3:

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Red Pens and Highlighters

We hinted at this one yesterday. Yup, after you’ve printed out that glorious (ahem!) first draft of the script you’ve devoted your life to for the past several weeks or months, it’s time to tear it apart. Line by line. Scene by scene. No character, no line of dialogue is immune to the cursed red strikethrough! It’s time to, dare I say it, KILL YOUR DARLINGS! Eliminate the excess, trim the fat. Be merciless!

So, for all of that, you’ll need: Red Pens and Highlighters! 

Ask for them in your stocking! You’ll be glad you did.

Day 1: Ink cartridges

Day 2: Paper

12 Days of Screenwriting Gift Ideas: Day 2

Welcome to Day Two of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s 12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas. Each day until Christmas we’ll feature another terrific and highly practical gift idea for the screenwriter in your life. Yesterday we proposed ink as our first gift, so today’s gift idea makes perfect sense:

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Paper!

You can’t use up your ink cartridges or toner if you don’t have paper. And you need paper to print out your scripts! Yes, you can read your scripts on your computer screen. A lot of people do, especially those intent on saving paper (planet!). But honestly, scripts, like books, just read better on paper. And, added bonus, you get to mark up your scripts with highlighters and red ink pens (but we’re getting ahead of ourselves as those are gifts for another day).

Get yourself a Staples or Office Depot/Office Max reward card and you could get exclusive savings offers and rebates on paper. Buy in bulk, even when you don’t need it, because you will need it someday. And hey, use that toggle setting on your computer to print on both sides. You’ll get twice as much from your paper that way.

Meet the 2020 TSA Board of Directors

The Tennessee Screenwriting Association is overseen by a board of directors, who are elected each January. A president, vice president, treasurer and secretary are then elected from among the board.

2020 TSA Board of Directors

  • President: Jeff Chase
  • Vice President: Irish Johnston
  • Treasurer: Dave Deverell
  • Secretary: Paula Phelps-Weaver
  • Bob Giordano
  • Elvis Wilson
  • Gary Frazier
  • Mark Naccarato
  •  Casey Laarkamp
  • Lance Ogren
  • Tom Steinmann

Jeffrey Alan Chase – President

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Jeff Chase

Jeff Chase moved to Nashville from Mesa, Ariz., to hone his talents as a songwriter and screenwriter after several careers, including advertising executive and commercial Real Estate broker. As a songwriter, he’s amassed a catalog of over 600 songs, many of which have been cut by country and pop artists and include songs licensed in movies and TV.

As a screenwriter, Jeff has multiple full-length feature screenplays and numerous short scripts under his belt.   Two scripts were quarter-finalists in the prestigious Nicholl competition. His romantic comedy Grinder’s Switch took second place in the Tennessee Screenplay Contest.  Country Songwriters won the LA Screenwriting Competition for Comedy Short.

Jeff is a SAG actor who has appeared in numerous commercials, videos and industrial films. He has appeared in numerous films including, Ernest Goes to Jail and When the Eagle Cries and co-starred with Robert Carradine and Chris Mitchum in the thriller Lycanthrope.  He worked alongside Kathy Bates and Alfree Woodard in Tyler Perry’s hit movie, The Family that Preys.

He has been a board member and past president of Film Nashville, board member, past president and vice president of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association, board member and past vice president of Nashville Publishers Network. He is president of Chase Internet an IT consulting and web design company and president of Blue Drops Publishing Co. (ASCAP).

His interests include hiking, sailing, golf and rebuilding 1960s English sports cars.  He’s a licensed pro and amateur boxing referee.  He lives on a farm outside of Dickson, Tennessee with his wife and their dogs, cats and assorted chickens.

Irish Johnston – Vice President

Irish Johnston
Irish Johnston

Writer, actor, producer Irish (Burch) Johnston began as an actress in Los Angeles and Nashville. She currently spends most of her time writing screenplays, three of which have been finalists or won awards: Redhanded, Scents, and The Hole Truth, in several film festival competitions. Being a native Nashvillian, with a piano, she has finally surrendered to the siren call of song writing as well. She loves every aspect of the film industry, from writing and composing to acting, to her latest challenge, producing.

David DeverellTreasurer

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David Deverell

David Deverell is a Nashville screenwriter. He received his degree in Film and Television from Loyola Marymount University, and after graduating, wrote, produced and directed an award-winning 30- minute drama for Encylcopaedia Britannica’s Short Story Showcase Series, “The Hunt,” an adaptation of Richard Connell’s short story, “The Most Dangerous Game.” David went on to have a long career in the advertising industry and retired eight years ago.

In retirement, David returned to writing and has since written four feature-length screenplays. His first, The Shoe Box, won first place at the 10th Annual Tennessee Screenwriting Association Screenplay Competition in 2010, when he became a member. His other screenplays have been finalists in other competitions, including The Page Awards, Table Read My Screenplay, Emerging Screenwriters and Access Screenplays.

In 2015, David relocated to Nashville from Los Angeles and is actively involved in helping the Nashville Film Community develop a robust industry.

Paula Phelps-Weaver – Secretary

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Paula Phelps-Weaver

Paula Phelps-Weaver is a relative newcomer to the world of screenwriting.  After a career as an internal medicine physician and then some years as a stay at home parent, she is finally pursuing her love of writing.

Though her academic background is in science, she has attended several writing courses and workshops, and will begin submitting her work to contests in 2019.  She is currently working on a dramedy TV pilot.

Her interests include horseback riding, kayaking, hiking, soccer, jazz, and growing things. She lives on a farm with her husband of thirty-nine years, her horses, and her dog.

Bob Giordano

Bob Giordano
Bob Giordano

Bob Giordano is a principal of Uproar Pictures, based in Nashville, TN. He is the 2017 Grand Prize Winner of “The Poe Contest” for his script, The Odds, and the director of The Odds feature. He has been a quarterfinalist, a semifinalist, a finalist, and/or won several of Hollywood’s most prestigious screenplay contests, including The Southern California Screenplay Competition (The Odds), Nicholl Fellowship (Sicko), Fade-In (Uprise), The Writer’s Network contest (Resistance), the Hollywood Symposium (Grendel) and Script Open Door.

Over many years, Bob has worked on numerous short films and independent features as a writer, director, assistant director, camera operator, and editor. Since coming to Nashville in the1980s, he has continuously taught screenwriting and filmmaking to adults, teens and children, including his ongoing screenwriting courses at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. He is also a past president and current officer of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association. As a prolific writer of dozens of completed scripts, he often says, “Daylight’s burning.”

Elvis Wilson

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Elvis Wilson

Elvis Wilson was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., and grew up in Cleveland, Tenn., where he was raised on a healthy dose of TV like The Twilight Zone, Gilligan’s Island and his favorite TV show, Space 1999.Like  most folks his age, Star Wars rocked his world in 1977.

Inspired by a steady dose of Coen Brother’s films and Monty Python reruns over the last three decades, he has written over ten screenplays, produced four short films, and directed scores of music videos and industrial films. In 2008, he and his wife produced an award-winning feature documentary, Being Lincoln: Men With Hats (which had a two-year run on the now defunct Documentary Channel and also aired on Showtime). In 2015, he started principle photography of his self-produced, award-winning feature FOGG. FOGG had a great festival run and was picked up by RedBox.

Elvis is currently working on FOGG 2 with Executive Producer Kelly Frey. He’s also written a  TV pilot called Strawberry Plains, which was in the top 30 scripts in the prestigious AMC’s Drama Pilot category at the 2018 Austin Film Festival (over 10,500 scripts were entered). While still not able to quit his  day job, Elvis writes almost every day and is happy to hang with his brothers and sisters of the TSA. 

Gary Frazier

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Gary Frazier

Writer Gary Frazier, who writes as G. Robert Frazier, spent most of his career as an award-winning newspaper reporter and editor, routinely covering local government, politics, business, crime, and education in Tennessee. When the newspaper industry imploded, he found a new outlet for his creative pursuits as an author and screenwriter.

His script, “ZARS – Zombie Apprehension & Relocation Serivce,” was a top three finalist in the 2019 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition in the Scripted Digital Series category and is ranked No. 1 on Coverfly’s Red List for Horror Web Series. His latest script, “Bill Fisher’s Trading Post,”  is a semifinalist in the 2020 Nashville Film Festival screenwriting competition. “Kings of Mississippi,” which he co-wrote with TSA member Jay Wright, is a semifinalist in The Script Lab’s 2020 free screenwriting contest and was a semifinalist, placing in the top five scripts overall, in the 2019 Nashville Film Fest contest.

His short fiction has appeared in two volumes of Our Voices: Williamson County Literary Review. He also wrote a flash-fiction piece, “The Twister,” which appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’s November 2015 issue. But his true passion is screenwriting, which he finds as a much more fun medium.

He has served as a script competition reader for two prestigious competitions, having read and rated more than 750 scripts.

When he’s not writing, he’s reading. He frequently writes book reviews for Bookpage, Killer Nashville, and Chapter 16, the website for Tennessee Humanities, and has previously written book reviews for Blogging for Books and US Review of Books. He has interviewed several authors for The Big Thrill, the online magazine of the International Thriller Writers.

Look him up on Stage 32 and follow him on Twitter @grfrazier23 and Facebook.

Mark Naccarato

Mark_headshot-500pxWhile working in Nashville’s TV and film production industry in the 90’s, Mark Naccarato‘s first TV spec script caught the attention of producers at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and he was invited to pitch to the hit series. Even though he didn’t make a sale, the first story Mark pitched to them was nearly identical to a story that was already in production. 

 

Encouraged by that experience and then by a near-sale on Star Trek: Voyager, Mark decided to make his first “real” film. The Crusader, a superhero movie disguised as a true-crime reality show was a cult hit at comic conventions across the South and punched above its weight with a budget of less than $3,000 using a cast and crew of over a hundred volunteers. Mark’s current short film, The Romulan War, puts a spin on the sci-fi effects movie by using a documentary format and “found footage” from an interstellar war in the 22nd century.

 

Mark’s pilot script The Exodusters – an historical drama set during the Kansas Exodus of the 1870’s – has landed a finalist slot in the Nashville Film Festival and he’s a co-producer on several independent films, including Potter’s Ground and Gates of Flesh – both of which were filmed in Tennessee.

Casey Laarkamp

Bio to come.

Lance Ogren

Bio to come.

Tom Steinmann

Bio to come.

Seven TSA scribes answer call with chilling Halloween short scripts

IMG_1856From a twist on Hansel and Gretel to a terrible clowns to were-rabbits, seven TSA members answered the call by sharing their short horror scripts on Halloween night. Presenting scripts were, from left, Jacob Burns (“The Game”), Paula Phelps-Weaver (“For the Children”), Dale McCarver (“Spooks”), Debbie Wells (“Snack Time”), Matthew Gibson (“Le Clown Terrible”), Gary Frazier (“Skin”), and Jeff Chase (“Scattered Pieces”). Congrats to all the screenwriters for taking a dare to scare us!

 

Conversations From Hollywood: Stakes Are High for Protagonist

Guy1: What’s the threat to the protagonist?

Guy2: We don’t need a specific threat. It’s never addressed.

Guy1: Is there a threat to the protagonist?

Guy2: There’s a threat to all of them [the characters].

Guy1: What is it?

Guy2: It’s not important. We don’t need to define that. The audience doesn’t care.

Unlike the above conversation, the stakes for the protagonist do need to be high. If he fails or succeeds the result needs to be huge. And that needs to be well defined for the audience to give the audience one of the most compelling reasons to CARE about your protagonist.