ELVIS WILSON‘s dramedy script “Sink Swim” has advanced to the quarterfinals in the Atlanta Film Festival’s Screenplay Competition.
* * *
Congratulations to the TSA’s IRISH JOHNSTON (writer/producer) and ELVIS WILSON (director/editor) whose short film “Mister Pickwick” won Best Horror Film at the Short and Sweet Film Festival in Price, Utah.
The seven-minute flick unravels when the uncle of a young niece resorts to telling her the ghost story of Mister Pickwick to scare her into going to bed. But strange sounds on deck lure the niece into the dark night where she mysteriously vanishes, perhaps lending some truth to the ghost story.
The film stars Andrew McGinnis and Hannah Ciubotaru.
* * *
Congratulations to TSA President JEFFREY CHASE whose script, “The Penetration Expert”, has been named a quarterfinalist in the ISA Action/Adventure Genre Busting Screnplay Competition!
* * *
G. ROBERT FRAZIER‘s TV comedy pilot “Bill Fisher’s Trading Post” has advanced to the semifinals of the ScreenCraft Family Screenplay Competition. It is one of 33 scripts still in the hunt for the top prize. The same script also finished as a quarterfinalist in the Los Angeles International Screenplay Awards for its Fall 2021 contest. His short script “Skin” is a quarterfinalist in the Filmmatic Horror Screenplay Awards – Season Six.
* * *
Don’t see your script on this list? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to list your 2021 screenwriting successes.
The Tennessee Screenwriting Association was honored to host Cat Stewart, Screenplay Awards Manager for the Nashville Film Festival, at its May 13 Zoom meeting. In her second year heading up the competition, Stewart offered a wide range of advice, do’s and don’ts about writing screenplays for the competition as well as for Hollywood.
Below are some of the highlights from her talk:
Reasons to Enter a Contest
Just to be read
Just for fun
To win prizes
To launch a career
Common Mistakes Writers Make
Majority of scripts fail on premise or don’t have a commercial concept
First act has nothing to do with the rest of the screenplay
Protagonist is unclear or there is no journey for the main character
Nothing significant happens at the midpoint to raise the stakes or provide a twist
Too many pilots fail to hook an audience in the first few pages
Premises that have no logic
First page keys
Make me want to keep reading
Genre needs to be clear
Don’t open with a flashback
Re: Flashbacks/voice overs – “If it works, it works. As long as it adds to the story, it’s OK.”
Keep in mind cost of the screenplay.
“Emotion is the most important thing on the page. Make me laugh, make me cry, scare the crap out of me. Emotion is the number one thing that sells a script.”
Re: Grammar/spelling – “If it’s a great script, I don’t freak out about it. We’ll get it fixed.”
“Don’t write in 47 genres. No one wants to rep someone who’s writing everything.”
Hour and half-hour pilots are where things are selling.
Don’t chase the market. “It’ll turn on a dime.”
“If you’ve not have a lot of luck or are kind of stagnant with your scripts, volunteer to be a reader. You’ll start finding something you do yourself. I highly recommend being a reader to anyone who wants to educate yourself.”
Read, study, break down films. Write! Write! Write!
“Last year we had an incredible number of diverse scripts.”
“Scripts that have diverse people that are written by diverse people are generally better than scripts written by non-diverse people. It’s not always the case, but if you’re writing about African-Americans and you’re a white man, it doesn’t come off the same way as it does if it’s an African-American writing about African-Americans.”
“I think it has to make a difference if the characters are diverse. There should be a reason for them to be in there or don’t write anything about what race they are and let the best actor get that role.”
On Covid-19’s impact
“Don’t write a coronavirus script. Hollywood doesn’t want them. If they do, an established writer is going to write it.”
Hollywood is looking for lighter stuff in the current climate.
Use fewer locations and background actors, but there’s opportunity for cgi
More Zoom writers rooms. “That might open up more opportunities for people who aren’t in LA.”
“Screenwriting is hard. Just be aware, it’s a long, long, long game. As long as you stay at it and you have a solid idea for a script, you might get there.”
“As far as a logline goes, what you really want to do is get a request to read your script.”
“A good film is a simple story well told. Complexity isn’t about the story, it’s about the character and how they deal with it.”
“If I’m absorbed in the story, I don’t care what genre I’m in.”
Past TSA President James Wilson Montgomery passed away Monday, March 9, after a year-long, brave fight with cancer.
Wilson began in entertainment as a standup comedian and actor. He graduated from the University of Tennessee with degree in Speech and Theater. He attended The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles and was awarded the honor of being in the third year production ensemble. He has acted Off-Off Broadway in New York and done a number of commercials and a children’s TV series, including Mr. Henry’s Wild and Wacky World.
Parenthood (the lifestyle, not the movie or TV series) lead Wilson to Nashville, where he is survived by his daughters, Hope and Rachel, grandsons, Christian and Vinny, his mother June, father John (Gale), sister Jill Dempsey (Ed), and his brother, Lee, several aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews and friends.
He grew up in Knoxville, graduated from Bearden High School in 1981, received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from University of Tennessee, and completed an acting program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles, in 1989. Wilson loved the theater, acting & writing. He performed in several local theater productions before moving to Nashville, where he had a successful construction business.
He served as president of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association for two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019.
Memorial contributions can be made to Alive Hospice, 1718 Patterson Street, Nashville TN 37203 or Middle TN Al-Anon, 176 Thompson Lane, Suite G-3, Nashville TN 37211.
Friends can leave memorial messages, send cards, or flowers via this link:
It’s time once again to let your best scares out. TSA members are invited to share their spookiest short scripts at our Oct. 30 Halloween meeting. Scripts can be up to five pages and must be a complete story. Bring them in and hear them read aloud before the group. We dare you to scare us!
Note:Anyone can attend our meetings, but you must be a TSA member in good standing to have your script read. Click here to join TSA.
The Hole Truth, a short film penned by Tennessee Screenwriting Association member Irish Johnston, will be shown at the 50th anniversary edition of the Nashville Film Festival during the first weekend in October. We asked Irish to share her story about herself, the script, and the process of seeing the film come together.
TSA:Tell us about yourself (where you are from, how you ended up in Nashville, etc.,) and how you became interested in writing, specifically writing for film.
IRISH: I was born in Nashville, but spent a significant part of my childhood in New York City. My father is a writer, so I grew up surrounded by creativity and odd working hours. I initially was introduced to the film industry through acting, which took me out to Los Angeles for a few years. I quickly realized that I had an appetite for all aspects of film making, in front of the camera, behind the camera, and eventually creating content. I think my acting background has influenced my writing style to pay attention to the characters. I have taken several classes on screenplay writing, including at Watkins and online, and attend the TSA meetings as often as I can.
TSA:What is The Hole Truth about?
IRISH: The Hole Truth is a dark comedic short film about a suicidal woman’s disappointment in the shallowness of human beings. In this exaggerated world, the main character, Suzanna (Sprague Grayden), finds herself in a new job where she gains access to hear strangers’ heartfelt confessions. Her initial excitement quickly fades into despair as the confessions border between shallow and absurd. As she plans her exit strategy, she discovers a magical hole that leads to an unexpected real connection.
TSA:What inspired you to write The Hole Truth?
IRISH: The initial idea came from an article about a terrific, and real, project called Story Corp. Which I am sure is not shallow at all. But I started thinking about what if the audio capsules left in the Story Corp files, for generations to listen to, were actually really disappointing to hear. Add that to what feels to me like a current social climate lacking in real human connection, and voila. Dark comedy.
TSA:Tell us about the writing process for The Hole Truth. How long did it take from idea to finished script? What were some of the lessons made, mistakes learned along the way?
IRISH: The actual writing of it took about a week. But the ideas were marinating for a while before that. The main character, Suzanna, has a very strong, sort of judgmental, perspective to me, and she was a lot of fun to write. I decided to have a Narrator (Katherine Morgan) help move the story along, which was a more playful voice to write. Getting to watch this screenplay go from the page to the screen, has been super informative. I hope the lessons learned will translate into my future projects.
TSA:Your script won Best Short Screenplay at the Sun Valley Film Festival in Ketchum, Idaho, which in turn led to initial funding for the film. Tell us about that experience.
IRISH: That whole experience was crazy fun. I absolutely adore the Sun Valley Film Festival and how much they appreciate and support writers. From beginning to end they made me feel very special, and that is so hard to come by in this industry. Winning felt a little surreal, and completely unexpected. And then, honestly, I had a feeling like I wasn’t winning necessarily, but rather being given this huge daunting task of producing and making a film, which I didn’t feel ready for. But the SVFF surrounded me with a lot of talented people to help navigate through that. And I made some terrific friends along the way.
TSA:The Hole Truth had a very successful Kickstarter campaign, raising more than $30,000. How did the Kickstarter come about and what do you think made it so effective?
IRISH: My co-producer out of Boise, Karen Toronjo, suggested Kickstarter, so we just jumped in and figured out how to do it. We were lucky to have a lot of friends and family who were excited and wanted to support the project.
TSA:The film was ultimately shot in Boise, Idaho. Were you on set for the shoot? What was that like?
IRISH: Yes, I was on set for the shoot, no way I would miss that. I love watching films get made. There is something so special about seeing that process for me. But at that point I was more in the producer role not the writer role. I had handed over the story to the director, Russell Friedenberg, and felt very confident in the choices he would make. I am a collaborator at heart, and love to see what happens when several people’s creative visions merge together.
TSA:Tell us about the folks who partnered with you (director, producer, actors) who helped make the film a reality.
IRISH: It started with my co-producer Karen. Who introduced me to Russell, the director. He brought in the cinematographer, Gregory Bayne, a true talent. They all knew each other from other projects, so there was already some chemistry there. Russ and I cast it, finding Sprague, and Phil Burke (Russ had worked with him before). Then, I was delighted when I was given the opportunity to cast and use a cinematographer from Nashville, Mark Ramey, to do some cut away “confession” shots we weren’t able to get in Boise. We also recorded Katherine’s narration here in town.
TSA:The script was also one of three finalists in the 2018 Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. And now, the film itself is going to be show at NaFF 2019. How does that make you feel?
IRISH: Feels great. Nashville has a talented and supportive film community. We are lucky to be in a city that values writers and creativity. And now, to have The Hole Truth screening in the festival, makes me very proud.
TSA:How has the TSA helped you and your writing?
IRISH: I love the TSA meetings. I cannot get enough of the core structural questions, “What does your main character want?” “What obstacles does he or she have?” It is mystifying how I can never hear those questions enough, and how often I lose track of them while writing. Writing can feel very solitary, and TSA offers a supportive space where you don’t feel alone.
TSA:What’s next for you?
IRISH: I have several short screenplays submitted to festivals and competitions. One, which was workshopped in the TSA meetings, has won an award, and I am considering producing it. I am also working on a feature that I have brought pages into TSA for feedback.
For more information about The Hole Truth, visit their Facebook page.
The Hole Truth, a short film written by the TSA’s own Irish Johnston,screens at the Nashville Film Festival at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, in the Tennessee Shorts Block. A second screening is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10.
Irish 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 songwriting as well. She loves every aspect of the film industry, from writing and composing, to acting; to her latest challenge, producing.
Screenings will be shown at Regal Hollywood Theaters, 719 Thompson Lane, Nashville, near 100 Oaks Mall. For tickets or more information about the film festival, visit https://nashvillefilmfestival.org
While much of the excitement about the Tennessee Screenwriting Association’s Script-Com Symposium this Saturday naturally revolves A-List writer James V. Hart and his master class, participants will also get to hear from industry professionals Mitchell Galin and Samantha Starr.
Mitchell Galin, who will head up the 11 a.m. hour, is a seasoned, multiple award-winning producer in the film, television and theater mediums. Through his over 30-year career he has developed and/or overseen the production of ten features, over 25 television movies and mini-series, three series, six documentaries and two theater productions.
Galin just completed production on the TV One television pilot Media. Concurrently he is producing his latest documentary on Kauai’s historic Lawai International Center, a non-denominational community project.
Among his current feature projects, Galin is currently developing and packaging the adaptation of Stephen King’s short story “Gingerbread Girl,” which will be directed by Craig Baxley, the family film Blue Lights and the suspense thriller The Disembodied, to be directed by Neville Page. Galin’s other recent productions include the series pilot for the reboot of his iconic series Tales from The Darkside. the Hallmark movies Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Wedding Planner Mystery and The Shunning and Paper Angels; the award winning documentaries Journey to Everest, Honoring a Father’s Dream: The Sons of Lwala, Survivor, Apostles of Comedy 1 & 2. He is also a producer/writer on the recently released feature documentary, Living Hope.
Included in Galin’s other television producing credits are Sci-Fi’s miniseries Dune; CBS’ miniseries A Season in Purgatory; ABC’s Stephen King’s The Langoliers and Stephen King’s The Stand. These productions earned Galin an Emmy nomination and collectively earned nine Emmy’s. He also produced the award-winning telefilm The Vernon Johns Story, which starred James Earl Jones and amongst its many awards netted him the prestigious Christopher Award, and the CBS series Stephen King’s Golden Years. He was executive in charge of production of the critically acclaimed series Tales from the Darkside and Monsters, the latter of which he co-created. Both of these series were well known for giving a substantial number of directors, writers and actors their first professional job.
Well-known for teaming up Stephen King, Galin was a producer on a number of feature films including the original Pet Sematary and Thinner, which were released by Paramount Pictures, and The Night Flier, a New Line Cinema release.
Galin serves on the board, for the multiple award-winning Kid Pan Alley, a non- profit curriculum-based music enrichment program that teaches grade school children creative writing through an innovative songwriting method. Among his other charitable works, Galin produced and directed a PSA for former Governor Bredesen and Andrea Conte promoting the First Lady’s Walk across Tennessee to raise awareness for Child Advocacy and was one of the producers of Project Restore, a Nashville-centric Tsunami benefit.
While living in New York, Galin delved into the theatrical arena by serving on the boards of the Atlantic Theater Company, founded by David Mamet and William Macy, which produced the multiple Tony Award-winning play Beauty Queen of Lenanne, and the New Dramatists, the country’s most prestigious dramaturgical theater organization.
Galin serves on the board, and was the past president of FilmNashville, the Nashville Screenwriter’s Conference, and was appointed by Gov. Bredesen to the Film Production Advisory Committee, which completed the report that served as the basis for the ‘08 Tennessee State sponsored film incentive program. Galin has served on the boards of the Nashville Film Festival and as a consultant to the Independent Features Project, the largest association of independent filmmakers in the country.
Galin is a member of the Directors Guild of America, Writers Guild of America, Producers Guild and the Academy of Television Arts. His writing and editorial work has been published both in the United States and England. He has served as a guest lecturer at Columbia University, NYU, New School of Social Research, Vanderbilt, Belmont University as well as a panelist at various film festivals including Sundance, IFP, Cannes.
Samantha Starr, who will kick off Script-Com at 10 a.m. Saturday, is a film and TV literary manager at Circle of Confusion Management, previously at Gotham Group and Columbia Pictures in development on films including 21 Jump Street and Moneyball. She transitioned to management at Principato-Young after a stint at One-Two Punch Productions.
Her clients have included TV writers Ester Lou Weithers (Pitch), Andrew Thomas (Henry Danger), Jeane Wong, Becca Rodriguez and Stan Wang; actress Elena Pavli; filmmaker Bennett Lasseter; and playwright James Wesley.
Circle of Confusion is a premiere management and production destination for actors, writers, directors, content creators, publishers and journalists. Circle is active in creating a broad spectrum of television series and feature films, and specializes in the discovery of original, unique and compelling voices, with offices in Los Angeles and New York.
When: Saturday, June 22
Location: Shamblin Theater / Lipscomb University campus
1 University Park Drive, Nashville 37204
9:30 a.m. — Doors open
10 a.m. — Samantha Starr – Circle of Confusion Management
11 a.m. — Mitchell Galin – Producer/Writer/Director
12 p.m. — Bob Giordano, Writer/Director & Tom Steinmann, Producer
1 p.m. — Lunch (off site)
2:15 p.m. — James V. Hart Master Class – Writer of CONTACT, THE LAST MIMZY, Spielberg’s HOOK & more.
The story focuses on a woman who gets involved in underground game of pain endurance worth $1 million to the winner, only to learn the rigged game is run by the manipulative and sadistic man out to defeat her. It debuted on June 4 and is available on Amazon Prime Video and at Walmart stores.
Giordano and Steinmann will host a panel session to discuss the movie at the June 22 Script-Com Screenwriting Symposium at Lipscomb University’s Shamblin Theater.
“(The panel discussion will be) a good expression of the process from beginning to end and what you can expect if you’re a truly, truly independent filmmaker,” said Giordano, one of the principals of Uproar Pictures. “One of the things that I think is interesting about it is that, at least the way I went about making this film, you actually end up making the movie several times.”
Giordano then reeled off the ways in which he first conceptualized The Odds, then visualized it, then wrote, rewrote and rewrote some more, then … you get the idea.
“We’ll be talking about everything from conceptualizing it for a micro-budget film to all the way through the development, and even past that — to selling it and marketing it…”
— Bob Giordano, writer/director
“We’ll be talking about everything from conceptualizing it for a micro-budget film to all the way through the development, and even past that — to selling it and marketing it and sort of a number of things that people talk about in sort of general broad terms,” he said. “But our experience is definitely more focused … and it won’t be the same experience that everybody else has.”
“Since I tend to do outlining, that’s kind of the first version of the movie. Then when you do the script and its subsequent rewrites, that’s the second version,” he said.
“And then when you go through the script with your production team and the actors, that’s another version that you do of it. And when it makes the transition from a piece of work on paper to something that you actually have to shoot, then you have to consider where all the actors are going to have to be, where the cameras are going to be, all these things.
“The way I did that most effectively was through storyboard,” he added. “Storyboarding it was another version of the film,” he added. “And then there’s the actual production of it, and then there’s the editing, then the sound design and the music — and these are all versions that are all slightly altered and slightly changed.
“So when people talk about a director’s vision of a story, you’ve got to have a vision that’s a little flexible as a practical sense about how filmmaking works.”
He says that it’s essential for the writer to follow the director’s lead — but even more so when the two are the same person.
“For a writer, part of the job is being open to making all these changes. I was kind of lucky as the director; you don’t have to fight with the writer so much,” he said with a laugh. “But I was pretty lucky — at least as much as a person can be. I tried to be objective once I was mostly done with the writing aspect. I kicked that guy out of the room and tried to keep my director’s hat firmly on.”
Giordano said that while the writer can envision anything, the director has to see what works and doesn’t work, and see the finished product as the audience would view it.
“The thing is that when you’re the writer, you’re trying to express the idea of the story and anything you’re trying to say within that story. Your job and your intention usually tends to be trying to get that out as clearly and as artistically as possible,” he said.
“But once you are a director, you have to be far more concerned with how the audience is actually going to receive this information. Because it’s not a work on paper, it’s moving pictures.
“So the audience gets all this information and sometimes the information is portrayed in a way that the writer was not aware, either for good or for bad, how it would come across to an audience when it’s actually playing on the screen among actors.
And it’s the director’s job to really make sure that the story is going to be received by the audience, and really the first audience for the film.”
Giordano hopes to carry those lessons he’s learned into his next project, Gates of Flesh, which he says i much more of a horror movie than The Odds, with “elements of supernatural and end of the world stuff.” Then it will be a sequel to The Odds followed by a faith-based film.
Screenwriter James V. Hart will headline Script-Com, which is hosted by the Tennessee Screenwriting Association. Events kick off Friday with Hart at a screening and discussion of his Bram Stoker’s Dracula script at Full Moon Cineplex in Hermitage. Then on Saturday, Hart will headline Script-Com, discussing both his movies and the HartChart app and Toolkit he developed to help writers map stories and characters.
Besides 1992’s Dracula, Hart’s credits include Hook (1991), Bram Stoker’s 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.
Script-Com: What to Know
Script-Com admission is $50 and includes the Friday night screening and Saturday’s symposium, plus a one-year membership in the TSA. Current members pay just $40. To register, go to https://tennscreen.com. To attend a buffet/mix and mingle with Hart prior to Friday’s movie, cost is $15 at the door.
The June 22 symposium will open with a 10 a.m., presentation by manager Samantha Starr, who has recently joined Circle of Confusion Management. Following Starr will be producer Mitchell Galin, who has been involved in a number of Stephen King adaptations including The Stand, Pet Semetary, Thinner, The Langoliers, and other projects including Dune.
“ScriptCom is going to be good whether you are a beginning screenwriter or you are an A-list screenwriter,” said Jeff Chase vice-president of the Tennessee Screenwriting Association. “There’s going to be something for everybody.”
TSA members are welcome to provide a bio about themselves for our Tennessee Screenwriters Directory. You can include writing credits, genres you write in, loglines for completed scripts, social media and website links. The idea is to help get the word out about who we are and what we do. Think of this as your imdb bio. (You can even use your imdb bio, if you’ve got one!). To add your name and info to the directory, just fill out the following information below and email your information to email@example.com. Jpeg photos of yourself are encouraged.
The writer’s directory is open to paid members of the TSA. Membership is just $25 a year. To join, go here.
Tennessee Screenwriters Directory
Bio (please provide 3-4 sentences about yourself, such as job, educational background, screenwriting credits or other accomplishments, etc.):
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.
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.
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.