American screenwriter James V Hart is a guest of the new FEST`s segment "FEST Pro", where he will hold a masterclass and will reveal the secrets of screenwriting to those interested.
"FEST Pro" event is intended for film professionals in a broader sense, journalists, students, and offers panels, dialogues, masterclasses, workshops, and many more.
His writing/producing credits include: HOOK, directed by Steven Spielberg based on an idea by Hart’s then 6 year old Son, Jake (now Hart’s writing partner), BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, directed by Brian Henson, and CONTACT, directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Other writing/producing credits include: MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENTSEIN, TUCK EVERLASTING, JACK AND THE BEANSTALK: THE REAL STORY. SAHARA, LARA CROFT: TOMBRAIDER - THE CRADLE OF LIFE, AUGUST RUSH, EPIC, and created the TV series, CROSSBONES with Amanda Welles.
Hart also created THE HOT ZONE limited series for Nat Geo/Fox 21 and served as Executive Producer and writer on each episode. Hart has served on the faculty of the Columbia University Graduate Film program. Served as mentor and advisor at the Austin Writer’s Ranch, Sundance Film Labs, and the eQuinoxe-Europe Writing Workshops for over 20 years in 11 countries. Hart has also conducted the Puglia Experience for writers and producers held in the Puglia region in Italy.
Hart is a co-founder of the Peter Pan Children’s Fund, a non profit that fosters youth philanthropy supporting Children’s Hospitals, has served on the Meadows School of the Arts board at SMU, is a founding member of the Writer’s Guild Initiative board, and founder of Lionfish University, a non-profit dedicated to reef preservation and conservation.
His renowned story mapping tool app, THE HART CHART, was launched online at the 2015 Austin Film Festival and his popular HC Writer’s Toolkit is used all over the world.
You are best known for adapting literary templates, is that more difficult than creating an original screenplay?
- Let me be very clear - Adaptations are a bitch. If that is sexist, then adaptations are a motherfucker. Wait, that does not work either. Let's try this. The most difficult task of any screenwriter is to adapt a previously published literary work. The uninformed and the inexperienced suggest adaptations have to be easier because the story and characters are already thought out. The screenwriter just has to be a good editor. Not. There are soooo many factors required to be serviced in successful adaptations. Many authors do not understand the compromises that have to be made when taking a 300 page novel and reducing it to a 100 page screenplay. Giant omissions have to be made. A book can take several hours to read, the film adapation must be significantly shorter. Information given the audience in the novel may hold their reader attention and keep them engaged, but if dramatized in the film at the wrong moment or too early, the audience disengages and no longer are interested. Perhaps the biggest challenge the screenwriter must face is that the best version of the film adaptation of a popular novel or character is in the mind of the reader. The movie in their head is the best adaptation they can imagine. That is your ultimate challenge. The great Kurt Vonnegut Jr., upon reading my son and my proposal as to how to adapt his classic sci-fi opus, „The Sirens of Titan“, he responded with a fax that praise my solution beyond my wildest dreams and basically said he wishes he had thought of that approach when he wrote the novel. Yes, adaptations are dangerous and a minefield but also rewarding and fulfilling as a writer. Kurt said to Jake and I that all of those books he wrote lining his bookshelves are his. No one can change a word. That is his legacy. Then he looked at us and said "Now, go make a good movie out of my book."
You will in a way demystify the screenwriting at FEST. How much it is a skill, and how much a genuine writer's talent is necessary ?
- I do try to take the mystery out of the writing process with the tools i have developed over the years since working with Coppola on „Dracula“. Talent is everything but is nothing if you do not employ the rights tools to capture that lightning in bottle and put it on a shelf until you need it. That is why I developed the toolkit - an arsenal of skillsets in your quiver to use to jumpstart your creative process instead of waiting around for inspiration. The great American author, Jack London said, "You don't wait around for inspiration - you get the biggest stick you can find and you chase it down and you beat the hell out of it." I want the screenwriting process to be more of a mechanical implementation of tools that take your talent and genius and inspiration and take the mystery out of getting it on the page. No magical mystery tour but a practical, methodical approach to expressing your talent and genius. You are the composer and the mechanic. Your story and characters need a tune up, or a paint job, or new tires and more fuel, air in those tires, etc., the diagnostics in your toolkit will offer you the solutions and remedies as to how to improve your stories and characters and make then audience and market ready. With the right tools, you will never face a blank page again.
American films are very popular in our country, how familiar are you with the cinematography of these parts of world?
- The film that is making waves in all the awards, Everything Everywhere All at Once, is not an "American" film. Neither was "Parasite" which rocked the awards circuit in years past or "JoJo Rabbit". "The Dark" is a German language series that is hugely popular on the streamers. "Babylon Berlin" another German language film, is as good as "The Godfather" in my view. "Narcos" and "Gomorrah", Hispanic and Italian, are huge hits with the Western and International audience. We are an international market place now. I am a fan of the works of Emir Kusturica and Wajda and Sokurov. One of the reasons I jumped at the chance to come to Belgrade was to learn more and experience more of Eastern European cinema. There was a film I used to show my students at Columbia with the western title "Powderkeg" which was a series of short stories all taking place in once explosive night in Belgrade or Budapest, don’t know exactly where but an amazing dramatization of the violence and humor and conflicted lives in the Eastern bloc. I am trying to locate the correct title and filmmaker from the late 90's to use in my masterclasses. Brilliant.
What can we expect at your masterclass? What should we hope for in general?
- A refreshing way of looking at your story and characters and utilizing the tools and strategies that are the HartChart rigor to create Character Driven narratives as opposed to plot driven.
You are not just writers and directors but you are job creators. If you do not believe me, then watch instead of choosing "skip credits" on your fave streamer, chose "watch credits" or stay in the theatre for the end credits and read every one of those names of the persons who got a job because some writer had the courage to type "the end". Remember, nobody in this business has a job until your write "the end."