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Interview#39 Phillip E. Hardy #writer

Interview#39 Phillip E. Hardy #writer

Phillip E. Hardy is creative maverick, who can craft compelling stories in every genre.

He is a ten time optioned screenwriter, who is currently having four projects shopped by producers including Steven Roeder, Richard Clark Jr, Sean Hoessli and has signed a shopping agreement with de Passe Jones Entertainment.

His work has been in front of Tyler Perry Studios, Paramount Studios, Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese, William Morris Endeavor and many others.
He has placed and won over 125 film festivals and contests including Page International, Austin Film Festival, Cannes Screenplay, Shore Scripts, Screencraft, Beverly Hills Film Festival and Harlem International Film Festival.

Phillip has obtained a bachelor of science in business management, a master of management and is a Stanford University Certified Project Manager

Vikki: You’re a ten-time optioned screenwriter, how long did it take for you to attain this success?

Phillip:   I started off writing a couple of books. The first one was a novel that wasn’t very good because I understood very little about creative writing and just went on instincts. The second one was a satirical self-help book that was better, but also not a disciplined work. However, a friend of mine brought me a jailhouse manuscript from a former New York Hotelier turned mob associate named Edward “Biff” Halloran. He asked me if I’d be interested in writing a book about the guy. Initially, I said no but then came up with the idea of creating a pilot show about Halloran. I quickly wrote a pilot, then a few weeks later, rewrote it after I purchased Final Draft software. Since I only understood the basic features of script formatting, the script suffered rookie mistakes like overusing the parenthetical feature and amateurish exposition. Nevertheless, the story of the script was sound and I had a knack for crafting dialogue. With no experience, I did some initial queries and received some early interest that went nowhere. Over the next year, I wrote five screenplays and began doing weekly pitches at Inktip. Within six months, I hooked up with a producer who was looking for a screenplay about Angela Davis. We had a verbal agreement that he was going to shop the script. Not much more happened and my early drafts again suffered from lack of experience. My first written option came about nine months later, when I answered another producer’s add and wrote a first draft script in six days. This screenplay has since been in front of some major studios, including Paramount. So the short answer to your question is it took me about 16 months to secure my first option agreement. Nearly six years after I wrote the Halloran pilot, my first script, I scored a right to shop agreement for this project with a well-known agency. The two-page pitch for the pilot was read by mega famous director who just finished a gangster picture. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my gangster script. 

Vikki: Your script consultancy website, The Script Gymnasium, lists “Fourteen things you should know about writing scripts” – if you had to impart just one piece of advice to a newbie writer what would that be?

Phillip: It’s something other than one of the 14 things on that list. I believe the most important thing a good screenwriter does is write economically. Consider it like the process of building an airplane. Every piece of that airplane is import for technical and safety reasons. And, in manufacturing, there’s a methodology called lean, where if something doesn’t add value, it’s removed from the fabrication process. I look at writing scripts the same way. When it comes to both narrative and dialogue, I write a lean script. If the writing doesn’t add value, I get rid of it. That’s also applicable to all your scenes. If a scene doesn’t move the story along, then I’d start trimming. 

Consider it like the process of building an airplane. Every piece of that airplane is import for technical and safety reasons. And, in manufacturing, there’s a methodology called lean, where if something doesn’t add value, it’s removed from the fabrication process. I look at writing scripts the same way.

Vikki: When you review scripts, what are the main errors that people make in terms of narration and formatting?

Phillip: I use a 16 item scorecard to rate a script. This includes things like first ten pages, dialogue and plot points. Generally, most people that send me scripts are past the heinous punctuation phase. However, many writers overuse the parenthetical and have long awkward bits that are better suited as narrative. My opinion is the parenthetical tool should only be used to convey feelings and emotions and be limited to a few words such as pensive, angry or sarcastic. I also read a lot of dialogue where characters speak at each other rather than having a believable ping-pong conversation. Overlong narratives also bog a script down. I’m most impressed by lean, brisk scripts that are a pleasurable rather than ponderous read. Finally, things need to happen quickly in a feature script. Otherwise, the reader, particularly professional ones, will quickly lose interest. I generally try to open big and include an inciting incident in my first 10 to 15 pages.

Vikki: Social media networking, a curse or a benefit to newbie writers?

Phillip: It’s a bit of both. There’s so much information for screenwriters, as well as online platforms to showcase material and receive feedback. However, screenwriters can be opinionated, competitive and overly didactic about what they know and believe. That can be daunting to a newer writer. There are also a lot of scams going on via Facebook and several other websites. My advice is don’t pay anyone to rep you or shop your screenplay. Use Facebook, Twitter, Stage 32 and other social media sites to make writing buddies, exchange work with people you trust and to find opportunities. 

My advice is don’t pay anyone to rep you or shop your screenplay. Use Facebook, Twitter, Stage 32 and other social media sites to make writing buddies, exchange work with people you trust and to find opportunities. 

Vikki: You wrote the shorts, Un Wet and Another Full Moon, do you prefer to write shorts and why?

Phillip: I wrote those shorts for a small fee and to help the filmmaker. I’ve only written one other short called The Assassin’s Handbook back in 2013 for a short script contest. However, I was a judge for the New York Midnight Screenwriting Challenge

I evaluated several hundred shorts scripts and some of them were brilliant. It’s a real art form to write them but I prefer writing features. 

Vikki: Is there a genre you haven’t written in as yet that you’d like to?

Phillip: I haven’t written a Hallmark style script yet. I’d be happy to do it for money and I have an outline for a rodeo story they might like. Beyond that, I’ve written drama, historical, biopics, comedies, romcoms, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, action, sports and a western.  

Vikki: Who are your favourite writers?

Phillip: I admire William Goldman because he wrote The Great Waldo Pepper, which has an unbelievable visual narrative. I idolize Robert Bolt because he wrote Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and A Man For All Seasons, which are all beyond brilliant. I admire the writing team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Junior, who wrote a string of great movies including Hud and The Long Hot Summer and I recommend that anyone who reads this blog check out this article about their writing process.

Finally, Woody Allen has been a big influence on my comedy writing. 

Vikki: What are your favourite films?

Phillip: The Wild Bunch, LA Confidential, Annie Hall, Danny Deckchair, Chinatown, The Godfather I and II, Zulu, Pride and Prejudice (1995 BBC version) and The Duellists. 

Vikki: Would you be tempted to write for theatre?

Phillip: Monetary inducement would be considered; otherwise, no. 

Vikki: What’s your next writing project?

Phillip: I just began working on my latest project, which is a horror/dark comedy called Bloodsucker U. There’s also some political satire thrown in. Beyond that, I just wrote a pitch at the behest of a producer I’ve worked with for nearly six years. It’s an action vehicle that he is sending out to some production companies this week. Finally, I’m always looking to fill a need for producers that have a particular and hopefully interesting story they want to bring to the screen. 

Resources:

Phillip E. Hardy at IMDb
The Script Gymnasium – Phillip’s script consultancy service
Email: Phillip E. Hardy


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