Jhan Harp is a writer and producer who had held the title of a senior development consultant at a boutique screenplay consultancy company called Screen Craft. Since 2013 he has personally evaluated over ten-thousand scripts and provided in-depth feedback on many projects. Jhan is also at the helm of the Development Team at AWOL Studios and Seraph Films. In these positions, he enjoys the ability to use his degrees in both theater and physics which he earned from Purdue University.

Jhan discussed his interesting life and career via an exclusive interview on November 9, 2018.

Scripts, films, and competitions

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love of films and how did you find your way to a script consultancy?

Jhan Harp (JH): My first love is actually TV. A good show can sweep you up and take you away for years, allowing you to join a cast of characters, and I find that to be incredibly powerful. When it comes to Movies and feature scripts, I've tried to bring some of that energy and world-building into the mix. I've found that that perspective has really helped me to fall in love with films.

The script consultancy job manifested as so many Hollywood jobs do: A friend recommended me for the position. My Hollywood guardian angel is a manager over at Good Fear named Scott Stoops. I can't count the number of times that he's connected two dots and helped me out. He knew the guys over at Screen Craft, and in no time flat, I had a job there.

MM: What kinds of scripts do you most enjoy reading and have any of your clients gone on to make successful films?

JH: I have no real preference on format or genre, I simply enjoy reading scripts that the writer put some real effort into and needed to write. So many projects either have no reason to exist or were cranked out in a hurry. It's a real treat when a writer spends the time, works on their craft, and creates a story that they need to tell. Out of 10k+ projects I've read, I think I've encountered only about ten that actually fit the bill.

It's a bit depressing, but I don't think any of the scripts I've read at Screen Craft, or elsewhere, have gone on to be produced. The Hollywood aspiring writing machine doesn't really equip people to get their films made. An extraordinary amount of effort, relationships, and craft are required for even the least expensive project to reach production. I think that's why AWOL Studios and Seraph Films have been so meaningful to me. They became an avenue to escape the endless nightmare of query letters, fellowship submissions, and screenplay competitions. That said, the New York Times bestselling author I work with will get a film into production sooner or later.

MM: What scripts do you remember most and why?

JH: Good craft and a clever premise go a long way, but the scripts that actually benefited from real development are definitely the most memorable. Clients who put their project through the process and ended up making something solid always had the most unforgettable projects. While none of those scripts have been produced, a fair number of those clients have either won competitions or got repped.

Script reading, movies, and feature films

MM: What is it like to work for a script reading agency and what kind of advice do you give most often?

JH: It can be grueling but also rewarding.

Helping a writer to take their craft up a notch, and for them to feel the progress, is a wonderful experience. The difference between their most recent drafts and what we started with blows my mind. The advice I give most often is mundane, repetitive stuff like "add more conflict" but probably the best advice I can offer is to write five scripts, develop them, and then throw them in the trash. It's only after you've gone through the process several times that you're in a position to write something that can advance your career. Even if you think one of your first projects is really amazing, it's not going to hold a candle to the sixth or tenth project you write.

MM: How did you get involved with AWOL and what’s it like to work with them?

JH: I co-founded AWOL Studios with Charles Hilliard, and my introduction to him is so random that it must be some version of fate. Charles is a wildly successful businessman with more wisdom and generosity than should be allowed. Charles leveraged his decades of experience in finance and every sector of business you can imagine giving me and Seraph Films a real opportunity to create a feature film. Without Charles, I'm certain that “The Nightmare Gallery” wouldn't exist. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the crew at Seraph Films, which serves as the production and post-production aspects of our enterprise.

Everyone from Gene Blalock (our director) to Wendelyn Slipakoff (our production designer) moved mountains to get our film off the ground.

MM: What kinds of movies do you hope to bring to the market more?

JH: Anything with purpose and passion behind it. I'm personally very attracted to supernatural concepts, but I'd be happy creating everything from kid-friendly content to something creepier than “Hereditary.” As long as we can create art that has something to say, and then gets our investors their money back, I'll be thrilled. That said, if we can work our way into TV, I'll be even happier.

MM: What are your most ambitious goals for the future and would you like to mention anything further?

JH: We have a number of projects on the horizon, but “The Nightmare Gallery” is our primary focus right now. We've recently concluded post-production and should have some distribution news to share soon. Creating that film with Amber Benson (from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) in the lead was a dream come true, but I can't wait to eclipse it with our next project. My co-writer, Rob Stith, and I have some fun projects in the pipeline, and if all goes well with distribution, we should be sharing those with the world very soon.

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