What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Johnny Hartmann and I’m a screenwriter currently working on an episode of a new Hasbro show called Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
There are crazier jobs than this?!
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
I’m incredibly proud to be contributing to Kaijudo, the story editors Henry Gilroy and Andrew Robinson have created such a rich and unique world, it’s awesome to be writing one of the chapters for them.
How did you become interested in animation?
I started in live-action. Then I wrote a spec called R-A-M: Rogue Alien Mutation. It was sort of a King Kong in space story and my agent at ICM at the time sent it to Shaun McLaughlin at the WB. Shaun suggested it could make a great animated feature. That’s when I realized that many of my ideas are well suited for animation. Thanks Shaun!
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I was born in Hamburg, Germany. Went to film school in LA and stayed. How did I get into animation? I was writing a live-action adaptation of Hideyuki Kikuchi’s Wicked City (yes, there’s an animated feature based on the same novel, and yes, it has tentacle sex in it). My co-writer Mark Dippe (who directed Spawn) was producing a trifecta of low-budget animated features at the time and asked me to meet with his co-producer, the awesome Young-ki Lee. They wanted to do Alexander the Great… for kids. I pitched it as Alexander the world traveler and explorer. I got the gig but they wanted to do a war movie. Kids love war! It turned out quite nicely and I ended up writing all three animated features for them. In fact I just wrote another animated feature for Mark’s company, The Animation Picture Company, a sequel to their earlier success The Reef. We have a great voice cast in Rob Schneider, Jaime Kennedy, Andy Dick, Donal Logue, Busy Philipps and others. It comes out spring 2012.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
When outlining or in draft I like to get up and start writing right away – when my brain is still fresh. I break early afternoon or when I hit a wall, then come back to it early evening for another run that often lasts late into the night. When I’m not on deadline I do most of my writing away from my desk. Evernote is the most used app on my phone.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
The blank page. Anything can happen! Creating characters and putting them in jeopardy, then getting them out. Creating worlds. Storytelling, basically.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
Waiting on notes. Drives. Me. Nuts. Luckily on Kaijudo the notes come pretty fast and always enhance what I sent in, again… huge kudos to my story editors Henry Gilroy and Andrew Robinson.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Chasing the next gig sucks.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Word. I’m not trying to be cool, I use Word. And Final Draft 8.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
I once drove from LA to San Diego with the mighty Mike Milo. I know, I haven’t washed my car since. Also, early in my career I co-wrote a script for Fabio… wait, there’s more… he did a voice on some Pam Anderson cartoon… WAIT, there’s more… I forgot the name of the show but Stan Lee was involved and I got to shake hands and chat with him. What a pompous prick! Naaah, anybody who’s ever met him knows Stan Lee is the kindest most humble guy on earth. Oh, I also got to pitch to Tim Burton standing in a Vegas parking lot right outside the giant pyramid… but that’s a different story.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
Did I mention I wrote a script for Fabio…?
Any side projects or you’re working on or hobbies you’d like to share details of?
I did a comic book. Wrote and illustrated it. It’s called The Priest From Hell about a crook in a priest tunic and this goody-two-shoes cop who go through hell together, literally. Think of it as Midnight Run set in Dante’s Inferno. I shopped it around but it’s a one-shot – most publishers look for series. I’m thinking about self publishing just to get it out there but I’m still hopeful that I’ll find a smaller art-house publisher to get behind it.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
I quit metallurgy when I was six. I was pretty adept at it but my dad shut down the furnace. Other than that… hm… uh… great, now I feel like shit. Wait, I’ve been told I can hold my own in a pub with the Irish. I also paint, well… I used to. In fact I used to earn money replicating paintings. This was over ten years ago so I hope the statue of limitations has run out.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business? For Screenwriting? Study the craft. Read certain books but more importantly read screenplays! Listen to screenwriter commentaries. Listen to podcasts (Google creative screenwriting podcasts). Follow websites like johnaugust.com or scriptshadow. Oh, and write. Write a rock solid spec and polish it until it’s gold. Nothing worse than meeting a person who could give you a break (agent, producer, etc.) and have nothing to show her. So yeah, study the craft of screenwriting…