Breakout project: “Boys Don’t Cry”
Greenlight wish list: “Musical version of the movie ‘Showgirls.’ (We jest.),” jokes Hart.
Producing maxim: “There are two kinds of people who work in the business: One works to promote the project, the other works to promote themselves. Work with the former and you will never be disappointed,” says Hart.
Most unexpected place found talent: “When we were casting some of the smaller roles for ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ we had casting calls in Austin and Dallas, Texas. We discovered an enormous talent pool out there. But more importantly, we were surprised by Hilary Swank, who grew up in Nebraska. She had this winning boyish quality. She flew herself to New York and met with the director and producers. She stole the part” says Hart speaking for both he and Sharp.
Power Schmooze Spots: The Time Cafe in Greenwich Village or anywhere on the Croisette.
HOLLYWOOD – “We came into it cautiously,” reflects John Hart on his decision to form a company and focus on producing movies rather than just theater. “Can you do movies for under 2 million and get a return on the investment?”
The answer that Hart and producing partner Jeff Sharp have found is a resounding yes: “Boys Don’t Cry,” which Hart and Sharp produced with Christine Vachon’s Killer Films, has grossed nearly $11 million to date and garnered a best actress Oscar for Hilary Swank.
“In the indie marketplace, there is a homogeneity about the product and a lot of that has to do with where it comes from,” says Sharp, whose company frequently scouts the theater for material. “John and I and head of production Robert Kessel are creating a type of movie that doesn’t fit into what’s necessarily expected of indie cinema.
“We are drawn to films that have a strong vision and have strong directors, that come from a personal place. The only other thing is that they are commercial and will speak to a broad range of people.”
But it has not been all smooth sailing. Prior to Hart Sharp Prods., Hart learned a few hard lessons. Linking up with Good Machine, he created Good Fear with a mind to make genre pics.
Through his Kardana Prods., one such film was “Arresting Gina,” a coming-of-age story that didn’t quite work. “Soon after that, Good Fear went good-bye,” jokes Hart.
Building on a track record that included an executive producer credit on Todd Haynes’ “Safe” and producer credits on Broadway and Off Broadway productions including “Guys and Dolls” and “The Who’s Tommy,” Hart linked up with Sharp, a seasoned development executive who had worked for Oliver Stone and Joel Schumacher.
Hart Sharp first co-produced the Tony Award-winning Broadway revivals of “Chicago” and “Annie Get Your Gun.” Using those successes as their bread and butter, the company launched into features with “Dark Harbor,” starring Alan Rickman, Polly Walker and Norman Reedus.
Next came Kenneth Lonergan’s “You Can Count on Me,” executive produced by Martin Scorsese with Hart Sharp aboard as producers, the pic won the Grand Jury Prize earlier this year at Sundance.
From the successes of “You” and “Boys,” the company has recently put together a production fund of roughly $10 million to make four to five movies over the next 18 months — the first of which is “Life,” an African-American mother-daughter story set in contemporary urban America. The project was originally developed at the Sundance writers and directors lab by Demane Davis and Khari Streeter.
Though not interested in ever making event movies, Hart Sharp is exploring joint ventures with foreign companies.