And now, part two of our interview with screenwriter David Ebelhoft. If you missed part one, you can find it here.
Interview, part two:
Â SMS: Do you have a writing routine?
DE: I usually dedicate two to three nights a week to writing, research, and development, but I try not to force anything.Â I used to feel guilty that I was not spending my 6pm-1am shift hunched over my keyboard composing mind blowing scenes and thought provoking ideas.Â Sometimes when I forced myself to write I just couldnâ€™t and on average composed a page an hour that in the end felt contrived.Â Â So I switched the routine, spending one of those nights watching films and reading scripts online.Â I recently started reading a script and then watching the film right afterwards, which I have found very amusing and informative.
The only problem I have with a writing routine is that my script doesnâ€™t develop when I want it to.Â I work all night for a breakthrough and then the following day, during my day job, is when I get the epiphany I was hoping and working towards.Â To preserve these ideas, I start an email at work, either on my desktop or on my blackberry that I keep open and fill with the random notes and ideas that pop up.Â At the end of the day I send it to my personal email address and start my next scheduled writing session with these ideas.Â I also hide notebooks around my house, near my bed, in the kitchen, and near the john because Iâ€™m never sure when a good idea will arise.Â I used to assassinate a lot of great ideas because I couldnâ€™t find a pen.
SMS: What are some of your favorite screenplays?
DE: I think Groundhogs Day, by Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis, takes the cake.Â It is dark and poetic but makes you laugh the whole way through.Â I like that the script contains smidgens of Sir Walter Scott poems; Rasputin inspired death scenes, and good old American holiday absurdity.Â I also really enjoy the Cohen Brothersâ€™ Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, Charlie Kaufmanâ€™s adaptation of Confessions of A Dangerous Mind and Shane Blackâ€™s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
SMS: How has placing in contests changed your writing career? Have you been contacted by any agents/managers/producers? If so, did anything come of it?
DE:Â It made me realize that my writing can compete with the other work out there and that, with a little more polishing, it can be picked up and produced.Â The contest circuit seemed like an extended obstacle course, and after you climbed the wall and tip-toed through the tires you either get an award or realize that you need to work harder for your next trial, or as in my case, both.
A production company was considering the script before I entered it in competitions but it was not picked up.Â We kept communication lines open and since placing well in some of the festivals they wanted to continue talks.Â I shared some of the changes that were inspired by the festival feedback and reviewers opinions and theyâ€™re excited to see the next version (cross fingers here).
SMS: Do you have any books on screenwriting on your bookshelf (or that you regularly get from the library)? If so, what are they?
DE: I own an earmarked and uber-highlighted copy of Screenwriting From The Heart by James Ryan.Â When I decided to start writing a screenplay I went to a bookstore and read the introduction to about twenty books and this was the only one I found that didnâ€™t promote a â€˜winning formulaâ€™.Â Sure, I wanted to sell the screenplay I was starting but I needed to craft a good story first,Â and James Ryanâ€™s book really helped with that.
SMS: Name one thing that you have done in your writing career that you think has helped you the most.
DE: Before I entered the screenwriting competitions my writing career was limited to a mÃ©nage-a-trios between a Microsoft word document, a 2-liter bottle of Coke, and myself.Â The contests have given me exposure in a world that I had no affiliation with before and gave me a chunk of courage to continue my writing adventures.
SMS: What advice do you have for screenwriters that are entering scripts into contests where they repeatedly get rejection letters?
DE: Itâ€™s hard to receive rejection after rejection, especially since most contests post the winner lists online, but I like to remember that itâ€™s just one festivalâ€™s, and in many instances, one reviewerâ€™s opinion.
I was going to give up on the whole process when my first rejection notice came through.Â In the pre-printed comment form, reviewer AR-1, hastily scribbled two lines, â€œPeople donâ€™t die in comedies.Â And, Cut Toâ€™s not listed since 1970.â€Â After my weeklong cursing of AR-1â€™s parents, siblings, pets and friends I realized that he/she was right, my script was not for their festival.Â It didnâ€™t mean it was bad, it was just not compatible with what they weâ€™re looking for.Â Which is why I re-tooled my goal for the script and focused on more constructive criticism as the reward.
I would recommend two things if your rejection notices keep piling up: 1) set out with a goal and enter the contests that cater to that objective and; 2) know where your script belongs.Â My script didnâ€™t belong in AR-1â€™s competition, and if I wouldâ€™ve properly researched the festival beforehand I wouldâ€™ve seen that they were looking for the next blockbuster script, not the independent dark comedy that I sent them.
That concludes part two of our interview with David Ebelhoft. Stay tuned for part three.