And now, part two of our interview with screenwriter David Ebelhoft. If you missed part one, you can find it here.

Interview, part two:

 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.  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.  Sometimes when I forced myself to write I just couldn’t and on average composed a page an hour that in the end felt contrived.   So I switched the routine, spending one of those nights watching films and reading scripts online.  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 doesn’t develop when I want it to.  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.  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.  At the end of the day I send it to my personal email address and start my next scheduled writing session with these ideas.  I also hide notebooks around my house, near my bed, in the kitchen, and near the john because I’m never sure when a good idea will arise.  I used to assassinate a lot of great ideas because I couldn’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.  It is dark and poetic but makes you laugh the whole way through.  I like that the script contains smidgens of Sir Walter Scott poems; Rasputin inspired death scenes, and good old American holiday absurdity.  I also really enjoy the Cohen Brothers’ Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, Charlie Kaufman’s adaptation of Confessions of A Dangerous Mind and Shane Black’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:  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.  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.  We kept communication lines open and since placing well in some of the festivals they wanted to continue talks.  I shared some of the changes that were inspired by the festival feedback and reviewers opinions and they’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.  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 didn’t promote a ‘winning formula’.  Sure, I wanted to sell the screenplay I was starting but I needed to craft a good story first,  and James Ryan’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 ménage-a-trios between a Microsoft word document, a 2-liter bottle of Coke, and myself.  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: It’s hard to receive rejection after rejection, especially since most contests post the winner lists online, but I like to remember that it’s just one festival’s, and in many instances, one reviewer’s opinion.

I was going to give up on the whole process when my first rejection notice came through.  In the pre-printed comment form, reviewer AR-1, hastily scribbled two lines, “People don’t die in comedies.  And, Cut To’s not listed since 1970.”  After my weeklong cursing of AR-1’s parents, siblings, pets and friends I realized that he/she was right, my script was not for their festival.  It didn’t mean it was bad, it was just not compatible with what they we’re looking for.  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.  My script didn’t belong in AR-1’s competition, and if I would’ve properly researched the festival beforehand I would’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.