David E. Vendrell – Young & Hungry
David Vendrell features as our next writer on the Young & Hungry list.
David Ernesto Vendrell is a screenwriter from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In 2016, David released the viral short film, Teddy Bears are for Lovers – a horror-comedy he wrote and co-produced that was selected as Vimeo’s Short of the Week and was featured on /Film, io9, Bloody Disgusting, CryptTV, and many others. The feature adaptation, which David also wrote, is slated to shoot in the Spring and will be directed by Michael Bonvillain (director of photography on Lost, Zombieland, Cloverfield), produced by Endless Media and executive produced by legendary director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Small Soldiers).
How young and how hungry do you need to be to win a place on the 2018 Young & Hungry list?
Adolescent and famished is a good place to start… no, but sometimes that’s how it feels. As far as “hungry” goes, a career in screenwriting is a constant uphill battle when you’re first starting out (and I’m still starting out). So, you have to truly want it and be willing to put in the diligent hard work necessary to get noticed. That means sitting down every day and face off against the tyranny of the blank page and blinking cursor… and then convince people to read it. The “young” part? That’s all relative.
Describe your unique personal and professional background and the specific project that attracted industry interest?
I come from a Cuban refugee family, which has instilled in me an exile mentality — sharing in the nostalgia for the home I never knew and also a deep appreciation for the immigrant experience in America. Coming from south Florida, multiculturalism is just the nature of things, which I’m really thankful for. I was the first person to leave the 50-mile radius that my entire family lived in for decades, and move out West to give Hollywood a go.
After interning around town and gaining the trust of people that worked at those companies, I was able to start sharing my writing… which people liked and encouraged me to keep pursuing. Contacts from those internships led me to getting my manager and my first screenplay optioned. I can’t stress how instrumental those internships were in getting my feet in this industry.
Two projects in particular that really raised my profile were Teddy Bears Are For Lovers and The Monster In The Cell. Teddy started as a short film that I made with an incredible group of friends from college, and ended up kind of going viral and got written up in a lot of taste-making blogs. I had already written the feature version of the script, which my manager and I used to set up all my first meetings around town. Having Joe Dante produce was a dream come true since the script was deeply inspired by Gremlins and Small Soldiers. I can’t say too much yet, but the movie is financed, and we’re now starting casting. It’s so surreal.
The Monster In The Cell on the other hand, is pretty new and is still getting read around town, but it’s already opening a lot of amazing doors. I can’t thank my reps enough for believing in it.
What personal qualities do screenwriters need to make it?
Again, coming from a Cuban refugee family, you are instilled with two very important things: how to work harder than the person next to you and how to be resilient. It takes a lot of work to get a story right… and even when you do, prepare to hear the word “no” A LOT. Selling a script is like hitting a bulls-eye while blindfolded. That’s honestly how it feels. And in that spirit, you learn how to drudge up endless reserves of patience while you wait for people to read or just respond to emails. It’s also vitally important to cultivate a collaborative spirit early on — find your team and hold on to them.
Why did you decide to become a screenwriter above all other careers?
Even as a kid, I was just innately drawn to movies. I loved them before I even had the words to explain why. Some of my best childhood memories were just searching a blockbuster on a Friday night for the perfect double feature, ordering a pizza with my family, and then all of us sitting down to experience them together. And there was no greater treat than a trip to the movies.
Also, as with most screenwriters, I was super drawn to the clockwork of stories — how they’re constructed, what they explore and how they make me feel. It felt magical. So, when I started making short films in high school and seeing the reaction audiences had, I was hooked. And when I got to college, I realized that what I loved most was the hidden part of the writing behind a film — that strange alchemy of crafting words that evoke images. I was a lost cause to any sort of safe or predictable job after that.
How do you become agent/manager bait?
It all starts with the work. Reps want to work with someone who has great ideas knows how to execute them and has a distinct voice — that’s what gets you in the door. But what keeps you in the room is being able to deliver on the less spoken about qualities: a collaborative spirit, a consistent work ethic and being a decent person. At the end of the day, they’re not just trying to sell your script… they’re trying to sell YOU.
Where do you get your creative inspiration?
From everywhere. How the kernel of an idea forms is still the most abstract and unknown part of this job to me. It just one day happens. I think what is most important for any writer to practice is just following the curiosity. Write what you want to discover. It’s a process of exploration, so always be educating yourself on new topics, engaging with people outside of your own experience and, of course, living life.
How do you decide which ideas are worthy of pursuing?
For me, it’s a mixture of trusting my gut and sharing the ideas with my inner circle — my reps, other screenwriters and other people I trust. I’ll know when the idea has a certain spark to it just based on the reactions. Usually, the ideas that catch fire are the ones that are the most meaningful, interesting and exciting to me anyway. If I’m truly passionate about it, usually other people are too.
Do you have a writing brand in terms of interests you gravitate towards?
Usually, I think of myself as a genre guy — I love all things sci-fi, horror, and adventure. Those are just the types of stories that drew me into the movies to begin with. I always gravitate toward big ideas, and the characters, ideas, and themes that they can explore. No matter the genre I write though, I hope all my stories are imbued with a big, beating heart. I’ve always admired Spielberg, and how he’s able to translate his one-of-a-kind voice to any genre (and make masterpiece after masterpiece). I aspire to the same thing.
How do characterize the current state of the industry and opportunities for emerging writers?
The state of the industry definitely seems like it’s at a turning point — the studios are firmly in the franchise-building enterprise, while an infinite number of digital companies are still figuring out how to monetize bite-sized, micro-budgeted content. A lot of doomsday journalists like to bemoan the end of the middle class of content, but I don’t think that’s entirely honest. There are currently more opportunities than there has ever been for writing thanks to the success of genre labels, a myriad of independent financiers and the ever-growing streaming services. They want fresh ideas… but they also want a package behind it that shows that it can be a real movie. That means our job as screenwriters is to write material that’s good enough to bring all those players together. You have to stand out.
How do you train and improve your writing craft?
By always pushing yourself. Watch a lot, read even more and stay up to date on what other new scriptwriters are doing — that last one will be enough to humble you and force you to keep getting better.
What are the qualities of scripts you read that don’t get industry interest?
It’s hard to describe, but they just don’t have that specific something. There’s always an element that takes you out of the read — poor storytelling, thin characters or unrealized potential. But, more often than not, the stories just aren’t cinematic. In this day and age, you have to ask yourself if the story your writing is going to break through the noise and convince someone to devote nearly two hours of their day to. It’s a sobering question.
What advice do you have for screenwriters wanting to make next year’s Young & Hungry list?
I can’t convince anyone to stay young, but be ravenously hungry. A career in screenwriting is hard, no bones about it. But, if you’re willing to put in the work, withstand the rejection and keep getting better, someone will spark to your script. But, being as the Young & Hungry List celebrates the writers — not just their scripts — the most important thing you can do is develop strong relationships around town. Hollywood is a lot smaller than you think, so good character counts. But, that should be important to you anyway.
What is something that few people know about you?
I have a 3rd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. I’m still not sure if my fiancé believes me.
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