Of Anderson’s seven screenplays, six have advanced in competitions rising to the top

Business film scriptwriter Catherine Rategan interviews Eric Anderson, a 34-year-old screenwriter and graphic designer who lives in Oak Park. He was a semi-finalist in the2004 Project Greenlight competition to discover new screenwriters and directors.

RC: You’re an established graphic designer, and that must take a lot of your time. What portion of the day do you spend writing screenplays?

Anderson: I feel it’s important to get something down every day, so I try to work on a screenplay at least an hour or two each day. Some days I finish 15 or 20 pages, other days it’s nothing.

RC:That means you must be working on something right now. What is it?

Anderson: Recently I wrote a sitcom pilot; it was for Bravo-TV’s competition to fill the void left by shows like “Frasier” and “Friends.” I’m also in close touch with the director who’s attached to one of my scripts, called “Black River,” and we’re also trying to get financing. My manager wants to start filming by the end of the year. Meanwhile, I’m working on two other scripts.

RC: With all these projects in various stages of development, what is it that keeps you going?

Anderson: I feel good that, out of the seven scripts I’ve written, six have advanced in competition and keep rising to the top. I hope that means something good.

RC. How did you get started in a writing career?

Anderson: I was a communications major at the University of Iowa and then took a lot of courses in film and screenwriting. I graduated with an English degree and a minor in art and worked as the editor of a small-town newspaper in Kansas. There were only three of us in the office. One person answered the phone, one sold ads, and I did everything else, including photography, a comic strip and writing editorial content.

RC: When did you start writing screenplays?

Anderson: I wrote a really terrible script when I was 22. I didn’t know anything about structure, and after 120 pages, I realized I had to end it, so I dashed off an ending. I was good at beginnings but my middles and ends were poor.

RC: I understand a key part of getting your work seen is connecting with the right agent.

Anderson: That’s right. Direct- submissions mostly go right into the trash. Agents and managers usually know who’s buying what, and they can get your scripts to people you couldn’t reach on your own.

RC: That makes sense. So how did you find your agent?

Anderson: About four years ago, when I wrote my second screenplay and sent it around to various agents, I was contacted by a Chicago agent who asked to rep me. I found out later she didn’t have that many contacts in the film world. So I switched to Alexia, who’s a manager, not an agent. I found her when I signed up with a Web site that gave me the names of managers and agents. I sent out query letters, letting people know I’d placed well in several contests, and she responded.

RC: What’s the difference between an agent and a manager?

Anderson: Agents sell projects, whereas managers can put together a whole package, including a producer, a director and a writer and sell it to a studio. Managers can also attach themselves to projects as producers.

RC: It must be challenging to put together a good script. Do you work on your own or with a co-writer?

Anderson: I wrote one script with my wife Amelia and another with Tom Flanigan, who’s a member of the Second City Touring Company. I liked his sensibilities and found that he’d started some scripts and wanted to collaborate. We passed the script back and forth until it was done.

RC: If one or a couple of these projects hits it big, would you move to Hollywood?

Anderson: My wife and I love Chicago, but if the opportunity arose and there were a reason, my wife and I would go to Hollywood.

RC: What’s your dream? How do you see yourself in 20 years?

Anderson: I’d love to be able to get financing and direct my own screenplays. And I hope that some day I’ll have a body of work that other people have seen.

RC: You’ve been at this for a while. How do you feel your work stacks up against other screenwriters?

Anderson: I find that some screenwriters have a good idea but don’t know how to implement it. I try to read everything about screenwriting I can ? the books, the magazines, the Web sites ? to get to know the business. I find it helpful to go to Web sites and find professional scripts to download and read. I read the treatment, sometimes an early draft, then the shooting script, and finally I see the film. You can learn a lot that way.

RC: Any advice for aspiring screenwriters?

Anderson: Keep going. If you believe in yourself, things will start to happen. I believe that 99 percent of success is not to give up. I hope that this will be borne out in my case. I try to keep my fingers in everything until something hits.

Eric Anderson is the founder/owner of EBA Creative; phone, 708-524-5059. See www.ericbandersoncreative.com/ and photos.yahoo.com/ebanderson_biz

Award-winning Catherine A. Rategan owns freelance service Writer, Inc. for video scripts, Web content, training and sales promotion. She co-founded IWOC, the Independent Writers of Chicago, and is past-president of MCAI (formerly ITVA). She can be reached at 312/266-8146.

Eric Anderson screenplays

“Accidental Jesus” (Black Comedy) ? An apocalyptic farce. Just because he was dead for three days before miraculously walking out of the hospital, why does everyone think that Jonathon Carpenter is Jesus? Especially when the real Jesus can’t seem to get ANYONE’S attention… except maybe the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and his angry Father. Is Jonathon the messiah? Is Jesus here for the end of the world? And why are mint Girl Scout cookies so damn good? All of these answers and less in “Accidental Jesus?”

“Downsized” (Family Comedy) ? When a depressed accountant receives a magic time-travel rock as a gift, he hatches a plot to get rich that returns him to his childhood… and his 12-year-old body.

“Dream Come True” (Comedy) ? What if your dreams didn’t end when you woke up, even the bad ones? That’s exactly what happens to Type-A, world-class worrier Robert Goodman when he receives a voodoo charm from his best friend that turns his waking world inside out.

“The Plan” (Romantic Comedy) ? A building maintenance engineer and closet novelist falls for a high-profile PR exec promoting a writing contest. An updating and reversal of the Cinderella story.

“Black River” (Thriller) ? “Memento”-ish story of an alcoholic with a history of blackouts who descends into paranoia as he comes to believe he may be responsible for a series of murders.

“Shock” (Horror) ? (“The Cell” meets “Seven”) “Through the eyes of a killer, one woman’s worst nightmares are coming true.” When Jana Rogan’s disturbing images reflect a series of real-life murders, her doctor is convinced that what she sees is real. Now it’s a race against time for Jana to find the identity of a madman before the madman discovers hers

“Redemption” (Science Fiction/Action) ? A post-apocalyptic nightmare in which supernatural beings have taken over the earth. The lead character disguises himself as one of the creatures, but when he is discovered, he must travel to the last human stronghold?Redemption?to prepare for one final battle for the future of humanity.