Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 181 - The Idea Race, or How My Idea Wasn't Stolen

We're in a race, you and I. But it's not just between us. It's one that all other writers are competing in, too. What's the race, you ask? It's the race to get our ideas developed into scripts that sell before another writer does.

All - or at least many - writers harbor some degree of fear about their ideas getting stolen or leaked. That's natural. The truth of the matter, though, is that there are thousands if not more writers all working on scripts at the same time. Some are doing it for money. Some, like us here at the League, have yet to earn much or anything from our scripts. We're working comparatively off the map. But we're working. And I'd probably put money on the notion that someone out there has an idea for a script that's very similar to one I have and am working on/have worked on. It's just a race to see which of us can produce pages and get them into the right hands first. 

Does the fact that so many of us are working now mean that all similar ideas are stolen? Nope, it means the opposite - simply put, there are a lot of writers writing, and because many of us are trying to write based on an existing market's tastes, we're going to wind up with overlapping ideas. That said, idea stealing can and does happen. It's just not necessarily as common as some might make it out to be. Also, for us off-the-mappers, it's pretty unlikely.

Take, for example, a script entitled ABDUCTED, which just got logged on Done Deal. By John Heffernan, it's described as "'Die Hard' on an alien spaceship." I pitched something semi-similar to my manager a while ago. I hadn't started working on it yet, nor had I really developed it. But the intent was an action movie set in space, mostly aboard a ship. Common threads abound. However, there was no stealing. There was nothing I can concretely claim as having been mine. none of the (few) industry people I pitched it to are involved in this project that I can tell. It's just a fact of this game that there are a lot of people working on a lot of scripts out there, and we're all each other's competition. All I can do is accept that something related sounding got picked up and move onto the next project in the idea bank when it's time. Better I learn about ABDUCTED now, rather than when I have a draft in hand and am trying to circulate it. 

I lost this race. Hopefully, I'll win the next.


Dev said...

Agree with you. When me and the co writer of our comedy script started brainstorming ideas, I would occasionally end up trying to develop a thread before realizing that a film on similar idea/story has been made. Now that's interesting because I had not seen or even heard about that movie before. So, yes, creative people can think very alike sometimes.
But I'm still wary of discussing an idea/storyline developed after months of work with a non-credible person.

Cake Man said...

Hey man - yes, I agree with you 100%. I don't pitch my ideas except to a few trusted sources. As much as ideas are often developed simultaneously unbeknownst to one or both of the parties involved, people do sometimes filch something they like. My manager is even wary of who he tells about my ideas (while trying to determine if there are similar things out there), lest someone try to take it as their own.

How has writing with a partner worked out so far? We've toyed with the idea here, but haven't really done too much of that.