They steal ideas, don’t they?

I hear it all the time: “I’m afraid to share my script idea with other people – they might steal it!” Oh, c’mon, do you honestly think your idea is so good that someone will take it for their own and turn it into a script? Sorry to be the one to tell you this, but odds are pretty decent your idea isn’t that good. (They say “ideas are a dime a dozen.” Actually, bad ideas are a dime a dozen; great ideas are one in ten thousand.) But OK, let’s say you do have a pretty decent idea. Let’s say you post a logline on some website bulletin board, or you share this idea with members of a writers’ group. Then let’s say someone takes your idea, makes it their own, turns it into a fantastic screenplay and sells it to Warner Bros. for $350,000. Now you’re calling me on the phone, sobbing hysterically, “See, Jim, I told you so! Someone stole my idea!” Here’s what I’d say back to you: “So why’d you sit on the idea for so long? Why didn’t you write the script? What talent did the other guy possess that you didn’t? In fact, I’d like to find that other guy and buy him a drink. Good for him!” Look, this is a business where only the strong survive. If you’re not smart enough, talented enough, and/or motivated enough to get your scripts written and thrust out into the world, don’t get all bent out of shape over the guys (or gals) who are. As far as I’m concerned, if someone is clever enough to get a creative spark from your germ of a half-baked idea/premise, craft a storyline that can fill a 90-minute movie, and then spin it all into 110 pages of Hollywood gold...well, my hat is off to that person. And no, don’t get it into your head that I’m condoning script theft. Not on your life. I’m talking mere ideas here; or perhaps a handful of your script pages that someone has read. So, if you don’t want your ideas stolen, don’t share them with anybody. That’s right, keep all those nifty ideas to yourself, tucked away nice and safe...where they’ll more than likely die a slow, moldy death in the dark, web-surfing/video-game-playing recesses of your brain.


Mark Mika said...

Ha- great stuff, absolutely correct! As a wise man once said.. ".. you don't have to be the best but you do have to be first.." Well, something like that.


Anonymous said...

Mate it happens. I've just had my idea from a 30 page screenplay excerpt stolen by a major uk broadcaster, which I submitted to them and never heard anything back - the similarities to their new commissioned crime drama with a major international star are fucking breathtaking - they've changed various things but the core is there. To say it doesn't happen is naive to say the least and it's also the standard tripe you get from UK & US industry insiders that newbies shouldn't be paranoid of this as ideas are always 'in circulation'.. Currently seeking legal advice.