Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Idea theft

First, a public service announcement. If anyone is considering grading essays for Pearson it is definitely not worth the massive hassle they put you through. It took me a year and $35 to apply for the job. I made $300 for two weeks of work. Then when I failed to follow directions they never gave me, I was fired, but I'm free to do a million pages of paperwork again in six months and they'll hire me back. So in the end, not worth it.

I was counting on that extra money, so today I am subbing even though I hate subbing, and I applied to be an agent for that company that texts you answers to stuff that pays like $7 an hour. It will be so worth it when I buy a house. Today's sub job is actually pretty cushy. I only sub for teachers I know and like and who have their shit together because I can afford to be picky. But this morning my boss found out I was here and asked me to sub one period for that damn Journalism Teacher who never has her shit together. I can't say no and I don't get paid extra. Balls.

Okay so anyway, lately my script has been sent out into the world. I queried one agent and one manager, but more importantly it is actually in the hands of a manager and an agent who will actually be reading it at some point. And a producer, and this guy who knows another guy.

One of my friends told me to be careful. I think he's worried somebody will steal my idea, but that seems silly to me. How can you sell yourself or your script if nobody reads it? And even if some new writer thinks I've got a swell idea and wants to steal it, there's no way they'll write it like I do. And if they copy me completely, I have a registration number to protect me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not all ladeda about it. It's been drilled into us to keep our ideas secret to the point where even telling one person makes me nervous. Even in a group of friends, we still all leave out important details. I feel like we all sit around a table with our drinks looking all shifty eyed at each other. But really, unless you've got the niftiest high concept idea to come around, you don't have a lot to fear. Not if you write well.

For instance, on Pitch Q you can post your pitch either for other writers to view as well as producers, or just for producers who log in all secret-like. I say, go ahead and let the writers see. If they want to steal my idea and try to make it work, good luck, sucker. I have a passion for my idea and I busted my ass writing it and there is no way yours will be as good as mine. Besides, it's not like I invented zombies. If Romero had posted a pitch about Night of the Living Dead - then I can see the potential for theft.

I guess I just can't imagine a writer actively stealing your idea and then making money from it. I know it happens, but every time you hear about it, it's always the studio that stole your idea.

So I guess I should just keep everything secret from the studio.

Wait. That doesn't work either.

I guess I'll just have to trust the universe.


  1. yeah, it's a tricky area. First of all, originality is a lie. Nobody's stories are original-- it's only HOW you tell the story that sets you apart from other writers. You can write 100 zombie screenplays with different characters set in different locations, but the story will be the same. Zombies attack humans, humans fight back and flee for their lives.

    what counts is HOW it's written. Is it funny, sad, tragic, sexy, or scary? Is it plot driven or character driven? Is the theme focused on global warming or how society has alienated people from other people? Is it an allegory of the Commie Red Scare? blah blah.

    shit like that, you know. Yeah well I'm not worried about losers stealing ideas from my blog, because they can try to steal my characters and stories, but they'll never copy my style.

  2. Being overly worried about your ideas being stolen is a good way to ensure you'll never have a writing career.

    Is your friend in the industry?

  3. Tangentially. He's an aspiring editor, but he doesn't work or live in LA.

  4. I thought you might be interested in this article:

  5. Worrying too much about idea theft is a waste of time. It just doesn't happen that often: I can name three movies that I thought of and then saw made. 'School Of Rock', I wrote it for Rob Schneider in a much poorer neighborhood. The birth of Hollywood thing, I just wrote about it, who cares? When I get connected, I'll be the one saying "It's like the 'Planet Of The Apes', only with lemurs- is this your cocaine?"

    If it's registered, you've done enough. I wish, WISH I were bad enough to steal an idea. Somebody near me has a good idea for a sci-fi script, but she won't give it up and I'll be damned if I'm gonna steal it. She's had it for a year; so far, she's read half of "The Screenwriter's Bible."

    Like Dima says, it's not the story, it's the sauce you put on it. You and your rapper zombies are gonna do just fine:

    My name is DJ Rotter
    and I come correct
    I writhe and moan up to ya
    and bite your neck!

    You, can, uh, use that.

    I'm down.

  6. You are a weird dude, Jeff. Awesome, but very, very weird.


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