So it’s 2021 and this goes back to 2015, so apologies for the saga—unless you like drama, in which case, settle in.
About me: I’m a 31 y/o writer. I have a small copywriting business, write and sell novels mostly for fun, and dabbled in various media i.e. screenwriting.
Beginning: I was in a debilitating motorcycle accident in 2015 that left me unable to walk for nine months. Ironically, I was hit by a major feature film director. I’ll skip the medical details but was staring down a long recovery period in physical stasis, was living in Los Angeles, and got it in my head to mess around with screenplays.
I had gotten pretty used to long-form (100k+ words) so a script was like hey, 20k? Let’s bang one out. Which is exactly what I did for three weeks during this period where I was bed-ridden. It was titled Scum, it was written under a nom de plume. I formatted it, packaged it, saved it, and kind of forgot about it, making the deal to myself once I was emotionally past the accident and physical therapy, I would blast it off and be world-famous. Maybe ten friends and colleagues read it and said it was good and they enjoyed the concept. The concept is unique. This is important later.
Middle: A year later I followed through. I read the pitch emails, crafted an ‘engaging’ query letter, and like the newbie I was who hadn’t yet been scorned and never thought it was going to amount to anything, sent it to every email address I could find. This included, specifically, the major agencies in Los Angeles. I received, well, four rejections from about eighty queries. Whatever, I’m used to that. This is early 2016. The project has lived in my email and Google Docs and that was where I thought it would remain.
End: I was having a viewing party of the fourth season of WestWorld at my place here (not in the USA) as I have a movie theater. Cue collective WTF from me and my friends, who stood up, incredulous, as the EXACT concept of Scum played put in the season premier, with the same dialogue.
The next day I dug in my email and found an opened receipt for a query to Jonathan Nolan’s agent at WME. He wrote this episode. I reached out to HBO (owned by WB) who, of course, never responded. I spent the next week interviewing intellectual copyright lawyers about this and said yeah, it was outright stolen.
They don’t own me credit, residuals, royalties, payment, or ANYTHING. All because I didn’t in my query stipulate that it was being sent to be considered for purchase. HBO finally reached back out and all but admitted they stole it, and gave me some ‘helpful’ pointers as to how my work would not be stolen in the future. Thanks!
So here I am. My first ever script was stolen and produced into a major, highly-rated television drama with serious talent attached. I’m pissed. I’m more than pissed. All I wanted was a credit and like, some taco money. I never expected anything from this script in the first place.
However, that doesn’t mean I was giving it out for free. Be warned and make sure you take care of yourself, legally.
Anyone know how I can work this into a career? Ha!
TLDR: Warner stole and produced a script, but won’t pay or credit because it was a “gift.” Can’t use it as leverage as it is now useless, since it was already produced and aired. No kudos given.