Screenwriting : Breaking through the "we already have something similar in production" barrier by J.B. Bettiol

J.B. Bettiol

Breaking through the "we already have something similar in production" barrier

The most common suggestion I see for picking producers to pitch to is to select somebody who produces the same type of genre that your script is in (pretty straight forward)

However, the most commom note I've been receiving on my pitches is "while we like your idea, we already have something pretty similar in production" -- does anybody have any tips as to how to break through this barrier? All suggestions are welcome!

Matthew Walsh

I've received the same treatment time and again...two thoughts come to mind:

1. Persevere, and weather the storm.. believe in your work and continue to highlight and promote it, eventually someone will bite.

2. Identify what specifically they already have 'like yours,' and answer that call -- what makes YOURS different than the ones already in development? Or if nothing does, then take that as your answer, and tweak your story to be that "Fresh"/"New" concept no one has seen before.

Kiril Maksimoski

Use such killer approach as "It's like Shark but only in space" (referencing pitch of Alien)...

...but u better have killer script accompanying that attitude ;)

Nick Assunto

Depending on what your story is, you may want to find a way to bring a newer twist to it or if it does have a newer twist, make sure that's clear in the pitch. It could either be that you're not making the conceptual hook clear, or it's possible you sort of entered the zeitgeist at the same time as a bunch of other similar ideas-- which happens a lot. So if you're in the former situation that's more of a pickle. I had to hang up a script of mine for about three years, and re-conceptualize it once I took it off the shelf.

Dan MaxXx

just a polite way to say, "PASS." It's all bs. Only way I know is to deliver your script to desk people - folks with titles. And usually that way involves a REP (Agent, Manager, Lawyer, Friend of a friend referral).

CJ Walley

"We already have something similar" is the "I'm really not looking to get into a relationship now" of the filmmaking world.

Rutger Oosterhoff

... "we already have something pretty similar in production.""

What Dan and CJ said. But If this happens a lot it could easily be that your idea really isn't "out of the box" enough. To get strong ideas, besides reading tons of screenplays, read a lot of opinion articles and the papers-etc. Then again, if you search long enough, there is always something similar. That is why the old phrase "Give me the same thing, only different" became "Give me the same thing, only better."

Dustin Quinteros

I posted a similar question about "knowing your genre", I'm curious to the answer myself. Especially when you consider we're in a world of reboots and sequels. I suppose the only realistic answer is to keep trying, if someone really likes what you have, or more importantly sees the profit in it, you'll more than likely "get a deal".

Gregg McBride

What CJ Walley said. I recently had a development executive with a production company tell me they were passing on my 1-hour TV script because they already had a project in development with a female lead. That's seriously "The dog ate my homework level" of saying "No" (and not admitting they never read the script). This is where we must circle back to CJ Walley's smart assessment and then remember the best-selling dating book (from years ago), "He's Just Not That Into You." If someone is using BS excuses as to why they're passing, they're probably not the right place for your project. Thus we get right back on Tinder, I mean um, online and KEEP LOOKING for the perfect match!

Nick Assunto

Hey J.B. I pulled up the feedback you were referring to because I wanted to make sure you were understanding it appropriately. While Dan MaxXx and CJ Walley are completely accurate in a typical real world scenario, in this instance I would take it literally. This executive has no issue telling people that he's passing because he's not interested, normally.

Now, it still may have been a pass either way based off the other notes you received, but I don't believe he's leading you astray by saying he has a project in development with too many similarities, but it also may have been a way to politely encourage you that this idea is viable.

So I think the key here is to look at the other notes you received prior to the part where he's passing, and to apply those to your written pitch to get it into the best shape it can be.

If you don't have the pitching guidebook or our basic written pitch sample, you can email me at for them :)

Kacee Diehl DeMasi

J.B. Bettiol You can of course do research and see what other movies have been made which have a similar plotline as yours or what other movies are in development which has a similar story as yours. - then you can go even farther by reading those scripts or watching the films and figuring out how you can make your story better and different so producers no longer say they have something similar. Out of curiosity what are the two comps on your pitch?

J.B. Bettiol

Matthew Walsh and Kiril Maksimoski - thank you so much for suggestions

Dan MaxXx, CJ Walley, Rutger Oosterfhoff, and Gregg McBride - thank you all for your insight into the business and giving me some clear-cut examples of experience you've had in this area, it's incredibly helpful

Nick Assunto - thank you a million for personally looking into my feedback, Nick. I'm very grateful as I also looked into the producers IMDb page and he certainly wasn't lying about having projects in development that were similar, but that was more along what I was asking with my original question since it was the similar shows (among other things) that made me want to pitch to him in the first place. But again, thank you very much for looking into it - I certainly felt as though the producer was being honest with his interest and not trying to give me "the run-around" so thank you for confirming!

Kacee DeMasi - that was exactly what I did :) I went to the producers IMDb page and saw his company had recently optioned multiple scripts that were along the same genre as mine and I felt that mine was "similar but different" enough for me to pitch it, but it turned out to still be too similar. And thank you for your curiosity, my pitch was for an action crime drama series and the two comps I use are "Sons of Anarchy" and "Animal Kingdom"

J.B. Bettiol

Also, if anyone could teach me how to "tag" people in my comments that would be much appreciated!

Nick Assunto

Just use @

Craig D Griffiths

“Sorry I already have a spouse. And I am a lesbian”. Dam, she has a spouse, I had a chance otherwise.

This isn’t a barrier just a reality. A barrier is something to overcome so you can proceed. I think you need to find a producer that wants one of those as well (whatever that is). Or the other most common piece of advice given (and hardest to explain), write something unique.

J.B. Bettiol

Craig D Griffiths I've certainly got my fair share of those reviews, but this one (as with a few I've gotten recently) the tone of the review has very much been:

"You've got everything I want, unfortunately I have a spouse and don't wan to cheat on them."

I certainly understand some producers give the people pitching a "generic pass" that comes off as though they had a shot when they didn't, but these particular instances the producers gave me genuine interest and simply pointed out they have projects in the works that they felt are too similar (which is why I pitched to them in the first place, which circles me back around to my original question). But I do appreciate your insight into distinguishing "barriers" from "reality"

Doug Nelson

"I have a spouse and don't want to cheat on them." How many spouses you got? Maybe a split personality? Anyway, a 'pass' is a 'pass'; be it BS or not. I received a 'pass' on my Gorgeous George script (boxing centered) because it was similar to a production already in progress... a couple of months latter Million Dollar Baby was released.

William Martell

This is why concept is critical. You don't want a generic idea, you want a mind blowing idea that nobody else has thought of - something so amazing that they can't has anything similar already.

Too many writers go to script with the first idea that they come up with, rather than the best idea.

You need to come up with the amazing idea within the genre. The one in a million.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Just keep writing and polishing and pitching!

Gary Floyd

My screenwriting instructor said the only story he ever sold on-the-spot was a revisionist retelling of the life of Wyatt Earp, portraying the real crime and violence his family was given to. A short time later, "Tombstone" was announced as in-production and his film was scrapped. Happens even to the pros. He laughs about it now, but not that hard.

Barry John Terblanche

...we already have something pretty similar in production. Maybe it was just that?

B.V Jottsonne

"high in concept" yes I believe I heard something about that before. Like some guys peed on my rug and the rug really held the room the room together. And I don't roll on Shomer Shabbos. I mean other than X-wing fighters.....

Dan MaxXx

Beck & Woods screenshot their results for one spec screenplay.

Kiril Maksimoski

Lotta passes and maybe's I see there...wander what happened to them...oh, I recall - they're the writers of Quiet place!

Rutger Oosterhoff

Kiril...shhhhh... IT's right behind you...

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