Screenwriting : Paradox? Conundrum? Writers want to submit scripts, are afraid of idea theft, and by Regina Lee

Regina Lee

Paradox? Conundrum? Writers want to submit scripts, are afraid of idea theft, and

The paradox in non-legalese. On one side of the fence, new writers want to submit their scripts to "Hollywood" companies. Yet they're afraid that the companies will steal their ideas. https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Do-I-need-to-worry-about-co... https://www.stage32.com/lounge/pre_production/How-do-I-protect-my-screen... On the other side of the fence, "Hollywood" companies want to read capable new writers. But they're afraid of accepting unsolicited submissions because those are the submissions most likely to result in frivolous "you stole my idea" lawsuits. I'm very curious to learn if most new writers see the paradox in full. Do new writers think that "Hollywood" companies/individuals typically don't accept unsolicited submissions because we are close-minded? Or do new writers understand the risk and exposure of accepting unsolicited submissions? I can't come up with a more effective way of discussing this topic. My hope is to foster some understanding for both sides.

Elisha Woods

Copyright your script and register it with the WGAE or WGAW.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Thanks for addressing this subject from the executive side, Regina. :) Admittedly, I have lost my patience with new writer "paranoia." (Lemme tell ya, most people have!) Copyright information and all answers are so easily found at anyone's finger tips. Go to: http://www.copyright.gov/ In a nutshell, you cannot copyright an idea, only your specific execution. The "poor man's copyright," in other words, mailing your script to yourself to date it, can work just fine. The actually act of writing a script in itself automatically gives the writer copyright -- as the original creator of that specific execution. However, a documented, officially registered copyright with the United States Copyright Office will give you stronger, iron-clad standing in court should you ever need to prove copyright. So, just copyright your finished screenplay! Just do it! Register it with WGA. It's that simple. Copyright protects you, it protects those with whom you share your script. Please. Stop. Worrying. Focus your energy on bigger and better things, like writing! Copyright, then share your brilliance with the world! :)

CJ Walley

I have limited sympathy for the parties each side of the table. In both cases the risk adversity is borne out of fear. That said, I can empathise with a writer paranoid that Hollywood is going to steal their ideas, and I do respect the perils of a small production company that can't afford to fight potential lawsuits to prove their innocence. One of the big questions here is how has Hollywood managed to gain this reputation for stealing writer's work? Is the perception something that's fair and been earned, or is it a case of a few tinfoil hat wearing oddballs unfairly tarnishing inherently fair conduct? The common response is to point fingers at those who worry and mock them, stating the solution is simple. Yet at the same time communities of writers cannot agree on what's effective protection, especially not globally. We thought we had the answer with WGA registration and then we find out it's next to useless for securing any recompense for work stolen. The whole system is flawed and that's partly down to the industry and partly down to advancements in technology. The process of having to type, print, bind, and mail out scripts was an effective barrier to entry. Throwing pdfs and email into that mix has clearly pushed the system to breaking point - while industry members feel swamped, screenwriters feel shut out. What's desperately needed is a centralised database which both filters and protects screenplays. And to make that ethically fair it needs to be at least partly subsidised by those who have the most and stand to make the most. What we can't continue to accept are these highly expensive lotteries in the form of screenwriting competitions or sites like the Blacklist. None of which evaluate screenplays fairly (imo) and all of which put the burden of cost onto the most vulnerable. These organisations are becoming the unofficial gatekeepers to the industry and their pay for entry mentality favours those born into advantage. We're already seeing the future in the form of sites like TriggerStreet and Amazon Studios, both of which it could be argued have failed, but the likes of which are paving the future for new screenwriters. In the case of Amazon Studios, black and white contract, unsolicited submissions, protection by default - zero cost to the writer, a fair chance of a read, and potential exposure to boot. We know that Google are poised to replicate this, and we're seeing new websites popping up all the time with a similar mentality. However these systems are all the property of corporations and there's a danger a few could dominate at the expense of those smaller production companies that need good scripts the most. Hence why something industry wide is needed. In five to ten years time it's going to be the case of; Prodco: That was a great script! Why didn't you come knocking on our door? Writer: Because you only ever wanted to slam it in my face. Of course let's not forget that Stage 32 is changing the game everyday. There's every chance that this very site could become the industry's answer - a place any industry member can visit and tour through scripts, a place any individual can get access. Stage 32 is evolving fast and growing exponentially. Personally I feel I have my scripts in the perfect place right now.

Fiona Faith Ross

I made a decision recently to overcome the paranoia thing. If I want to reach out to a particular company or executive, I'll do it. After all, as a writer, I generate the idea, and only I will write my vision. Another writer would do something else with it. On the other hand, I wouldn't send an "unsolicited submission". Even in the totally negative world of literary agency, I never did that. I would always make the approach, and, if there was some interest, then follow up. Readers are too busy. Slush piles have become mega-mountains. Readers are under siege. A writer would do well to remember that.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Writers should protect their work. Period. Be self-responsible. Copyright is simple, inexpensive and an extremely effective means to do so. Before posting or entering or soliciting or doing anything with your script, especially in this evolving industry and the digital world, protect your execution. With that, there is little need for paranoia. Copyright protects your execution whether it's in print or in a pdf or whatever. Copyright and international relations/copyright are also explained on the United States Copyright Office web site. If your situation is truly complicated you may have to talk to a copyright attorney. I'm certainly not coming from a place of "mockery" but rather commonsense. However, to the industry, showing a lack of understanding or lack of the minimal amount of effort it takes to understand a fundamental basic element is considered by some "mocking" the profession of screenwriting and the industry. If you are submitting your vampire script to a production company who does a lot of horror films, they will indeed only take a look at your script IF it is copyrighted. Why? Because in the off-chance that they already have something in production that may be similar to your script they want it to be crystal clear that it was not influenced by yours. If need be they can prove they purchased this other script that has a copyright prior to your script. It protects them from you. And, why shouldn't they? "Hollywood stealing ideas" is more myth than truth. Yes, it has happened and can. But, considering the astronomical high number of scripts circulating in even given time, the percentage/rate of it happening have been incredibly low. Again, protect your work. Unfortunately, I highly doubt we'll ever see any kind of centralized database just because the industry is comprised of independently owned businesses. Who would be the overall authority, right? Many new entities like the Black List certainly try to fill that "database" need. Therefore, unfortunately, yet again, it falls to the "buyer beware" mentality, which is truly frustrating. You have to read the fine print. You have to be aware. You have to make good decisions. :) With that, yes, Stage 32 definitely helps fill the void from all sides. Creates a common, positive ground in which to share possibilities. This site continues to get better and better. :)

Regina Lee

Hey CJ, thank you for taking the time to generously share all these thoughts. The system is indeed flawed. Because I have a few scripts I have to read today, I'm going to address only one section of your post. But I hope that others weigh in. "One of the big questions here is how has Hollywood managed to gain this reputation for stealing writer's work? Is the perception something that's fair and been earned, or is it a case of a few tinfoil hat wearing oddballs unfairly tarnishing inherently fair conduct?" Personally, I'm not sure how Hollywood may have gained this reputation. By the time I moved to LA, the strict unsolicited submissions policy was already in place. Clearly, the origins of strict policy and frivolous lawsuits preceded me. I will share a cautionary tale told by a colleague; because it's her story, I can't give specific details. In the days when scripts were snail-mailed, she was working for a financier (not one of the big studios, but what we call a mini major). She received a hard copy of an unsolicited script in the mail. The cover letter explained the script was sci fi; for the purposes of this thread, let's say it was about human cloning (it wasn't). She did not read the script. She has no idea what the script's particular take on cloning was beyond the fact that it was generally "about human cloning." She immediately had her legal affairs dept send the standard "we cannot accept unsolicited material, and we are returning the script UNREAD" letter, and the company mailed back the script unread. Some time later, this financier makes a sci fi movie about human cloning. The financier is sued, and this executive was named in the lawsuit. The company didn't 1) ask for the script, or 2) read the script. Now the company is spending thousands of dollars fighting a lawsuit, and of course, the exec is under pressure because she is named in the lawsuit, and could potentially lose her job (because her company is now losing money), suffer a blow to her reputation, and/or need to hire her own attorney at $500/hour. Or when Steven Spielberg directs a movie like LINCOLN, lawsuits start to pop up from random writers who also have a Lincoln script. This stuff really happens. It's quite rare, but it only takes one instance to ruin you. So again - the conundrum - we genuinely want to read great new voices, but we are legally exposed when we either read or simply receive an unsolicited script that we don't even read. So to save our own butts from legal exposure, we hope that someone else (e.g. a screenplay contest, Stage 32, a small management company, The Black List, etc.) does the work of filtering for us through 1000s of scripts, indoctrinating the best of the new writer crop into the "system" and sharing the code of conduct, and that by the time the writers are introduced to us, they aren't trigger-happy to sue. Hoping that they will have learned from their first meetings (before they reach us) that both sides share ideas, and neither is looking to infringe upon the other or to sue the other. As a side note, CJ, I see that you're not in the US. Sadly, the US in general is a highly litigious society. My friends who grew up in Europe think we're nuts. Anyone can sue anyone for anything, and sometimes they do. Sigh.

Regina Lee

To Beth's comment, "If you are submitting your vampire script to a production company who does a lot of horror films, they will indeed only take a look at your script IF it is copyrighted." I would add, they may just say, "We are already developing a vampire project. We don't want to infringe, and therefore, we cannot review your script." That's the case even if a Partner at CAA tries to submit the script. We actually do NOT want to steal someone else's idea or be accused of doing so. When I was a studio exec at Universal, my boss and I were in a pitch meeting. I guess the agent who set the meeting didn't give us a clear idea of the subject matter before the meeting. As the writer started his pitch, my boss stopped the pitch in progress, "I'm sorry I have to stop you right there. Is your pitch about corporate espionage? (Yes.) We already have a corp espionage project. It hasn't been announced in the trades yet. It's by Tony Gilroy. (The movie came out as DUPLICITY.) So we can't hear this pitch. Infringement."

Regina Lee

The above is why we want your agent/manager or you as the writer to ask permission before sending material. Because for your sake and our sake, we don't want to risk infringement. In a different thread, a poster asked why he couldn't include a download link in his query letters to be efficient. That's why.

Regina Lee

By the way, I saw a Facebook post: The 2015 Nicholl Fellowships received 7442 entries this year. We do need some kind of filter for this kind of volume.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Thanks for clarifying, Regina. Much appreciated. :)

Regina Lee

@Beth, just supplementing your material.

Beth Fox Heisinger

I'll take it, Regina! Thanks again. :)

Kevin Fukunaga

First off, Regina is a superstar. :) Second, the legal liability aspect is fairly well covered in the post and comments here, so I won't belabor the issue. Third, I think the other half of the access issue, is what Regina touched on - needing a filter for the sheer volume of submissions. A screenwriter will obviously believe their screenplay is amazing. Whether or not this is true (and generally it isn't), the agent/executive/producer/manager does not know this to be fact and simply does not have the time to read thousands of scripts to find out - which would be in addition to their other day-to-day work responsibilities. So contests and referrals (as well as agents/managers) are often used as that filter to help weed out the talented new writers from those who may still need to work on their craft. It's simple math. No one has the time to read 7,442+ screenplays a year - and that's what someone would get with an open submission policy.

Regina Lee

Ha! Kevin and I were 2 cubicles apart as CAA assistants. LA is the smallest big city you could ever imagine. Which is another reason we don't want to "steal" your ideas!

Bill Costantini

CJ's statement ."...In both cases the risk adversity is borne out of fear." That's basically it in a nutshell. People in the biz have to limit their exposures to "fear" (i.e. "lawsuits."), and proceed accordingly to the law and protect themselves the best ways they can (like Regina said). Writers get to do that via copyright laws, and industries get to do that via agreements. That's not unique to the film biz - that strategy goes across the board in all lines of business and is implemented by every type of company that produces a "good". For new writers....that fear of "someone stealing my idea" is a natural and instinctual fear in a person, just like it's a natural and instinctual fear in a new inventor who is bringing a software prototype to a tech company, or a fashion designer who is bringing a clothing mockup or fashion book to an apparel company. The same concept rules those businesses just as it rules the film business. Ideas are just that - ideas. Good - that's good that you're thinking about something. But thoughts are universal, and after you "thought" of something, and implemented that thought, now it's time to market that implementation in order for it to come to fruition by that industry. Unless you can afford to do it yourself, or have a VC behind you, that's the way business is run and maintained. At some point in their development as an inventor, everyone has to overcome that natural fear, and bring their product to market. Whether they be a new screenwriter; a software engineer; or a shoe designer. It's easy to understand that natural fear, and hopefully is just as easy to overcome it and say "goodbye fear....I'm going for it." And the sooner, the better.

CJ Walley

Do I come across as lobotomised or something? Because some of the responses to my post seem to imply as such.

Regina Lee

I think it's just a really complicated web of related issues that is hard to discuss well in this medium. No brain surgery implied.

Bill Costantini

CJ...I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a.. .......aw damn....I just can't steal a line. Tom Waits classic remark on Fernwood 2Nite begins at the 8:35 mark. Martin Mull...Fred Williard...a fake talk show...some of the funniest television ever made. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acyT_1AKPDE My apologies for the mini-hijack, Regina.

Regina Lee

It's all you, Bill C. Go for it.

David E. Gates

The moment you write it, it's copyrighted. Theft of scripts isn't as widespread as people believe. In fact, it's understood to be rather rare.

Craig D Griffiths

Recently on the "Scriptnotes" podcast (John August - [Charlie and the chocolate factory, Big Fish] and Craig Mazin - "identity theft, the hangover") talked about how big stories should be told through the eyes on a single character. They discussed the FIFA scandal and how that story could be told. The next week they announced that a FIFA movie was being made and it was being told through a single person involved in the scandal. They then laughed saying - someone stole our story. I read a report that said about 50,000 micro budget films are in production at anyone time. There are probably ten times that many scripts. There is no need to steal my work, there are too many to choose from. Plus I plan to write many many screenplays. If one gets stolen, so what. Besides the thieving director will probably do some rewrites to try and hide the fact. So I can still sell mine, Deep Impact vs Armageddon.

CJ Walley

Regina, let's assume that it's all too complicated for my tiny screenwriter brain to understand. Hopefully someone could put on a puppet show or produce a pop-up book for me to dribble over. Thanks for sharing your colleague's story. Very interesting. Doesn't this prove that, in the context of frivolous litigation over idea theft, the whole unsolicited submissions policy is a little redundant? After all, if a writer believes their material has gotten into your hands and been plagiarised, simply stating you don't read unsolicited submissions is a worthless defense. A little like trying to assure someone that, should they get undressed in front of a two-way mirror, it's your policy not to look. Personally I feel the policy really serves as a very effective form of gatekeeping, telling screenwriters you can't read their screenplays to ensure legal protection is a great way of stopping a submission in its tracks. I believable case of, it's not you it's me. Part of my reason for thinking that is reading so many stories of screenwriters who've ignored the warnings and still managed to get a read. I wonder if it's all really another case of this Hollywood subtext. I wonder if "For legal reasons we cannot accept unsolicited submissions." is really saying "If you don't have representation you're most likely wasting our time." I am aware of how litigious the US is. It's a culture that's been creeping into Europe for sometime now. I'm also aware of how major US corporations managed to spin the perception of frivolous litigation into tort reform. And on top of that, I'm aware of how helpless small business and individuals feel over US copyright law, especially those who've tried to defend blatant abuse of their intellectual property against those with significantly more capital to spend. Perhaps writers don't fear having their work stolen so much as not being able to defend themselves should their work be stolen. Maybe they really just don't believe in the system. I also wonder if the studios are just very good at making our they're the victims. The same studios infamous for their Hollywood Accounting practices where they screw writers who've trusted them out of small fortunes.

CJ Walley

Sorry if I'm acting like it's personal. I don't feel that way. I don't send my scripts out, but would always query first if I did. I'm just tired of this mysterious Hollywood etiquette because of the confusion and animosity it generates. And I'm frustrated by how a completely free submission system is gradually waning to routes that only the privileged can afford. I'm trying to stick up for the little guy here.

Fiona Faith Ross

CJ, your sentiment is well-placed here. I'm sure many of us share your frustration at increasing numbers of barriers being put up. Actually, it's the same in the world of long (or other) fiction and non-fiction in the UK. All literary agencies refuse to take unsolicited submissions as a matter of course. They have to, because with the ease of email submission, and with inexperienced or lazy writers going for "spray and pray" blanket marketing, they would receive an avalanche of material. Most companies don't have the admin resources to deal with all that. Having said that, many of the bigger agencies have "open submission" windows, usually of two to four weeks, once or twice a year, and it can be worth taking advantage of these. I don't know if production companies could do a similar thing, or maybe the competition entry system is the film world equivalent. Chin up.

Andrew Martin Smith

The key question for the paranoid to consider - is - why would a producer want to steal your screenplay in the first place, when they can sign you up for peanuts - and then it's theirs to do with as they please. Most novice screenwriters are desperate to be optioned - and the producer will simply tell you that they have put aside some seed money to develop new projects. Which, will probably be not far from the truth.

Dawn Murrell

Thank you CJ! I feel like you just "stuck up" for me and I am a little guy! :) In my genre of animation, it is well known that some studios will not even entertain submissions from anyone outside of their studio. So determined people like me have to spend lots of hard earned $$ submitting to competitions, pitch fests (thanks Joey!) and other avenues that cost money just to "win" the chance to prove you have potential the "right" way! I can understand that agencies and "Hollywood" cant read every script by every writer but we all want the same things right? If that one unsolicited script that an assistant or producer took the time to read just because they had a hunch it was good, and it was good....Wasn't the fear of being sued for the idea being stolen or the time it took to step out of the box and read the material well worth it? I would hope so.

David Levy

A new writer needs to educate themselves first before submitting anything. I think most new writers are too eager to jump in and get their script into anyones hands. The more protection and education you do for your work and future career, the better your strategy. With the industry exploding and writers popping up more than ever I think Hollywood is lagging in their approach to the new age of the industry. The more dedication to the craft and others seeing that dedication and growth will do more than cold calling in my opinion. If others see you are serious then they will take you serious.

Suza Lambert Bowser

Caution is necessary in this dog-eat-dog world (I'm into "dog" metaphors today!). Still, good writing trumps "story" in my opinion. Protect your good stuff and carry on!

CJ Walley

I'm not suggesting all prodcos and studios should have an open submission policy. That would be crazy. I'm suggesting something is needed that better protects both parties and is accessible to all. I have a reasonably detailed idea of what that could be. But I fear describing that will only bring criticism and more of this strange desire for things to remain a: broken b: confusing and c: expensive. So you can all go back to buying your screenplay competition lottery tickets :-P

Andrew Martin Smith

Suza - in my experience, it's not a dog eat dog world. Sometimes projects come to fruition and an awful lot of times they don't. Why not? - well that's usually because - despite every-bodies best efforts, they simply can't raise the dosh. In other words everybody loved your story - but the money-men. Whatever - enjoy the journey and keep it professional and positive. You will be amazed how many times I have seen projects fold - and then been approached by a producer attached to the project, who ten years down the road remembers working with you.

Regina Lee

Hey guys, I haven't had time to read all the responses today, but what I will say for the moment, speaking to CJ's point, Dan's point, and to others, is this... For me personally, and I can only speak for myself, I'd be more open to accepting un-repped scripts from S32 writers if there wasn't this much "how do I protect myself from idea theft" or similar type of discussion. Just for me personally, that type of discussion makes me feel like people are on guard about the likelihood that a reader might misappropriate their ideas, and therefore are more likely to take action (lawsuits, complaints, even posting about a bad experience on the internet which could harm my reputation, etc.) if they felt there was the slightest chance that a reader might "take" one of their ideas. I'm quite strict about my submissions policy; others are not as strict. I've never been threatened with a movie lawsuit, and I plan to keep it that way. (I was in a 3-car accident in LA, in which I was the middle car. The truck behind me "totalled" the 2 cars in front of him, shoving me into the car in front of me. The car threatened to sue me, even though it was the truck behind me who ran into me, causing the chain reaction of the 3-car accident. So maybe I am a little paranoid of frivolous LA lawsuits!) To CJ's point about an economic barrier to entry, yeah, that does really suck. In terms of me personally being a part of the change, I've spoken to CineStory about discounted entry fees. We offer a student discount, and we'll be offering some kind of social media discount too, but that's still being worked out as we speak. I'm only on the Board, not the Exec Committee. The CineStory Foundation is a nonprofit (unlike most if not all other contests), and we do need the entry fees to keep going.

Suza Lambert Bowser

Re: Fukunaga's comment: "No one has the time to read 7,442+ screenplays a year - and that's what someone would get with an open submission policy." Yup. But simple organization, specialization, and prioritization could help deal with a lot of that. If you're looking for a thriller script, you don't necessarily need to read a romantic comedy, right? If you're in the business of buying and selling scripts, sorry, buddy...put your reading glasses on or hire a team you trust to sort through it all! That's the biz! And ethics? Love 'em; gotta have 'em or you suck.

Regina Lee

EDIT: A person named Dan posted advising me to accept unsolicited submissions with a release form. My replies to "Dan" are in response to his posts, which he has now deleted. Hey Dan, as you know, a release form does not take away someone's ability to file a lawsuit. It may decrease their chances of winning a lawsuit, but they can still sue.

Regina Lee

Dan, I agree, but I/producer would still have to pay for an attorney during that entire process, and simply put, I would go bankrupt.

Regina Lee

The only way to not expose myself is to enforce a strict submissions policy. I read un-repped screenwriters (free) through my involvement with the nonprofit CineStory Foundation. But that's just my personal choice in how to navigate potentially tricky, litigious waters. When I do script consulting on the side, we use a contract that protects both parties.

Regina Lee

I also hope to do a little "payback" by answering questions for free in the S32 Lounge, where I try to offer good advice, but I cannot take unsolicited subs. Unless one of you volunteers to pay all my attorney's fees in the event of an unsolicited sub lawsuit! :-)

CJ Walley

Regina, I hope nobody is expecting you to accept unsolicited submissions. Sadly I've all too often seen producers/agents/mangers hounded to the point of exasperation by the screenwriting communities they reach out to.

Regina Lee

@Dan, gulp. @CJ, just FYI, I've received approx 20 unsolicited submission requests in my S32 inbox in the last 3 weeks and about 3 posted to my wall.

CJ Walley

Regina, then something must be done. You clearly state you cannot accept those submissions in your bio, so those members must be reprimanded for their actions. This is something that negatively impacts you and every other screenwriter here.

Dawn Murrell

@Regina On behalf of new writers like myself. I will say that most of us are not looking to sue anyone for personal gain. I really appreciate your insight and advice on Stage 32 and I even feel bad for asking you too many questions! I think in yours and Dan's case you are SO knowledgeable about the business, we all just want what is in your brain! LOL! Unfortunately new writers are desperate for ANY feedback or positive nugget to chew on to help us learn and grow. People out there will think "what the heck, I'll send it to them, might as well give it a try!" (sad face) But like Beth Fox said in an earlier comment, Stage 32 is changing the game to offer cheaper and free screenwriting advice and services so we are hopefully on the right track to success.

David Levy

Those members must learn to read first. Those messages are literally query letters. Thinking about lurking again, Regina? LOL!

Regina Lee

CJ, thank you. You and I both know that people won't stop for whatever reason, including simply not having read my policy, not understanding what it means, or thinking it doesn't apply to them. I have asked S32 if they could create a "pinned" post or "reading policy box" so that each of us could state our individual reading policy in a uniform location. I did report one member who was spamming me and sent about a dozen messages in total. I believe S32 warned him, and he has stopped spamming me.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, sorry about that, Regina. I was worried about how some may respond to you and not respect boundaries. Let me know how I can help as spammers and abusers must be reported and are not tolerated. It's often faster to either alert me or go straight to the powers that be. RB has a warning of "Read this before you private message me" before you can contact him. Perhaps something along those lines would be helpful to you -- but that's a bigger conversation and would involve tech. For now, I would suggest changing your bio slightly. Right up front, first sentence. Respectfully, I cannot accept unsolicited submissions. OR Apologies, due to legal reasons, I cannot read unsolicited scripts. Then your bio, "I have supervised and/or am currently producing film/TV........" Or, however you wish to phrase it. Whatever you choose it will then be shown when someone searches for you in the member search or checks "about" on your page, it will be seen first as the first words of your bio. Perhaps that could be a quick fix for now until they are able to address this problem technically. :)

CJ Walley

Regina, I'm so glad to read you've been reaching out to Stage 32 mods/admin about the issue. We need industry members like yourself to feel they can reach out here without having to put up with members harassing them. As you said in another thread, you want to learn from us and us from you. This cannot be a one way street. Dan, I agree and their reputation is one thing, but our access to insight and industry member's access to us is another. Selfish fools like that drive away people we can really learn from, people who really want to send the elevator back down for those who deserve it. It makes me mad because it just goes to show the vast majority of screenwriters are held back and compromised because of this minority of self serving individuals.

Regina Lee

Hey, Beth, I'm about to leave for a meeting, so partial reply. Any help you can lend w/r/t S32 Tech is much appreciated. For example, in LinkedIn, there is a "box" called "Advice for contacting Regina Lee" (or whatever your name), and on LinkedIn, that is where I post my submissions policy. It would be great if there is a uniform location for all S32 members (not just me) to post our reading policy. Can you please help make that happen or something along those lines? For about a week, I had my policy at the "top" of my bio. However, 1) it just felt off-putting, arrogant, and just plain wrong, and 2) someone PMed saying that all I was talking about was "what I cannot do," rather than "what I can do." So I moved it down. I don't want to be off-putting. I'm not the engineer having to write code or the S32 Brand Manager, but to me, the "Here's my reading policy" box in a uniform location on our member pages, for everyone, not just me, would be ideal.

CJ Walley

Regina, fact is people should be taking the time to read through your bio in full before expecting you to read their script. It's unacceptable behavior. Like Beth, I was worried this might be happening.

Regina Lee

There are others who write in saying "I'm not trying to send in an unsolicited sub, here's my YouTube link" or something like that. They don't even know what comprises an unsolicited sub, so the problem is not quite so easy to nip in the bud.

Regina Lee

I also get "here's my GoFundMe" PMs. FYI, not that anyone asked, but my policy for crowdfunding is that I will contribute to my past interns' campaigns. I have to have limits, and I think that is a fair policy. My personal cause of choice is the Nature Conservancy and disaster relief when there is a major natural disaster, so I don't give much to entertainment crowdfunding.

Regina Lee

Ha, CJ, good point. One would expect them to read my/your bio before trying to submit a script!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, Regina. Absolutely. I'll send a message about this issue. :) A reading policy or box for "advice for contacting" would be beneficial to everyone. As CJ said, we need industry members like yourself to feel they can reach out and not be harassed by rude people. As far as being sent canned PMs or someone posting on your wall about "help my crowdfunding campaign", or "check out my video;" we do have policies about spamming and those who do it are at risk of being suspended from Stage 32. When I receive any spam solicitation I fire back that I will report them for spamming, as this behavior is clearly not tolerated per our site's Terms of Use: "We have a zero tolerance for spam at Stage 32. And while we realize that all of our members have something to promote - a company, a crowdfunding project, their reel or loglines - we ask that they do so in an organic way. The following are not permitted: • Spamming multiple member walls or multiple Lounge topics with the same message or promotion. (Note: A single post on your wall will be seen by everyone in your network) • Sending canned private messages to multiple accounts. • Soliciting payment for a product or service via wall posts, Lounge posts, private message, project posting, etc. Violation of any of these spam policies will result in an automatic account suspension and removal of the offending content. We Do allow all members one (1) promotional post in Your Stage section of the Stage 32 Lounge We ask all of our members to be active in the community, to participate in conversations and offer assistance and guidance to other members where possible. We believe that attention to one's brand and work begins with a selfless approach to networking, not through spamming."

Beth Fox Heisinger

The great folks who run this site have zero tolerance for the minority of self-serving people who compromise the integrity of Stage 32. Members; staff; everyone is very protective of our community. This "problem" is addressed on a daily basis. However, anything that involves a technical change to the site will take some time. Nonetheless, let's see as if we can get this ball rolling. :)

Phillip 'Le Docteur de Script' Hardy

I don't worry about people stealing my ideas. Additionally, I've come to conclusion that damn few writers have ideas worth stealing.

Regina Lee

To prove my point, I just got back to my desk, and I have a PM stating that there are "400,000" S32 members, and this person is PMing the 700 of them in his/her network with a link to his/her "new project." I didn't click on the link so I'm not sure if it's a video or written material. I have only reported "abuse" on 1 member thus far who PMed me multiple times and posted on my wall.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Regina, please PM me the name of the person and what they sent you. :) I'll take care of it.

Regina Lee

Hey Jim, I agree. I'm not planning to report "tacky folks" :-) unless they are super persistent tacky folks!

Beth Fox Heisinger

YES, IT IS ABUSE! Guys, if someone is sending spam through Private Messaging that is against Stage 32's spamming policy and that person should be reported! Here it is again, please note the second bullet point: "We have a zero tolerance for spam at Stage 32. And while we realize that all of our members have something to promote - a company, a crowdfunding project, their reel or loglines - we ask that they do so in an organic way. The following are not permitted: •Spamming multiple member walls or multiple Lounge topics with the same message or promotion. (Note: A single post on your wall will be seen by everyone in your network) •Sending canned private messages to multiple accounts. •Soliciting payment for a product or service via wall posts, Lounge posts, private message, project posting, etc. Violation of any of these spam policies will result in an automatic account suspension and removal of the offending content. We Do allow all members one (1) promotional post in Your Stage section of the Stage 32 Lounge We ask all of our members to be active in the community, to participate in conversations and offer assistance and guidance to other members where possible. We believe that attention to one's brand and work begins with a selfless approach to networking, not through spamming."

W. Keith Sewell

You guys know it's like holding a porch chop over a pack of wolves! When someone with legit inside information that can help in so many ways, comes onboard - its a feeding frenzy. If they will just sit back, open their ears, read the person's comments and profile, per se Regina Lee, they will see that she significantly states that she cannot entertain our unsolicited submissions. Period. But like so many people in the industry these days - no one takes the time to read and comprehend. They're too busy forming their query pleas and acceptance speeches. Instead of being grateful and lucky enough to have a forum where you can actually exchange kowledge and opinions with current working professionals on both sides of the table. The knowledge Regina and some of you guys provide here is priceless, (well, not really, but you get my gist I hope ;) I didn't know guys you don't even have contact with can private message you like that .. Wow! I'm glad it didn't run you away... On another note - you have to lose your fear, if you ever expect to work in this biz. Copyright is a necessity if you take your work seriously. But its not a "get out-of-jail free card, that some seem to think either. It's one piece of evidence establishing your execution of the idea and completion date. An email also date stamps. A property published on the internet is considered a published work, like e-mags, newsletters, and articles.. In essence, a full paper trail is the best way to protect yourself - but WGA registry or copyright is always a good start. There are ways around the "unsolicited submission", its by proving to the receiver beforehand that you' are not some disillusioned stalker and/or predator, it takes time and relationship building for them to trust you enough to accept your submission. Or one helluva knockout script - then.. all bets are off, imo.

Boomer Murrhee

This thread is more educational than most university courses. At least the ones I attended. Thanks for all the informative discussions. I have learned much from all who posted. Lots of food for thought. I'm gaining a better understanding of why certain practices are in place for legal protection. This IS a complicated web. Thanks especially to Regina, Beth, and CJ. Your comments were most enlightening.

Regina Lee

Thank you, Boomer! You've made a good argument for why academic study should be complemented with "real world" experience, which I appreciate!!

Beth Fox Heisinger

Thanks Boomer! Yes, very much appreciated!

Harold Vandyke

And after all of this discussion, the unfortunately reality remains that the vast majority of screenwriters will never see their stories -- good or bad -- as more than movies in their own heads.

Boomer Murrhee

@Harold, the object I see from this thread is to understand how and why the game is played this way and to find a way to distinguish yourself within that framework. That's the reality of the situation. Your statement is probably true about stories never being told, but as someone said today, I want my tombstone to read: "It wasn't from a lack of effort!" My goal is to continue pressing forward, perfecting my craft, being open to new ideas from feedback and not worrying about things which are out of my control. Researching and learning puts me in a better position to succeed. The more I practice the better I get. Doing the best to make lemonade from what lemons come my way. Good luck! This has been a great discussion. :-)

Shane M Wheeler

I think the problem is, people hear horror stories, probably just because they are the most headline grabbing. -One of the highest paid actors on a Troma film was some random extra who snuck on set, got in a crowd shot, and had an effective lawyer sue the company. -Some 'agencies' will use page after page of legal non-sense to buy a script for nothing OR charge fees to do nothing. Worse, this happens to films people have already made, getting ripped off royally. -I've been privy to more than a few backroom settlements between novelists and Hollywood for stories that are so similar, claiming coincidence seems ludicrous (and yet might be true). Bad actors from both sides make everyone wary. When so much behind closed doors feels occluded and mysterious, just like in horror, the mind fills in the blanks with all sorts of terrors. Writers are the mysterious strangers knocking at your door in the night that you were never expecting. Hollywood is the quintessential devil with contract that always seems too good to be true. I agree with CJ's sentiment about the money barrier. I've had a few pitches I've gotten reads out of, no bites, but I simply can't afford to do every pitch session I want. I just don't have the funds. I've pretty much replaced any fear with pure despair. If someone big enough takes what's mine, there is very little chance I have the resources to fight back. The only thing I can hope for is to be valuable enough that people do not try to destroy me for hopes I am useful in the future.

Harold Vandyke

Boomer, yeah, a little off topic, but the thought popped into my head and is apropos to the overall situation so I typed it out.

Regina Lee

@Peter Corey, if you can't believe me, then it's a moot point for me to engage with you in a debate. All good; post away. I'm going to pass on the opportunity to debate.

Craig D Griffiths

I can not comment on anyone else's experience. But I don't fear theft. If they are going pay a thief, they may as well pay me. There were 50,000 indie and micro budget films in production last year. If 1 in 10 scripts get made, that means 500,000 scripts. With so much choice why steal mine?

Harold Vandyke

Craig, that's my point of view. Why steal a writer's work when one can much more easily work with them instead? Just seems the logical thing to do.

Andrew Martin Smith

Am I missing something? When you look at the conspiracy argument - it simply does not make sense and does not gel with anything I know about film making. Why would any producer READ your screenplay - tell you they had not read it - and then hand it over to another writer? And would that writer be so dumb as to paste it lock, stock and barrel into the screenplay that the production company is pushing ahead with???? The producers and writers will all know that the screenplay will have a footprint that is traceable and which will come back to haunt them when the litigation hits the fan. The problem is - amateur writers who are convinced that their idea is original. Christ, there must be 5000 screenplays out there exploring every facet of cloning - and every one of them will have a writer who is convinced that their story is utterly original - having got the idea out of a science article they stumbled upon at the dentist.

CJ Walley

I was watching an old (and rare) interview with Steve Jobs and he said something that really struck me when it comes to the business side of screenwriting. He was talking about how businesses are run and said the he felt some bosses contract what he described as a disease which caused them to believe that all they need are great ideas. His experience was that the idea, never mind how genius, was the relatively easy part, the real task for the company being the challenge of executing anything remotely similar given the extraordinary number of inevitable complications which stand in the way. Disease is a strong word. But I do feel there is a cultural fallacy when it comes to great ideas being the key to success. It seems we all fall into the trap of thinking, if we'd had some of mankind's greatest ideas first, we'd have been incredibly successful. However the reality is, if we went back in time and tried to recreate the proven success of others, we'd most likely fail in our implementation. Perhaps it's a notion borne out of all the .com boomers of the recent couple of decades. It's always seemed, and perhaps been retold, that Amazon were the first company to think of selling books online, Facebook the first social network, Instagram the first to share pictures as updates. But few of these trailblazers were the first, they were just the best (in terms of being easy to adopt). I think this has all led to many of us believing having a great idea is an incredibly valuable thing and worse still that it's statistically unlikely another human being has drawn the same conclusions as us, maybe even before us. A year after the interview I watched, Steve Jobs was brought back in to run Apple. He took the PC and made it better. He took the mp3 player and made it better. He took phones, laptops, tablets, music downloading, software purchasing and more and just made it better - better than all those people who had the idea first.

Andrew Martin Smith

Exactly - If you are not the master of the story idea - then somebody will come along and do it better.

Regina Lee

Hi Peter, If I'm reading your tone correctly, I sense that you are quite a skeptic of the "business" and the people in it, like myself. If your general POV about the business is pretty skeptical/negative, what motivates you to devote your valuable time to it? I expect that you won't believe me, but I'm actually trying to create a win-win by participating in the Lounge and meeting people I would not have otherwise met. I'm bummed that this thread has moved to quite a negative tone. I know your time is valuable, and I hope you don't feel obligated to explain your POV. You don't owe me any explanation. This was the best way I could think of to comment on the fact that my intention in creating this thread was to foster understanding, not discord, and to try to re-calibrate the tone so it might be more positive. Thank you.

Andrew Martin Smith

Peter - the elephant in the room is why would a studio (not a rogue producer operating on a shoe string) with a decent budget, risk plagiarizing and mining a screenplay - when at the developmental stage they can simply incorporate the writer into the project for peanuts? I would also like to know: - how many cases that are settled out of court - are linked to a writer (without the knowledge of the producers) mining a book for ideas, dialogue - which comes to light much further up the food chain? I started writing 40 years ago and in all that time I have come across many poor producers but not many dishonest producers. But I hate to say it - I have come across an awful lot of bad, bad writers whose dire screenplays clog up the whole system. Writers to - are not without sin. And - brother helps wrongly convicted brother break out of jail - is an original idea? Christ - how many b-budget westerns involved breaking a brother out of jail? Now husband breaks wife out jail is original. That's what you call an original twist.

CJ Walley

The lesson I’ve learned from this is that both sides of the table have a good reason for their fear. On the one side writers are afraid they are too small to fight a production company in the off chance they steal their work, while on the other side industry members are worried that there is never enough contractual protection to stop a writer filing a case against them. It is indeed, just as Regina calls it, a paradox since writers desperately want to be read and industry members desperately want to find great material. So trust needs to built somewhere, and the logical place for that is via profile. Industry members and production companies need come across as reputable while writers need to come across as proficient. I would have no problem submitting work to someone like Regina. Her profile is all there to see on here, LinkedIn, and other sources. That builds a lot of trust on my part. However we have to consider how things look the other way around. Why should industry members trust us on face value? Are we doing enough to present ourselves as well rounded professionals with something worthwhile to offer? Or do we potentially come across as the very kind of writers who will run to our lawyers the second we feel cheated? Let’s keep in mind here that there are writers out there, even on here, who feel their own family members have stolen their material. I once saw a thread on a screenwriting forum where the poster was furious that a studio must have stolen his horror script idea since he posted it online in July and a similar movie came out in Oct. It wasn’t until other writers pointed out a feature release couldn’t be turned around that fast that he backed down. In fact, before long it started to look like he may have been inspired by their previous project announcements. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - there’s too much crazy in this game, and sadly 99% of it resides on the amateur side. So we have to think beyond reaching out to industry members with claims our script is special, that they should just take a look, that our friends really like it, or we should be just given a chance as it inspires pretty much zero confidence the risk is worthwhile. It’s our responsibility to gain and provide a level of validation in our skills and professionalism that assures the right people that we are the exception they are looking for.

Virginia Brucker

Einstein said you can live your life as if everything is a miracle or as if nothing is. I believe people are honourable and good and work in that framework. I believe that trust and openness actually works its way into my scripts, that good karma seeps into the pages. BUT I absolutely understand that the industry must protect itself from people who might engage in energy-draining litigation, and therefore requires waivers.

Fiona Faith Ross

Well said, VB. Let's not forget that the ultimate goal is to make a successful movie. Most players - from writer to production team want that. My view is that a good writer, putting forward a viable script, and with other ideas in mind, is more valuable to a prodcution company than an alienated writer who's had their ideas ripped off.

Rafael Pinero

Wow, this thread is great, learning new things everyday at Stage32

Andrew Martin Smith

Christ Peter - you paint a bleak and hopeless picture of the American film industry. If it's not screenwriters stitching up novelists - it's producers stitching up screenwriters........................ and perched high on this mountain of skulls are lawyers pecking and feasting on anything that can pronounce the word litigation. Which brings us back to Regina Lee's conundrum. All I can say is I have lived in happier times - where projects have been sealed with a handshake and nothing signed for months - and we all still got our cheques. And we all remain good friends. Peter - 40 years ago you could still pitch in a producers office, face to face and then spend 3 weeks hammering out a first draft on a Olivetti. There would always be piles of screenplays on the floor - but as there was no software and internet, the physical process of writing screenplays meant that there were a lot less of them. Which meant that they could be read. Now a days we hear of competitions receiving 7000 entries. Whose kidding who. The system now operates on the same level as marking exam papers. You are in the laps of the gods - and some of those gods may have very glazed eyes. Not that in some cases - it was any different in the past. A friend of mine tells a story of a producer, who used to use his secretary to screen out the hopeless cases that arrived each morning in the post. Every time he flew out - there was a new secretary. One day - bored with waiting - he randomly reached into a slush pile under the desk and plucked out a screenplay, which, half an hour later - he knew immediately he wanted to direct. It all went tits in the end - but the screenplay was optioned and developed. In the end it will always come down to who the gods favour.

John Totten

Not wishing to read through all the numerous and rather lengthy responses to this post (due to time constraints), let me start from the top and add my $.02. The best advice I ever heard was to go for it. Without the willingness to take a chance, a new writer will never get their work seen. It becomes a hobby at that point (and I've already got one of those). Why would a legitimate production company want to steal an idea? It opens them up to expensive and unnecessary litigation. If a writer has a script that can make money, they would never work with that company again, and the company would lose twice. With the internet these days any company who would do that would be immediately black listed. Copyright your script and register it with the WGA. At that point there are two points of reference of ownership if it ever does go to court. An investment in a rubber stamp to stamp every page with your copyright information on it would help. I put copyright and WGA registration numbers on the cover page of my scripts so that it's the first thing everybody sees. Ultimately there are only three basic stories. 1-Man versus man. 2-Man versus himself. 3-Man versus nature. Everything else is just creative interpretation of those basic ideas, just like there are only nine notes in music. Sooner or later someone will have the same idea.

Desi Singh

There was a movie that made a huge industry insider joke of stealing a script and changing a few scenes around and changing the character names and giving it a different title. This movie was called "Get Shorty." There a was a famous news paper columnist by the name of Art Buchwald, who wrote a piece about an African Prince coming to America to find his bride. He made a deal with Paramount Pictures to create two scripts based on his concept, "King for a Day" only to have them then make a movie titled "Coming To America," starring Eddie Murphy, and Arsenio Hall. He was awarded $150,000 in the suit after it was determined that his script had indeed been plagiarized. Moral of this story? Protect yourself, because even the big guys will take advantage of you if they sense you're easy prey! I would say anywhere from 80% to 90% of scripts written are pretty bad, while 10% to 15% of scripts written are good, and maybe the final 5% are absolutely great. Now considering the recent box office numbers of mega budget tent pole studio films being anywhere from $250 million to over a billion dollars, I'd say that's pretty good incentive to have a script picked apart for ideas or just flat out stolen. Does it happen? You betcha! Does it happen often? Probably not. I'm not in a position to say or know. You might ask, "how does it happen?" Who knows? Maybe it starts with a lowly reader trying to break into the business, and representing the work of someone else as their own. Maybe it's a low level executive trying to make a name for themselves that passes the script on to a friend who's a writer and says they'll split the script purchase fee under the table. Who knows? These are certainly within the realm of feasibility. But once again, given the huge box office returns of movies these days, to say there is no incentive to steal a script is a bit naive to say the least. Know that just as in any other industry, there are sharks out there that thrive on the uninformed, and unprotected, and when it comes to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in box office returns at stake, they will gobble you up, if you present yourself as prey food. Protect your work! Get representation with some real juice! Shoot a short version of your script, as a selling tool, to get noticed! Do whatever it takes, except submitting to companies or producers without sending a query first, and being asked to send your script, or without being referred, or just plain being solicited to send your script. Then do your research before sending your script! Know who you're sending it to, and what their history in the business is! This protects you, and them from unnecessary litigation and expenses. So I would say, if you're afraid that your great script will be stolen, then don't put it out there! Just sit on it, and do nothing with it. Or, if you were smart enough to write it small, with few characters, and locations and minimum visual effects, (unless you can do all the VFX yourself) make it yourself and get noticed! As for myself? I'm not afraid of getting my scripts stolen. I copyright everything I write with the Library of Congress' copyright office, and I register everything with the WGAW. I also keep track of whom I submit to, and I submit in a such a way as to create a paper trail, in the unlikely event that my work is plagiarized. And I have never filed a law suite for being plagiarized, in the 23 years I've been writing screenplays. Am I a famous screenwriter? Not by any stretch of the imagination. Am I a good screenwriter? I think so, but then again what writer thinks they stink? Regina has a point, and has put herself out there, giving all of us some much needed advice and sharing her knowledge, for which we should all be grateful and understanding of her submission policy and the reasons for it. If you can afford it, sign up for the pitch sessions, after you've done all that you can to copyright and protect your script/IP.

Harold Vandyke

Great comments, Desi, thanks for posting.

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

Hi Regina. Thanks so much for starting this thread. No-one has yet mentioned the emotional side to this equation. Scripts are our children, and at first we feel totally overprotective of them. Having one of my stories 'stolen' would be heart-breaking. Not as bad as having one of my kids abused, but similar in terms of the type of emotional devastation I would feel. I would really be on the floor crying if I went to see a film and realized half way through it was mine, without a doubt mine. Even though I always copyright my work, I don't think I'd have the heart to sue. I'd just be broken inside. It's a bit off-topic, but there's also the phenomena of synchronicity (I think Carl Jung called it 'mass subconscious'). You know, you're writing the ultimate pirate novel, then Pirates of the Caribbean comes out and you stop because you think you'll never be that good, and it's been done now, so why bother? What's exciting to learn is that studio execs actually love the 'piggy back' phenomena and WANT us to link our ideas to recent box office successes. Now, that's the perspective of someone relatively new to the craft (I've been at this for 3 years now). I've made a friend here on Stage32 who is very experienced, and he's told me how it works in the 'biz': there's only ever ONE (maybe two) names under the credit 'Screenplay By', but the reality is MANY staff writers may have been hired to make adaptations. Most importantly, there are some directors out there who think it packs serious prestige to have THEIR name under that title. So, a swindle might ensue (and the WGA might just not have your back!). It's worrisome to hear these stories, but I believe folks such as yourself when you say studios really, truly, do not want to get caught stealing. It looks bad. I agree with others in this thread that Stage32 is really helping in this entire process (writers finding representation and vice versa). One thing Stage32 might consider to help writers in their paranoia thing is telling us who downloads our screenplays. I want to have my screenplays on my loglines page in the hopes other writers might read it and give me feed-back (or an exec might read it and Buy It!), but I am constantly kind of paranoid the story will be stolen. Knowing who has downloaded my screenplay would really help. In the end, for me, I kind of think it's a confidence thing. At some point, you just have to trust that the universe loves you and your story, and the right people will find it in the right way at the right time. Also, you start to put your story 'out there' when you're really confident it is the best you can make it. That takes time, and that time provides separation from your 'baby'. You can only edit properly if you've put that baby away in a drawer for months, then you take it out and you can look at it objectively, taking out whole scenes & characters if necessary. At that point, the emotional attachment is a little less, and it's time to see if this thing can fly.

Harold Vandyke

I agree, we should be able to see who is looking at our work.

Desi Singh

Yes, that would indeed help with maintaining a paper trail of who has, or had, access to one's script/IP. But on sites like this, and trigger street, that just won't happen. It would open up companies, and producers, to way too many frivolous law suits and unwanted litigation, both warranted and unwarranted. It would basically kill any opportunities that might be legitimately available to those of us who may be seeking a break. Again if we are too afraid to put our work out there, then we'll never get anywhere, unless we produce our scripts ourselves. Here's an example of being willing to take chances. I once got the go ahead to send a superhero script I wrote. titled "Body Count," to Stan Lee's POW productions. I sent the script in as instructed, and hoped for the best. After 6 months of waiting, the script was finally passed on. That was about 7 years ago. The story was about a scientist who develops a serum that allows him to heal instantly at a cellular level from just about any injury. He ends up fighting against his billionaire benefactor who financed his research, when he discovers his benefactor intends to use his research for war. On the night of a major breakthrough, the scientist is told by his fiance that a mutual friend, (another scientist) who has disappeared, has contacted her, and wants to meet with them at a secret hideout in the mountainous desert of southern California. The next day they leave to meet their friend, and the megalomaniacal benefactor runs the scientist over on an abandoned freeway, killing his fiance in the process, and leaving the scientist for dead. But having tested his new serum on himself, the scientist survives, and is found barely alive, by his friend and fellow scientist, Dan. When he awakens, he's surprised to find his friend, Dan, in a wheelchair. Dan tells him that he went underground because he feared for his life from the billionaire, who had tried to have him killed, in order to steal his research, which was a bio-morphic exo-skeletal suit of living muscle, that would give its wearer the strength of a hundred men. The only problem is the suit cripples its user after repeated or extended use, due to the compressive forces the suit exerts upon the wearer. He then tells our hero that he might be the only person who can safely wear the suit, due to his regenerative abilities., and that to let the suit do all the work, because it knows what to do; as in it's a living breathing thing with a consciousness. Our hero takes on the ironic monicker of Road Kill, dons the suit, and goes after the billionaire villain, who ends up creating his own bio-morphic exo-skrletal suit and recreates the cellular regeneration serum, which he uses to start building his own private army of super powered soldiers. Now I wrote this script back in about 2004. Roughly 11 years ago. Flash forward to today; "ANTMAN" is in theaters. The story is about a guy with a powerful suit that nearly killed its creator because of the forces the suit exerts on its wearer. There's a line of dialogue that is exactly the same as in my story, about how dangerous the suit is to the wearer and nearly killed its creator, who gives the suit to the hero, in an effort to stop the main bad guy. The hero is told to let the suit do all of the work. Sound familiar" The main bad guy is a megolamaniacal billionaire, who develops a similar suit, and who wants to use the suit's powers for evil, and wishes to build a personal army of unstoppable soldiers to do his bidding. Do I go out. and file a law suit, based on these similarities? No! Absolutely not! Not unless I could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that major elements of my script were lifted for the Antman movie. Which I doubt I could do in a court of law, without access to the script. Did they have access to my script? Yes most definitely! Through Stan Lee's POW Productions! Do I have a paper trail? Once again, yes, most definitely! But... and this is a big but... I have to concede that there are probably several other stories with the same, or similar, concepts as mine, that may have been written before I wrote my story. Not to mention the fact that the Antman film is based on an established Marvel comic book, with a huge fan base, of which I am one, that spans many years well before I wrote my script. Though I do have to say I don't remember there being a storyline or dialogue in the Antman comics that coincides with the storyline, or dialogue in the movie. Still the story was dissimilar enough (it's about a suit which can make a human shrink to the size of an ant, while giving the wearer super human strength) that I'd have to say I could still make my movie, albeit I'd have to lose that line of dialogue, or be considered by the fans of the movie, as having ripped it off. What should I do? I'll tell you what. I go on with my life, and keep trying! That's what! Why? Because winners never quit, and quitters never win! That's why! And I'm determined to win one of these days!

Regina Lee

Echoing Sarah's comment about "synchronicity" and Vernon who said, "Did they steal it? Hell no." This literally happened to me 4 days ago. Names changed to protect privacy. Producer "Tim" and I are partnered developing a pilot pitch with a mid-level writer of a hit show on NBC. (The writer has staffed on 4 major network shows in the past, so he is indeed a mid-level writer.) Writer pitches Tim, me, and his manager his idea for a key scene in his pilot, describing how the protagonist meets her family member for the first time. Manager says, "Did you watch X pilot on FX?" We say no. "That's exactly how they have their protagonist meet his daughter." Did we try to rip off an FX pilot? No. We're all pros in the system. We know that this type of thing happens every day. We move on. It's everyday work; it's one project out of many on our slates. It's not our "baby," like Sarah describes it. People have very similar ideas. We understand that. We've also been in 1000s of meetings over the years, and we've heard a ton of different/similar ideas. But an amateur might think, "this could never happen, how could someone have an idea that is similar to my idea, something fishy must be at play."

Sarah Gabrielle Baron

What a great story, Desi (your screenplay and your personal journey with it). I would SO watch that movie, and it would blow today's 'Antman' out of the water! It looks like the overwhelming theme in this thread is that writers who are truly writers just can't help themselves. We're constantly making up stories and we'll write 'till the day we die. We do the leg work (hone the craft, make the contacts, learn tricks of the trade) so our stories are one day made into film. Or, we find ways to produce the films ourselves. Personally, I'm going to pretend I never read Vernon's line about H-wood hating 'baby' writers. Everyone's a baby at first. Plus, I know my stories rock. Maybe I have some 'honing' to do, but some day soon Hollywood is gonna love me (and all you other hopefuls too!) Cheers!

Dawn Murrell

Vernon I would like to know what you meant by the "baby writer" blowing it and ending up working at Starbucks? How do new writers "blow it?" Do you mean by being too protective of your work? It almost seems like being a new writer is an insult to Hollywood because in your words Holly wood HATES working with unproven talent. I usually feel that being new to a field brings a fresh passion and a drive that has not been beaten up by the reality of negative experiences yet. I am so glad to learn from seasoned writers on Stage 32 (like you Desi) and I hope I keep my fresh perspective as a new writer. It makes me stay hungry!

Desi Singh

Harold, thanks for the compliment! Vernon, as a marvel comics fan myself, who once had one of the most extensive marvel comics collections, I'm well aware of the basic Ant-Man storyline. I'm also sure you're aware that many of the marvel movies often stray away from the original origin stories. Perhaps as a marvel comics fan, I was subliminally influenced by the superhero tropes of my childhood. Can't say, all I can speak to is the spot on lines of dialogue, which I had written back in 2004, some 11 years ago, and the concept of the compressive forces of the suit being dangerous, which if I remember correctly was not addressed in the comic book. Sarah Gabrielle, thank you so much for the compliment and support. I have made the commitment to make my own movies, and take control of my future. It's not easy but it can be done. Yes as writers, we're all babies in the beginning, and we're all in the same boat and need the support and camaraderie we can only get from other like minded writers. That's why I love Stage 32. It feels like we're a huge family of supportive creatives. I have no doubt I will be buying a ticket to many of your movies in the very near future. Dawn, I think what Vernon means by Hollywood hates new writers, is that when it comes to a studio executive or any of the other countless gate keepers, they are adverse to taking risks. After all, their jobs are on the line with each decision they make. So they stick with the same writers over and over again, and keep making the same movies over and over again, i.e. Spider-man, the Fantastic Four, etc. Their mentality is "hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" "Why reinvent the wheel?" So originality is frowned upon, regardless of the masses of ticket buying movie fans screaming for originality. The only way this policy of CYOA ( cover your own ass), will change is when the movie going audience stops spending their hard earned money on re-makes, re-hashes, and so-called re-imaginings of beat to death story-lines. And unfortunately it doesn't seem like that's going to happen any time soon.

Andrew Martin Smith

Sara, Regina - the synchronicity thing is quite fascinating and maybe could be explored sometime as a post. Obviously if you have got a bunch of writers coming from the same backgrounds, sucking on the same culture - you are going to have stylized dialogue popping up when a certain story scenario triggers it. So as a South London boy writing about south London gangsters - I am going to be tapping into familiar local slang - which other London writers could just as easily draw upon. So - " he was a diamond geezer but he got stitched up like a kipper" may sound unusual and exotic, but anybody of my grandads generation would have used it and any future screenplay writing grandchild would have absorbed it. So if me and another south London writer both wrote separate - god save us - 50's London gangster screenplays, drawing upon beer licked stories we heard from our grandfathers, there is a good chance you are going to see synchronicity. Surely the same thing is going to happen with college dude romps and Marvel influenced storylines?

CJ Walley

Regarding having a traceable means to see who's read your scripts on Stage 32, this is a dangerous system to implement for reasons beyond what Vernon wisely states. If this was the case, any industry member interested in reading a script here will know there's a high statistical chance that writers are going to harass them for feedback after they learn who's read their material.

Desi Singh

Andrew, Sara, Regina, All of you make good points about synchronicity. And yes there is such a thing. All of us are transceivers, transmitting and receiving thought transmission all the time, Because what are thoughts? They're nothing more than electrical impulses, called brain waves. And waves travel. Some of us are better transmitters, than receivers, and vice-versa. But it can't really be called synchronicity when the company, using the so-called synched dialogue, had not just access, but had in it's possession, the script because it requested it 7 years earlier. It can't be called synchronicity when an inventor goes into a company to present his invention, and says, "here is my invention, I call it a ratchet wrench." And the company big wigs say, "Wow, that's very interesting, how does it work?... Oh, I see!... Unfortunately it's not something we're interested in pursuing at this time." Then at some point in time afterwards that company produces a new tool they call a ratchet wrench. That's not synchronicity! That's theft! And by the way, this actually happened to the guy that invented the ratchet wrench! It's not coincidence that you have the same amount of money in your pocket as the guy who was robbed down the street, when it's you that robbed him. That's not synchronicity. It would be if you were some random person that had no contact whatsoever with the guy that was robbed, or the guy who robbed him. That's synchronicity! CJ, you make a very good point! One I had not even considered.

Harold Vandyke

CJ, I see both sides of the argument. And thus things will probably remain as they are -- writers interacting with writers, with comments thrown in by producers, et al. who venture here, but with no true interaction of the type we seek. Hmm, sounds like something I commented on before.

Desi Singh

Peter, you hit the nail right on the head brother!

Andrew Martin Smith

Sorry - guys I don't think Peter has the nail on the head. The example he has given is simply an extreme case of ripoff - which, if discovered ends up in court. Fine - but I don't that is the norm and I am increasing beginning to believe that it is this paranoia amongst amateur writers and their lack of understanding about "synchronicity" - which is increasingly leading them to be shut out of the business. My own producers always have a good half a dozen plates spinning - but none of them are interested in amateur screenplays. You pitch and you outline. I have no intention of repeating my earlier post - but putting aside Jung - it comes down to the simple fact that writers read and suck in huge amounts of creative input - which they then spill out. If you are coming from similar backgrounds and age groups - then an awful lot of that common pop culture is going to start turning up in all of your writing. I read at least one fiction book a week. I have done so for 40 years. I watch at least 3/4 movies a week. So a minimum of 2000 books and probably 6000 odd films. Are you telling me that I am not subconsciously mining that huge data base as I am writing. If you are a bunch of writers - who since you were teens have been sucking on the ample tit of American comic and graphic novels, then you can hardly be surprised if you are turning up with the same ideas and dialogue - when a particular scene triggers RECALL. In my latest project, there is a great climatic twist, which I know I have pinched from somewhere - but I have no idea where. All my mates - think it may have been an old western. Who cares - you are a storyteller and storytellers take each others stories and embellish them. That's what we have been doing since the beginning of time - when we sat around camp fires weaving sagas about burly types with a tendency to kill people. By the time that we have finished with them - the camp psycho has become a legendary lover and folk hero - who we has inevitably been embellished with other storytellers creative ideas.

Desi Singh

Andrew, what you seem to be missing is that when a writer is requested to submit a script, which is eventually passed on, and several years later, those characters, scenes and dialogue end up in a movie associated with that company, it's not coincidence, and has nothing to do with being an amateur or a pro. It would be a coincidence if they had a another script in their possession that was written before or at the same time as the script in question, and the studio/company informed the writer that they were in possession of such script or already working on a project that contained the same characters, scenes and dialogue. As in the example that Regina gave, where the executive stopped them in mid pitch to say there was already something that had been done with the exact same concept and premise. And even then the same concept and premise is not the same as the same characters, scenes and dialogue. The real problem stems from release forms studios/companies have unrepresented writers sign, which are worded strongly in favor of the studios/companies, which basically say that if someone else or someone in their employ comes up with a story, dialogue and characters that are the same as yours, after your submission, you waive the right to sue, and your only recourse will be arbitration. This basically is saying we may quite possibly steal from you. I will be more than happy to share with you such release forms, in case you have not read or used such a form yourself.

Andrew Martin Smith

Desi - I have not submitted a screenplay to an American studio in years - so yes I would be interested in seeing the disclaimer if you have got one handy. andrewsmithbugs@yahoo.co.uk Obviously - every so often to you are going to get a scenario arise where a screenplay is plagiarized - either intentionally (very occasionally one hopes) or I suspect more likely because somebody has screwed up and passed the screenplay onto writers further down the food-chain, who have simply concluded that your screenplay was an earlier part of the development process. But as you have said - somewhere an executive should have stopped your screenplay in its tracks - but they didn't - and there is a paper trail that exists to say that they specifically requested it. What I am confused about is why - when it is so obvious that they were influenced by your screenplay - they simply did not incorporate you into the project with a a writing credit and a token payment? It's very easy to damn producers as monsters feeding on the hapless writers - but that is not my experience over the years. As an aside - if there was a lucrative market for skinning producers who have shamelessly ripped off amateur writers - why is there not an awful lot more lawyers out there hoping to cash in on the bonanza? It is my belief - that producers are more frightened of paranoid amateur writers - than amateur writers need be frightened of producers. That is why we now have gatekeepers - and why the days - that I can happily recall, when young writers could actually meet producers and pitch - are no more.

Andrew Martin Smith

It is indeed the third time Peter that you have admonished me with "thin morals and fat egos" - but alas it's water off a ducks back - because fortunately, I have not come across many such archetype producers over the years. As for spec screenplays - I have not written one in years. I pitch and I outline - but if I was to re-gird my loins and reenact my youth I would indeed have a hard time hearing my voice heard when screenplay competitions routinely attract 5000+ entries. As we are both fond of the classics - I would like to tell you that film making to - quote Socrates - is one of -"co-operation, love, order, discipline and justice" - which- "binds heaven and earth, gods and men". But we both know that would be a tad of an exaggeration. But not complete bollocks - because I may not have made much money over the years but I have had a lot of fun working on film projects with some wonderful creative people. But - sometimes it does all go pants and you come away with a bitter taste in your mouth. Twenty odd years ago I wrote a screenplay that I am still very proud of. You do that every so often. It was optioned and away we went into what is deliciously called development hell. I beavered away on rewrites and then the producer that I was working with was replaced. (I have always wondered if there is a mass grave in the Californian hills where replaced producers have ended up?). The new man was keen, very keen but his new ideas did not gel, we struggled and then it was suggested a new writer come on board. The long and the short of it is - the screenplay accrued so many damn points it ended up going nowhere, which means it is now far to expensive for anybody to pick up. So the project is dead. A complete waste of every bodies time and money. Thin morals and fat egos? - no just bad luck, poor judgement - a classic screw-up. What my parents generation would have called FUBAR.

Harold Vandyke

The business of show business. Show us the money!

Andrew Martin Smith

I am a tad confused Peter. I wouldn't disagree with anything you have said about screenplay competitions - but we seem to going round in a circle. I myself have no interest in ever entering one. But amateur writers, with no access to producers have little choice but to hitch their star to the screenwriting industry - which, as I have said in the past, I believe has very little to do with the film making industry. In denial? Why would I be in denial? Lucky - I can only tell you about my experience in the industry, which on the whole have been positive. You - on the other hand, obviously do not feel the same way. But explain to me - how could any producer or studio deal with the sheer volume of screenplays that they would be inundated with if they had an open door policy? Plus the fact - that a high percentage will not be very good - and many of which would be very similar. Sounds like the stuff of litigation to me - which brings us back to where the post started.

Desi Singh

Hi Vernon, You stated... "So in the end, the path of least resistance for the studios and networks is to work with established pros who have agents and managers and only occasionally, when an amazing talent comes along, work with new unproven and unrepresented writers. Way less risk!" "and only occasionally, when an amazing talent comes along, work with new unproven and unrepresented writers. Way less risk!" This is the catch 22! How in the world will they ever know when an amazing talent comes along, and work with new unproven and unrepresented writers, when the doors are shut to these new unproven writers? Remember as a policy, they do not accept unsolicited scripts! Thus shutting these new amazing talents out of the system. Which is why we, the movie going public, are inundated with remake after remake. Hell, Spider-man is getting its third reboot of the same origin story! We already know his origin story! We already know the origin story of the Fantastic Four! The mentality of the studio executives is if it ain't broke, don't fix it! Play it safe! If it worked once it will work again... and again... and again! They don't care that the public is screaming for new, original stories! And this will never change until the movie going public stop buying tickets to such repeat garbage and refuse to be force fed rehashed crap!

Rafael Pinero

@Vernon, if what you just wrote about the Indy film market is true, then I'm very sad.

Andrew Martin Smith

Peter we will have to beg to differ. Debating with you is like swimming through honey. You have an astonishing ability to spin - counter clock wise to the topic under debate. All that you have high lighted are your interpretation of what I have said. You are the master of the contrary soundbite. Thank God for Vernon's common sense appraisal. Surprise you as it may - my heart bleeds for amateur writers who have the talent to be great storytellers. It was different in the past because there were so fewer of us - and as Vernon has pointed out - there was a thriving Independent sector - which as Vernon has also pointed out, the ticket buying public stopped supporting. Peter - at 60 I write movies about topics that I deem to be important - and the producers I work with all have the same mentality. We make 2 -5 million pound movies - and we weave commercial projects into the mix to try and make money in an industry which it is increasingly becoming difficult to find distributors. The movie - we are focused on at the moment is steeped in the Soweto uprising. So for me it's not all about "chasing the money". "No one likes competition" - Christ Peter, where on earth do you get off. My business is all about co-operation. So my two penneth - is as Vernon has said - write, write, write. Every screenplay you write moves you forward as a writer. And, as an aside, they will also give you a huge resource to tap later on in your writing career. Learn to write against the clock. It was drummed into me by the industry professional that took me under his wing - that it takes 4 weeks to chunk out a first draft. Learn to pitch and learn to outline - and learn to meet deadlines. And polish your beat sheet. When you are in a meeting and people want to move an idea on - it's a very useful to show them a detailed outline - which they will want to add their own ideas and influence. Go with it - never, never become defensive. You never get precious over a screenplay. Discover you local film making groups and offer to write for these people. Suss out exciting young film makers - and pitch and write for them and see what your words look like on the screen. If you are lucky - your short may attract attention - and if it is being appraised by an industry insider - he is just as interested in the writer as he is in the director and cinema-photographer. The director that i am working on with the Soweto film - is a friend who I first met as kid when he was just out of film school and i was just back from Hollywood. And yes - go to Hollywood. Spend a year in the city of angels and pitch and write and make loads of friends with lots of other writers. Share ideas and learn to write as team member. A useful skill. Yes - some of the old routes in to the industry are now closed - but if you are a shiny little gold nugget - and if you are lucky you will get mined. If you want to be a writer, gird your loins for the long haul - and yes write commercial screenplays but also write the stories that touch your soul. You may find that it's that story that touches somebody else's soul. And if you are lucky it's going to be a manager/producer. And for God's same shrug off the doom merchants - whose gloom pervades all that they do.

C. D-Broughton

I'm late to the party, I know, and where I've not read through all the posts, there's something I have to get off my chest, so please excuse me if it's already come up. Writers should absolutely not worry about their ideas being stolen when submitting - because being read is the most important thing for a writer behind selling the work - but I have seen some incredibly ridiculous things in submission release forms. So, where it's fine to accept that a production company may have another project lined up or may purchase in future one that has similar plot, characters, themes, etc., those that may have identical ones are always going to be open to scrutiny, so producers need to drop that word. Also, telling a writer in a submission release form that by signing the form they waive any and all rights to sue for copyright infringement is a big red flag! Massive. Yet, I've seen it time and time again. The final thing is the disclaimer, "We do not accept unsolicited submissions but if you decide to submit to us anyway, we have the right to use any part of or the entire body of all work/s submitted without compensating the writer". Granted, the idea is to deter writers, but with so many people using IMDbPro to find e-mails or being given them on forums, does it work? And do the few companies who have had such asinine statements actually use work they're not paying for? So, no, writers should not be afraid of submitting to people who want to find projects everyone can make money off of, but they should be wary of just what those release forms entail.

Bill Costantini

Nice insights, everybody. An aspiring screenwriter sure can learn a lot from these comments. A few quick thoughts: 1. I disagree with the posit that "studios stopped making mid-budget movies because movie patrons stopped going to those movies." Studios stopped making mid-budget movies because they got more potential bang-for-their-buck from big budget movies. Thank goodness that Francis Ford Coppola makes money from his winery to have the courage to finance his own mid-budget movies. It's a sad day in filmland when John Waters can't get his movies made because nobody is putting money into those mid-budget projects. And ditto for Steven Soderbergh. And many others. :( 2. I disagree with the statement, based on my experiences, that "most producers will fall over themselves for the shot to develop you into a solid professional writer." The 50 or so producers that I've met face-to-face over the years are looking for a potential profitable commodity that meets their current needs. If I was a producer, that's what I'd be looking for, too. Your M.O. may be different, Vernon, and that's very noble of you if that's what you do. Good luck, bro. 3. Most aspiring screenwriters don't understand the hard reality of selling spec scripts, and they should be thoroughly enlightened to the hard economic truths before embarking upon their next project. The truths are this, in my opinion: there are a ton of great writers and great scripts out there; most are not being groomed by anyone; it's a a dog-eat-dog world, and a fickle and ever-changing market place with hundreds (maybe a couple thousand, actually) of buyers; it's called "development hell" for a reason; the marketplace favors the buyer and not the seller because of this imbalance and the overall conditions; and you are competing against professionals with track records who also have a very difficult time in selling their spec scripts. Major studios -and even the mini-studios - rarely buy spec scripts because their film slates are booked solid for two years out. They make mostly movies based on proven marketable commodities, like comic books, novels, remakes and sequels. If you are writing a spec script, be aware of who you are competing against; what the marketplace is calling for; and where your best shot of success is. You are not competing against naive novices - you are competing against seasoned professionals who can probably write circles around you. Become the best writer that you can be, and become as astute as you can be at understanding the marketplace. And you probably already know that's in the low-budget arena - at least I hope you already know that. Respond accordingly, brothers and sisters, and good luck to you all.

Bill Costantini

Vernon, Obviously you're entitled to your opinions, but I doubt you could list on two hands the amount of film producers who "develop" screenwriters, or even work over and over with the same writers, for that matter. I also think the Tim Minear quote is pretty inaccurate, unless he's done a statistical analysis, which he probably hasn't. And I'd imagine his opinion is based on his gut feeling that includes "all writers" - aspiring/unsold writers and professional writers. I'd imagine the percentage of SAG writers who "suck" isn't....ouch...."90%". Peter, Good points, too, but..... .....to both of you...degrees and levels of a quality like "proficiency levels" without a proper statistical analysis (quantifications), and without universally-accepted assumptions and definitions (qualifications) doesn't really create empirical data - it just creates wild-ass guesses; gut opinions; and good bar-room banter. You guys are both all right in my book, though, and I respect your opinions, even if we're not on the same page. At least we're all in the same book.

Harold Vandyke

Nothing like a spirited debate, but guys, can we try to stay friendly and not resort to name calling? Everyone has had different experiences and hence different points of view, but we don't have to attack each other when sharing them.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Well, this has come to some unfortunate exchanges... Mr. Corey and others, please understand that abusive commentary is not appreciated, certainly not name calling or personal attacks. We don't appreciate members antagonizing other members, nor behavior that directly or indirectly interferes with any member's enjoyment and use of Stage 32. However, healthy debate is always welcome. Mr. Corey, we are even more wary of such exchanges than the last time you were active on this site. Please heed your prior warnings and please consider this another one. If you cannot engage in healthy debate then I suggest you refrain from further commentary. Understand offensive remarks may result in your comments being deleted. If you have any questions please look over the site's Terms of Use -- "Stage 32 Community Code of Conduct."

Lynne Logan

How did this discussion go so south? Every profession, and I mean every profession is full of deceitful people. We can't get a way from that. Competition is high in ALL sought after professions. But if we focused on that stuff, we'd all be throwing the towel in. Writers today have more support than ever before in history. Computers, online classes, Stage 32 supports, instant access to research, etc. We have no excuses for not succeeding. Yes, it's a highly competitive field, but everything is competitive. If this is what you want from your life . . . to succeed as a screenwriter (a sale) . . . don't give up! Don't let the negative side of the profession be your guide. Work your craft . . . do your due diligence for protection . . . and carry on. My mantra: "Hollywood is LOOKING for a GREAT STORY" . . . Hollywood WANTS a GREAT STORY" . . . Hollywood is HUNGRY for a GREAT STORY". Without our stories . . . there is NO Hollywood! So . . . Stick with your belief in your talent, goals, and follow the tried and true path of success: Talent, determination, perseverance, hard work, and never, never give up. Oh yes, and write a GREAT STORY. Call me pollyanna, but some things never change.

Lynne Logan

Never any shame in making a conscious decision to leave one goal and go for another. I'm really talking about IF and only IF one decides to stay the course. No guilt, no shame in looking at all options and choices in our life. We need to do this and often. So many times we do need to change our path for so many reasons. Life does indeed get in the way. I'm really talking about allowing ourselves to become defeated because of other peoples negative attitudes about a certain profession.

Harold Vandyke

Stress tends to stifle creativity. And it's true, success does not come to everyone.

Amanda Toney

Hi everyone - just a reminder if you use profanity or harass other members in the lounge, your posts will be deleted with the possibility of your account being suspended. Please remember Stage 32 is a positive community that encourages healthy debate. If you have any questions, please refer to the posting guidelines for the lounge https://www.stage32.com/lounge/list

Beth Fox Heisinger

This thread has gone way off topic. Let's get back to the original post -- about there being a paradox or conundrum. That, "On one side of the fence, new writers want to submit their scripts to "Hollywood" companies. Yet they're afraid that the companies will steal their ideas. On the other side of the fence, "Hollywood" companies want to read capable new writers. But they're afraid of accepting unsolicited submissions because those are the submissions most likely to result in frivolous "you stole my idea" lawsuits." "Do new writers think that "Hollywood" companies/individuals typically don't accept unsolicited submissions because we are close-minded? Or do new writers understand the risk and exposure of accepting unsolicited submissions?" "My hope is to foster some understanding for both sides." ...Anything more to add here? :)

Phil Davey

Im definitely scared competition judges will steal my ideas. Especially those competitions where you need to submit with NO NAME etc...

Regina Lee

Hi Phil, I don't know enough about random contest judges reading in Nebraska, but I do know for reputable contests, they request "no name" so there is no bias when the script is being adjudicated. You don't want gender bias, racial bias, etc. You don't want the judge to Google the writer and see where he lives, what his day job is, where he went to school, etc. Contests typically read scripts "blind" to eliminate biases.

Harold Vandyke

Beth, as you know, straying typically happens on these forums. Keep us in line, girl.

Bill Costantini

Steven, I wouldn't call it the "worst-case scenario" if I could raise the money myself to bankroll a film - I'd call that the "best-case scenario". Just imagine if you actually raised the money yourself for "Hope Saves Manhattan" - you'd be able to walk into any producer's office, say "I have Xmillions of dollars for my movie - let's make it." You'd have no problem getting your project done - and you'd probably have a lot more control over the project, and retain a share of the profits as well. If it wasn't for independent financing, your hero - Woody Allen - wouldn't have made a movie for at least the last 20 years. You should really consider if you have access to the type of capital that you need and the ways to go about raising it. Manhattan has more millionaires than street corners. The easy parts are writing the script; putting together a competent crew and cast; and actually making the movie. The harder parts are properly marketing and distributing it; and raising the capital in the first place. If you can actually raise the capital, you have already accomplished the hardest part. Good luck, bro.

Regina Lee

For what it's worth, I'm teaching a S32 Next Level Class right now. So far, a little less than 15 class participants have turned in their 1st "homework assignments," which includes a logline. Out of approx ONLY 12-13 people, 2 have the same "problem" in their logline, which is solving THE EXACT SAME environmental crisis on Earth and BOTH are going into SPACE to solve it. I must be vague to protect their privacy. So 20% of my class have a similar story. Having the same story idea happens all the time! Grounds to think someone stole your idea? Typically not.

Andrew Martin Smith

Fascinating.

Dawn Murrell

When I think of the "same movie idea" phenomenon I always think of Deep Impact and Armageddon. Those two movies are both disaster movies about a comet hitting the earth and I think they came out at the same time too. Go figure! I preferred Deep Impact myself because I liked the family relationships between people and Morgan Freeman as the president. Robert Duvall and Blair Underwood as the astronauts blowing up the comet was so awesome, plus the title wave scene was so epic. Armageddon, I feel was more about the Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck son and father in law bond they shared. Plus the drilling the hole and blowing up the comet stuff was very manly. Both movies were successful. I think it was just a po-tA-to or po-Tah-to thing. Two good concepts, two good movies. Some like it one way and some like it another. They were different enough to appeal to two audiences. I am so glad that those producers chose to go with making both movies instead of saying "Deep Impact, We already have a comet movie, sorry, we are going to pass." OR worse: "The legal team of the Writer of Armageddon, wants to sue writer of Deep Impact. We think he might have stolen this idea because it is about a comet hitting the earth." Then neither movie may have not come out due to years of litigation and we all would have missed out. I think it comes down to brave producers saying they will take a chance on an idea AND smart writers knowing how to tweak a story to create an idea that doesn't appear to be exactly like another instead of sue at the drop of a similarity. Can't we all just get along? :) BTW Regina, are your students talking to each other in your class? LOL

Harold Vandyke

That's more likely to happen when writers are trying to come up with stories based on current events.

Desi Singh

Dawn- How about this? B.W. (Big Wig), at so and so studio, is in a bidding war with B.W., at so and so studio, for this amazing asteroid disaster script. B.W. loses the bidding war, and sits behind his huge desk in his big chair, chomping on his big cigar, (he's probably over compensating for a lack in genitalia size), fuming at the thought of losing to B.W. at so and so studio, then says, "so what, we'll write our own amazing asteroid script! Get so and so writer on the phone and tell them I have a writing assignment for them! And tell them to hurry it up; we gotta get our disaster movie out there before B.W. at so and so studio does! Oh yeah, and tell them to tweak the story just enough so we can't get sued." You see, B.W has a huge ego, and can't stand losing to B.W. at the other studio. And after all it was an amazing script. B.W. knows because he read it, that's why he was bidding on it in the first place. This happens a lot more than you'd imagine, especially with scripts that have been shopped around! Think the "A-Team" versus "The Losers." Both stories are about outlaw mercenary teams being hunted by the people who employed them. The A-Team though was based on a hit TV series from the 80's. Both films, were released as competing films, much like "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact," and "Space Cowboys" all have similar premises to their competition. OR... how about "Dante's Peak" and "Volcano" which were also released as competing films. See what I mean?

Desi Singh

Remember B.W. said tweak the script just enough to not get sued. So they make the thing headed towards earth a comet instead of an asteroid.

Andrew Martin Smith

And none of the stories examples that you have chosen could ever be described as original cinema. Comet/asteroid, end of the earth novels have been around since before the 50's - and there has never been any shortage of renegade mercenary thrillers. So we have kicked around four examples of the two genres under examination that got made - but how many other similar screenplays were out there that didn't get chosen? What would be fascinating is discovering how those particular screenplays ended up on your big wigs desks?

Regina Lee

I haven't read the entire thread. Further to Andrew's excellent point, this is just an academic example... Sometimes it's not just the concept, but also the credibility of the talent involved. This didn't happen, but imagine if 5 different directors asked Universal Pictures for permission to let them remake KING KONG. The studio passes. Then Peter Jackson, coming off LOTR, comes in and asks the same question. The studio jumps out of their chairs. My point is that 5 different writers could have submitted a cloning script or an animated penguin script or an alien comedy, but it might be one particular writer's track record with the Studio President, his particular take/version of the story, or just the right timing that gets his bought over the 4 others. As Andrew said, other similar scripts might have come across big wigs' desks, and there are many possibly reasons why one got bought and the others didn't.

Harold Vandyke

Ah, the workings of Hollywood. Great comments, people.

Beth Fox Heisinger

@Peter. Regina's just giving another example of people having similar ideas -- which is relevant to this thread. No need to twist this into a pedantic argument.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, of course, she is more than capable -- and the original poster of this thread. Casual commentary/conversation around or related/relevant to a thread topic is okay -- I'm saying that as a moderator. So again, Peter, no need to nitpick or make a side issue with me or anyone else. Please, back to the thread.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Peter, you have an aptitude for spinning things to fit your agenda or your interpretation. If you have an issue with this site or how it is run then please take it up with management. Yes, let's do move forward.

Andrew Martin Smith

Good God Peter you really do enjoy stroking your intellect in public. It is obvious you are a highly intelligent man whose forte is linguistics - but that does not make you right. I want to see examples - of detailed stories expressed in finished screenplays - that made the can? Where are these screenplays - what are these films? Lets get them as downloads and compare. Your argument that the industry is full of people with thin morals and fat egos and is riddled with greed smacks more of old testament and less of the industry and decent people that I work with. As Bill has pointed out in the past - when you get to a certain level in it - it's an industry that doesn't take prisoners and, I would argue that the American film industry deeply flawed by an overwhelming fear/terror of failure - but you would have to be an absolute clown in this day and age of electronic footprints to take somebodies screenplay and simply plagiarize it when there are so many more logical options open to you to gain control of it. I do not want to see magazine articles - I want to see screenplays.

Chanel Ashley

Hello Peter, it's been awhile, I see you still manage to make an impression, lol, you're alright by me, kid, I've enjoyed the entertainment.

Chanel Ashley

You're very kind, Peter, but always good to read your comments, always fun to see a few feathers ruffled, lol, love how people gravitate and warm to you, haha - shall I presume you still haven't seen 1953 Titanic with one of your favourite actresses, Barbara Stanwyck? - no rush, when you find the time, but not only is she excellent in this film, Clifton Webb is superb - you may recall the reason I brought this film to your attention, is the excellent screenplay - it won the Academy Award for best original screenplay, I love that old-style writing re dialogue, absolutely wonderful, cheers, keep up the good work.

Desi Singh

Just thought I'd share this release from the HBO Writer's fellowship, as an example of a release that if you submit your screenplay to, allows this company to basically steal your hard work for a mere $500.00, which is next to nothing. Below is the release for entry to the writing fellowship. I've separated the section that I believe is unfavorable to the writers entering, and is not what I would consider a standard industry release, as I have signed my fair share of releases over the years. As much as I wanted to take a chance with this writers fellowship, I declined due to that one particular clause. TERMS AND CONDITIONS I am submitting to you today an original play or script and a personal essay (the "Materials"). I request that you examine the Materials in connection with reviewing my application to participate in the 2015 HBO Access Writing Fellowship Program (the “Program”). You are under no obligation to review the Materials, but if you do choose to review them, I understand that you are doing so in reliance on this Release and my agreement to its terms and that it is not revocable. I agree that you are under no obligation to compensate me for any Materials (i) that I do not own or control; (ii) in which you have no interest; (iii) that are not novel, unique, or protectible under United States law; (iv) that are in the public domain or publicly known or available prior to the date of the submission by me of such Materials; (iv) that are in your possession or available to you from another source prior to or after the submission by me of the Materials; or (v) that become part of the public domain or publicly known or available by publication or otherwise subsequent to the submission by me of the Materials. I also understand that the Materials may reference ideas, themes, subjects, or issues that are incorporated or dealt with in a project already under consideration, in development, or in production at HBO. In that case, I agree that you are not obligated to compensate me in any way unless you use verbatim, in the final version of the project and in violation of this Release, some or all of the Materials that are owned and controlled by me, and only to the extent the Materials are protectible. I agree that nothing in this Release shall be deemed to create a confidential relationship between you and me or shall place you in a position different from that of a member of the general public with respect to the use of the Materials. If you commence use of the Materials in violation of this Release, and provided that I own the Materials and the Materials are original, novel, protectible and valuable, you agree to pay me as total compensation therefor such sum of money as we may subsequently agree upon in writing. If we have not attempted or are unable to agree upon the sum, and you commence the use of the Materials in violation of this Release, you will pay me, and I will accept as consideration for all rights of every kind in the Materials, the sum of Five Hundred Dollars ($500). If I do not agree that $500 is acceptable compensation for your use of the Materials, I will not submit the Materials hereunder. I acknowledge that I shall suffer no damages in excess of the foregoing from your use of the Materials or by reason of any other claim that I may assert with respect thereto, and in no event shall I be entitled to, nor shall I demand, any other compensation or any legal or equitable remedy, including but not limited to, injunctive relief. I have retained a copy of the Materials, and you need not return the attached materials to me. If I own the Materials and you ask me to develop the Materials, or if you make me an offer to purchase the Materials, and we do not come to an agreement, your making such a request or offer will not be deemed to mean that you thought the Materials were original, protectible, or novel or that you thought I was the first person to submit them to you. If you decide not to accept me for the Program, you do not have to tell me the reasons for your rejection. If I am selected to participate in the Program, the terms of this Release shall also apply to any additional material that I submit during the course of or in connection with the Program. I represent and warrant that I have the right to submit the Materials to you upon the terms and conditions of this Release. I retain all rights to submit the Materials or any similar materials to persons other than you. The words "you" or "your" in this release refer to Home Box Office, Inc. and its officers, agents, employees, affiliated companies, partners, licensees, successors and assigns. This Release is binding on all of my successors, heirs, and assigns. I HAVE READ THIS RELEASE CAREFULLY AND I UNDERSTAND ITS CONTENTS. No representations have been made to me other than those set forth in this Release and this Release states our entire understanding with reference to the Materials. This Release shall be governed and construed under the laws of the State of New York. Should any part of this Release be declared void, the remainder shall remain in full force and effect and at all times this Release shall be construed so as to carry out its intent. I wish you all the best with your writing fellowship, and I truly would like to work with a company of HBO's caliber but I'll, have to pass for now. Thanks for your time and help. Wishing all the best to you and yours, and all the folks at HBO.

Bill Costantini

Desi, That's pretty low and nasty. What's just as nasty is the clause that prohibits the seeking of legal recourse or injunctive relief. And when this program opened back in March, the website even crashed because so many people applied. Aye-yah. Thanks for pointing this out. I hope nobody in the industry tries to defend those horrible clauses. If they do, they are certainly no friend to writers, that's for sure.

Andrew Martin Smith

Not good - I would have expected better from HBO. So what you guys are saying - is that these releases are now being dished out on a regular basis (as standard?) in the American television and film industry to spec writers? Regina - what do you think about this release? Is it the norm? Is it what you would expect to see? Or is it is a bit like the small print of your travel insurance policy - which when you read it you realize that they could probably avoid paying you for most scenarios but they still pay out anyway? In other words - extreme legal butt covering. But as Bill has said - the release has not stopped floods of hopefuls signing up, so how do you challenge the scenario?

Bill Costantini

AMS, On the one hand, though....I could see how people would jump at the chance to get into the HBOAccess Diverse Writers Program. It's a great way to break into the business. Being able to work with an HBO Executive for eight months is basically an internship that is an eye-opening and potentially life-changing experience. The door is now open, and now it's up to that Fellow to be talented enough to get through it, do a great job, and flourish. That's a great oportunity, and even a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I did a full-time advertising internship at NBC for six months (for free while in school) and got offered jobs at three different NBC-owned stations. So I'd probably jump at the HBO Program, too - if I were a young person who fit the "diverse" requirements (which I don't). On the other hand...that $500 clause is still pretty nasty. As a side note, more than a few different producers had told me in the past that sometimes people have to "give away" their first script to break into the business - the key word there being "sometimes". I'd sure hate to give away a potential franchise-script for a little amount of money, and never come up with something that good or write something that good again. I know a guy who did that, and he's been kicking himself ever since. Oh well...business is business, and nobody is forcing a gun up to anyone's head to agree to the terms of that HBO Program. But the $500 clause still stinks, and I hope they re-consider it in the future.

Chanel Ashley

Nicely put, Peter, I hope after all that the film meets expectations, lol, I feel under an element of pressure, but I remain confident Titanic 1953 will have the desired result - again, wonderful acting, love the "olde time" screenwriting, curious to gauge your thoughts upon the said subject matter, cheers.

C. D-Broughton

Desi, Nicely pointed out - it's exactly the kind of thing I was trying to warn writers about in my earlier post but I didn't have any examples at hand. As I said already: every writer wants to get read and should stop worrying about producers stealing their ideas; worry instead about what you're signing, because these documents are legally binding. If you're unsure about something, ask someone to help; if a clause smacks you as being plain wrong, don't sign.

W. Keith Sewell

Desi, I'm totally with you on the release agreements. Some of these 'terms of agreement' leave you with no recourse whatsoever, and from some of the more reputable Prodco's and networks. The one that gets me is; even if they come up with an in-house project sans your submission, with detailed similarities to your script, you agree to waive any legal responsibility. Wow!! I like the way these guys talk, but you got to read the fine print... I heard Amazon's 'release' is pretty damming also, I haven't confirmed that info as of yet, so, just throwing it out there in case anyone has had experiences with them.

Regina Lee

Hi, Andrew Martin Smith, First, I have not had time to read the entire thread. To address Andrew's post, "Regina - what do you think about this release? Is it the norm? Is it what you would expect to see? Or is it is a bit like the small print of your travel insurance policy - which when you read it you realize that they could probably avoid paying you for most scenarios but they still pay out anyway? In other words - extreme legal butt covering." Here's the partial clause from Desi's post: "If we have not attempted or are unable to agree upon the sum, and you commence the use of the Materials in violation of this Release, you will pay me, and I will accept as consideration for all rights of every kind in the Materials, the sum of Five Hundred Dollars ($500). " Please know that my comments are out of context, as I have not read the entire HBO Access release agreement. Here's my gut reaction. Big picture - HBO was preparing to open its doors in an unprecedented way. HBO Access would give HBO unprecedented access to new writers, and vice versa. Consequently, HBO was opening itself to unprecedented legal exposure. (No good deed goes unpunished, right?) It is the duty of the Legal Dept to minimize legal exposure, and that is what they tried to do. Minimizing legal exposure is, as Andrew says, "the norm." Now let's zoom in and look at the clause more closely. "If we have not attempted or are unable to agree upon the sum..." "If we have not attempted" is "cover your ass" language to minimize exposure. If we "are unable to agree upon the sum" - that part I like for all parties involved. That part suggests that HBO will first attempt to make a standard deal (my guess is WGA Minimum + 10% agent fee), and if the writer refuses to accept the minimum standard deal, he has agreed to accept a token payment of $500 so as not to blow up the deal. It's important to note that the agreement does NOT state their standard payment is $500. This partial excerpt states that a different deal will be attempted, and the fallback position (or worst case scenario position) is $500. Zooming out once again. HBO created HBO Access fellowship in the spirit of, well, fellowship. HBO did not have to do that. They have plenty of work to keep their small staff busy in the office, away from their families! If HBO wastes time and money to defend/settle frivolous lawsuits, any good that the fellowship created would have been wiped out. HBO would never repeat the same mistake again. The optics would be bad for all involved. Their public image would suffer. There's no way that HBO created Access to "look bad" and lose subscribers. I believe the spirit of the fellowship is all good and positive. I hope that the release form (the parts we haven't read, and the parts that might not have been spelled out) would provide for a "standard offer" to be made to the writer before the "worst case scenario" deal of $500 is reached.

W. Keith Sewell

I agree with you Regina, that they are trying to establish a link with their development department and new/unproduced writers, especially diverse writers. I applaud them for the effort, and the need to "cover their own azz", but the wording in the agreement can be scary. Thanks for the explanation.

Andrew Martin Smith

Cheers Regina for casting light on this debate - detailed, succinct and much appreciated.

C. D-Broughton

Regina, "My guess..." That kind of sums it up, doesn't it? A "guess" does not hold up in court - only the black and white. True, HBO are putting themselves out there for one or two crackpots to claim their ideas were stolen, but a $500 payment cannot be justified. End of argument. So if a writer wrote something that HBO wanted, the writer got in touch with an agent and said, "Hey, HBO love this," and then the agent shopped it around and found other producers who were willing to pay over the odds, HBO could then turn around, wave the legal papers and say, "No, it's ours and we can have it for only $500." See, this is the thing with the HBO open-script programme: they're willing to do all the hard work to find new writers and great ideas, so I can fully back them morally if the writer were to then get an agent to sell the project elsewhere; however, every single writer entering this is doing it for exposure - to be recognised as talented - and that surely allows the writer the right to use HBO's interest in his/her work as a platform to build on. Personally, I'm old-school (or just not jaded by the business), so if I were to enter this and HBO wanted the project and offered me a reasonable amount, I wouldn't go around chasing other companies for a bigger pay cheque, because I'm still (dumb?) that way and believe in hand-shakes and whatnot. There is, however, nothing in the quoted text that even implies a writer be given a sum relating to the market value (NOTE: very different from a WGA minimum) of the work, only that HBO can have it for $500, which cannot and should not even attempt to be defended.

Desi Singh

Unfortunately the situation here is some of these major companies/studios are of the opinion that it's a buyer's market, knowing that there are always going to be desperate writers trying to get their first break/sale or option. And amongst those desperate writers, the odds are in the studios' favor that they'll find a few gems amongst the lumps of coal. The problem is, if writers don't value themselves and their work, then neither will the companies/studios. The only way to turn things around and make it a sellers market, is for the majority of writers to stick it out, even become filmmakers and make their own films if they have to, and absolutely refuse, (in a nice way; remember never burn bridges). Just politely pass, and leave the door open for the future, for when you are a marketable writer. Until then refuse to sign such hostile releases and contracts. Work hard, write, create and it will happen!

Andrew Martin Smith

Sorry guys - I think you are wrong. You are probably only going to get one chance in this business - so put aside the paranoia, project a bit of trust and go for it - if the opportunity comes your way. If you want to make home movies - that's great, that another business. It's not the film or television industry. Whether it's an Independent or HBO - you need to use your common sense and weigh up the options and if you are a WGA member take advice. But in the end it comes down to trust - or the stark reality of having your great idea festering in the bottom drawer.

Desi Singh

Andrew nobody said anything about making home movies. Those are your unfortunate words. With the democratization of film making through the use of easily available tools and easily accessible assets, you don't have to be relegated to making home movies. Just as an example, perhaps you've heard of a little movie titled "Tangerine?" Shot with an iPhone and picked up for distribution by Magnolia Pictures. This is not a fluke. It's a film with a hook and engaging characters and story. There are many indie filmmakers, these days, making their mark in the film industry, and being approached by agencies and distributors based on self financed and crowd funded/crowd sourced films, going viral on the internet, or creating a buzz at film festivals and film markets. To suggest that those of us here on Stage32 are only capable of making home movies is nonproductive and only serves to discourage, rather than encourage creativity. As the HBO release/contract demonstrates, it is not paranoia, it's an in your face attempt to take advantage of desperate writers. It's about being smart; looking for aggressive/hostile wording in releases and contracts and either negotiate better terms or walk away, unless you don't mind getting screwed. If this was an isolated situation, and studios/companies never tried to take unfair advantage of others, then there would be no need for entertainment lawyers to look over contracts before you sign them. Remember if you don't value your own work, no one else will.

Andrew Martin Smith

I have not said making low budget/zero budget film is unproductive. You have said, that I have said that. In an earlier blog I have made it very clear that where you begin - that's where you cut your teeth. But this whole debate has been about working with the industry professionals - whether Independent or Studio/Companies - and forever with the maxim buyer beware in the back of your mind - if the opportunity arises you go for it. As for your main chance - for many of you it is going to be an Independent who will be going to develop your project with seed money. That involves becoming part of a team and working for peanuts. If that's not where your dreams lie - and for you it has to be a big fat cheque, with duck arse tight paperwork - well walk away - but my own experience over 40 years, is that it is going to be a long wait. Yes - as I have said - get professional advice but don't end up blowing it by being seen to be a paranoid pain. Often projects don't go anywhere but they tend to open new doors and introduce you to new people and if you are seen to be a creative, productive professional (an ideas merchant who can write) then eventually you are going to be involved in projects that get off the ground. Remember - your the one with the screenplay - the other guys are the one's that have to sell your idea and find the money. Sometimes that's a damn sight harder than coming up with a good idea. If you are optioned - and it's a seed money project - then get the paperwork sorted out early on, insist on a point in your contract and then embark on the adventure knowing that at any time it can go tits and even if it is made - it still may not make any money. And, when you start to get credits - and if you are lucky - you may find that's when a producer further up the food chain takes a closer look at what you are doing. Most of you are hobby writers - which means that you understand - you are in for the long haul. Yes - there are dragons out there - but most of the Industry does not exist to take advantage of desperate writers. If that's how you feel then you are going to have to dip into the fruit bowl and find yourself a tangerine.

Desi Singh

@Andrew, "If you want to make home movies - that's great, that another business." These are your words verbatim, copied and pasted here. This is the statement you made, that I was referring to. It's difficult to misconstrue this statement, but if I did I apologize. I respect your opinion, but you keep harping about paranoia, when all I'm saying is read the releases and contracts, and if it doesn't feel right, then get a professional opinion, or just don't sign if you feel you're being taken advantage of. I don't want to argue but please show me where I said, you said, that making low budget to zero budget film was unproductive. This is what I said, copied and pasted. "To suggest that those of us here on Stage32 are only capable of making home movies is nonproductive and only serves to discourage, rather than encourage creativity." In other words, your statement about making home movies, suggests that if we're not willing to jump at the first opportunity that comes along, and sign a hostile, or aggressively worded, release/contract, then we're being paranoid and we'll just make home movies, and let our scripts sit in the bottom of the drawer. That is what I'm saying! And just in case you don't know it, suggesting that a knowledgeable writer, or a new writer is only going to make home movies, because they don't jump at the first opportunity that comes along, is, in my humble opinion, discouraging and nonproductive. By the way, I searched for your IMDb profile, but I couldn't find one for someone with 40 years experience in the movie business. There was an Andrew Martin-Smith but he's only 32 years old. Then there was an Andrew Martin Smith with only a single credit to his name, who directed, co-produced and wrote a video titled, "Prepared to Survive," in 2005 with a budget of $34,000. I can't imagine this would be you either, especially since you didn't mention it in your Stage 32 profile. Not with such little experience anyway. And John Savage, whom I personally know, doesn't have a credit for a film titled "Algiers Murders," on the IMDb. I'm not calling you a liar, but I'm a bit stumped, so help me out on this. Color me curious.

Andrew Martin Smith

Goodness gracious me. I suggest you e-mail your good friend John Savage and ask him if my good friend - the African director Faith Isiakpere directed him in the narcotics thriller Algiers Murders 2012? We will all wait with baited breath when you tell us his response? And sorry - other than the repeated - possibly unfortunate quote - home movies, you appear to have bypassed what I have said. Read the contracts but get in on the low budget Independents - and if necessary take a chance. As for the IMDb - it's input tends to be very much western orientated - and many films outside of America and Europe fail to get picked up unless fed in by the specific producer. The Producer was Firdoze Bulbilia. Moments. And yes - I notice that both Algiers and a new musical that was widely screened in Africa - Cry of Love are not on their IMDb And as for my personal IMDb - Maybe I will put one together when I retire and concentrate on my writing - as more than a hobby. John Savage also makes a guest appearance in Harry's Game 2015 - the first cut of which I am getting to see for the very first time this weekend. As I have stated in these blogs many times - I make my living as a lecturer, whose hobby is writing screenplays. But as a hobbyist - I have certainly had more success - over 40 years - than many in what is a very fickle industry. And Desi - isn't there a video clip and a number of piccies on my profile which feature - John Savage? Any way - we are all now waiting to hear from your good friend - on whether he was in Algiers or not?? Ps - the Director of Photography for Algiers was the Academy Award winning Lance Gower - for Tsotsi.

Desi Singh

Well color me corrected. John appears to be in the movie you said he's in, so no need to ask him the obvious, that would be just plain stupid. By the way I never said John Savage was my GOOD friend, you seem to enjoy trying to twist people's words. Nice try but no cigar! I said I knew John Savage personally, which I do, and I have known him for many years as a matter of fact. As for IMDb, you'd think John Savage, or his agent, would have listed the movies in question on his IMDb profile by now. Usually (and I stress usually, which doesn't mean always) when an actor of his reputation doesn't list a movie they were in, on their IMDb profile, after so long a period, it's because they don't want to be associated with it. Also, I still say that for someone with 40 years experience in the film biz, you should have some sort of credits listed on the IMDb, even as a hobbyist. And if it's only your hobby, then you're not taking screenwriting seriously, which you've already indicated yourself. And only two admitted credits as a writer does not make you an expert on the screenwriting/movie business. Which I must also admit, neither am I. And you "saying read the contracts" is only repeating what I originally said in the first place. Be aware of what you're signing! I never said don't take a chance, just to be wary of hostile language that seeks to usurp your rights for little or no money. As for getting in on the low budget independents? When writers make their own movies themselves, that makes them low budget independents. Understand this, if a company was interested in producing one of my scripts and offered me a reasonable amount of money, i.e. a Writers Guild minimum, or equivalent, and a reasonable deal, for my script, I'd happily accept it, depending on what company or producer I was dealing with. As for companies that want to take advantage? I took a chance once, with a low budget company, and it did absolutely nothing for my career, except give me a bad reputation and reviews as a writer and director, because the movie that was made a terrible POS, that was not the movie I wrote. I wrote a serious sci-fi drama, and agreed to direct it as well, for an extremely small payday. Then the executive producer turned it into complete crap, trying to make it a comedy, by trying to back-seat direct the movie, and doing everything he could to undermine me as a director. He even insisted on using his girlfriend as the female lead, and insisting I shoot the entire movie in a garage, to be used to double as a prison set, even after I actually went out and got a real prison to shoot in for free. Hell we couldn't even shoot higher than four feet off set above the actors' heads, because the ceiling was so low. Some deals may look like your big chance on the surface but they can sometimes serve to only hurt your chance at a career. So yeah you're right about buyer beware! So with that said, let's end this discussion on a mutually civil and respectful note, and agree to agree on some things and disagree on others. I wish you all the best and hope " Harry's Game" is a huge success.

Andrew Martin Smith

Well Desi - we will have to agree we both enjoy twisting each others words. As for the uncalled for dig that the Agent/Actor probably did not want to be associated with Algiers - I notice that John Savage happily worked with the same team on Harry's Game. So it can't have been that bad an experience. AND - am I proud to be a hobbyist screenwriter - with 40 years of experience? - YES I am. I make my money as a lecturer and I make movies with a social message that I want to be associated with. As I have made more money over the years as lecturer - than as a writer on WGGB rates - that makes me a hobbyist screenwriter. As are 95% of the writers on this forum. I have much respected friends who are professional screenwriters - and have made a living - sometimes precariously - by pounding their keyboard. I have not. Only two credits? - Data published by my union indicates that 80% of screenwriters only get one film off the ground - so maybe I am allowed to pontificate and chuck in the occasional word of hard earned experience. As for an IMDb footprint, I'm a writer not an actor. So no I'm not going to have a long list of credits for my acting abilities - which are no existent. In my world there is no footprint unless the screenplay comes to fruition? Nobody gives a toss if you get optioned other than the fact that it's a ray of sunshine on your own personal horizon. And as for stinkers? Good God - I have had 40 years where projects develop, glow briefly, sometimes even fiercely and then vanish up there own backside. Although I have to admit - that although I have worked with well meaning dreamers, I have never had the misfortune to meet your producer or his cousin. Although sometimes a well meaning dreamer can be just as destructive to the psyche as your chap. But as was drummed into me - 40 years ago - you never get precious over a screenplay. What you write - and what ends up on the screen can be a very painful experience for the writer. Nothing for it - but to bite your pillow and find a new partner. The only thing I haven't been dumb enough to do - is to ignore that old wisdom - never put your own money into a project that you writing - unless you can direct it. Although I have been dumb enough to put my own money into my own documentary production company. We made two tarantula spider documentaries before sliding into the abyss. And for total tits up - we had the BBC cancel a project 48 hours before we were about to fly out to Nigeria because their insurance company suddenly pulled out because of a terrorist incident. Your money is up front - people have got to be paid - and now you have got to start scraping back the insurance from a company that has developed small print into a creative art form. And you are further up the creek - when you discover that The Foreign Office has just declared the area - to your insurance companies absolute delight - dangerous to travel. So - as you have said - lets end by shaking hands and wishing each other well in our individual projects. I too hope that Harry's Game is a success - but I am more concerned with a new movie Soweto's Run, which hopefully goes into production in October. Unless, of course - the fates decree otherwise.

W. Keith Sewell

"Soweto's Run" sounds familiar for some reason... imo, If you invest considerable time and money into a venture for profit, and/or future profitability for the past 3 -5 years, but have yet to generate an income. It is still considered a business-for -profit. And not a 'hobby'. Extensive bookkeeping will sometimes be the determining factor by the IRS in such cases... (this is a paraphrasing of some of the qualifications for a business.)

Andrew Martin Smith

This is true W. Keith - and as you have pointed out the only thing that is certain in life is tax. I'm hoping that the second, refrains from harvesting me before I have emptied my story bag. But still - despite kissing goodbye to much of my hard earned dosh to the tax man - it is still a hobby. There was a time, when I was much younger, I was hoping for more - but that was not to be. Hopefully Soweto's Run is familiar because you have read it on my profile.

Desi Singh

Andrew, You're right, getting even one script produced is a huge accomplishment, much less two or even three. I tip my hat to you, and I shouldn't have made light of it. My most humble apologies. I wish you all the best and will keep my fingers crossed that Soweto's Run is a success.

Regina Lee

@C. D-Broughton: ""My guess..." That kind of sums it up, doesn't it? A "guess" does not hold up in court - only the black and white." C.D., to clarify, I can only "guess" because 1) I have not read the entire HBO Access agreement. The poster posted only an excerpt. Therefore, everyone commenting on the excerpt is guessing and interpreting out of context. 2) Even if the poster added the entire agreement, I'm afraid I don't have 1-2 hours to read it and chime in. I was trying to answer Andrew's question since he asked for my opinion. Thank you.

Chanel Ashley

You did good, Regina, re your "My guess…"

Regina Lee

I know these 2 questions were innocent and well-intentioned. Nevertheless, consider these posts, and you'll see another paradox - writers trying to distinguish just how much they are allowed to take from other creators. These posts are further evidence of complexities in how we treat the law, rights, professional courtesy, etc. https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/legal-question-before-I-eve... https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Copyright-issue

C. D-Broughton

I once did a script swap and the crappy writer who read my (art-house) character-based horror, took my core concept (after I explained it to him, because he was so dim-witted) and made a short out of it! I stopped posting on the forum I did the exchange on after that and for a long time I was quite bitter. Yes, it does happen that others can take our best ideas and twist and turn them into something they can legally call their own, but thankfully, that writer was a talentless f**ktard and he'll never get anywhere. That's about the only time you'll see me cuss others on these boards, but, without even reading Regina's links, I wanted to confirm that this does happen and that where writers can draw inspiration from anything, it's never cool to think, "Hey, that's a great idea - how can I make it my own?" Thanks, Regina.

Dawn Murrell

I am so sorry that happened to you C.D. I am so cautious of stealing things I Google every little thing I think of to make sure I am safe. I wrote a screenplay using an updated version of Goldilocks and the three bears and I wanted to make sure it wasn't copyrighted. Turns out that it is by Anonymous and is public domain, however, everybody and their brother wants to do something with it, which means it is not easy to market, even though mine is pretty different than the original. Such is the dilemma: Somebody, somewhere, at some time, probably thought of your idea, in different way or with a different twist. How can you make a completely "original" idea that is either fact/fiction or loosely based on something else without getting screwed, accused of stealing, or ignored? Better to protect your idea and ask for permission if you're not sure, rather than beg for forgiveness in court, right?

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