I be a good righter.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Steal this blog.

You're sitting there. You've just typed, "END OF SHOW." You're stoked that you've got this amazingly incredible spec of an existing show. It's unique, it's in your voice. So, you've dotted the t's and crossed the i's. It's in a file marked "completed." What, you don't do that? Okay, well, whatever you do, you've finished the bugger. All those months (weeks? years?) of toil and trouble, done. Finito. Fin.


A friend reads a blurb in TV guide about next week's shows. She happens on a blurb about the show that you've specced. Or, maybe you forgot to blip through the commercials and you see an ad for next week's episode. The blurb, or the ad, or whatever you've seen/heard about an upcoming episode, sounds exactly like your fucking spec.

Fuckity fuck fuck.

How do we avoid this horrible occurence? Did they steal our brilliant ideas? They must have, because we're unique! We've got a different POV! Yet, it happens. And, it's not thievery. Unless you're like my mom, who thinks that once you've put your idea out into the ether, it's a free-for-all for all writers. Up there for anyone to grab... right? Uh, no. I believe it's one of three things:

A. Following the storylines too closely.
This happened with my Alias spec, which happened to be exactly the same as their Season 2 premiere -- they did it way better.

B. Coincidence.
You could make the argument that this isn't coincidence, that it's "C." This is what happened with my Angel spec -- I did a spec about vampires using drugs... they did an episode about vampires using drugs -- they did it way better.

C. A logical story to be told in this world.
With my Without A Trace spec I wondered, "Where's the hardest place where one could go missing?" My answer: "Prison." Q: "Who would be the scariest person to go missing from prison?" A: "A skinhead." -- apparently they asked the exact same questions when they did an ep about a skinhead going missing from prison...

When it happened to my Alias and Angel specs, I just put those scripts into a "defunct" folder, and started anew. Thing is, when it happened with my Without A Trace spec, that just happened to be the spec that got me into the Disney Fellowship, so I couldn't really put it in the "defunct" folder. But I couldn't, in good conscience send it out... or, could I? A year later, it would be a semi-finalist in the CBS program. So, it was definitely still a viable sample.

When I began the agent dance, I always told prospective agents that this was the script that got me into Disney. I told them that the idea'd been done. I ended up hip-pocketed by a great guy. Ultimately, I left him, because I hate the idea of "hip-pocket." But, that's another post. A year later, unstaffed, I started the agent search again. I told agents about the Without A Trace, as usual, but I also had some new stuff. Ultimately, it was the new stuff that landed me my current agent. But, that Without A Trace was fine for about a year.

A friend called me last week, she saw an episode of the show I specced that will be airing in a few weeks. Apparently, they'll be doing my idea. Sort of. It's similar, but not exact. I figure, depending on how close it truly is, I'll have about a year with this spec and then it'll end up in the "defunct" pile.

All I know is that when they do your idea, it's the suckiest and greatest feeling in the world. Sucky, because your script really has a limited shelf life now. Great, because you get to see what it would be like to have your ideas on screen...

And, if they do your idea, 9.99 times out of ten, they aren't stealing it. In fact, there's only been one time that I thought a show might have stolen an idea (not mine, a girl who was in a class with me) -- long story. But, due to circumstances and timing, and the teacher and his network of friends... well, I really thought she had a case...

In the end, none of this matters, because you have your portfolio, chock full of spec scripts and pilots and screenplays and tigers and bears oh my! And, if you don't, you need to get writing...


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