View Full Version : When someone else sells a screenplay just like yours

11-29-2004, 07:41 PM
A recent poster announced the sale of his screenplay which is something we should all be happy for and I would be if it didn't sound so much like mine. If I was a less sane man, I would feel a little paranoid. Have any of you been where I am now? In a dark place with way too many sharp objects lying around?

Pen Dragon
11-29-2004, 08:45 PM
The number 1 downer for a writer. It's common. It's happened to me and about 20 others here I know off hand. Don't kill yourself or anything if/when it happens.

11-29-2004, 09:20 PM
Congratulations on having a commercially viable idea. What can you learn from this experience to help you with your next screenplay? Was yours done? If not, could it have been done sooner? If it was, could you have marketed it more aggressively?

Carlton Redford
11-30-2004, 11:15 AM

Let me offer a different take on the matter -- don't give up at all on your script. A lot depends on who's attached to the putatively similar script, where it's been set up, and how identical it actually is.

Assuming you don't have an agent or manager, hit a tracking board with a search capability (moviebytes.com or several others with modest six month subscription fees). Find out all you can about who bought the script, the story, who's attached if anyone, etc.

Yours may be more different than you think, and in fact, equally or more appealing to another prodco. There are always similarly-premised projects in development around town. Always have been and always will be.

Start cold-calling managers and smaller agencies. The ones you want will already know about the other script, will know that yours is obviously commercial, and several, knowing the needs of certain actors and prodcos, may well want to take yours out. That's one way the situation of competing projects arises all the time.

You've no doubt worked hard on yours and you have nothing to lose by staying positive and aggressively pitching it. In the worst case, you can re-think the protag's gender, age, ethnicity, locale, time period, etc.

I don't think there's an ethical issue either with these cases. The other writer is already set and you certainly didn't copy his/her idea.

-- Carlton

11-30-2004, 03:01 PM
That's an interesting take on the situation, Carlton. Are you suggesting that Gumsandles approach the same people who are working on the first one? Or is the tracking information to find out who to avoid?

Carlton Redford
11-30-2004, 05:20 PM

Clearly my post concerned "Gum," or others in a similar situation, getting their own script ultimately (via reps or otherwise) into the hands of prodcos *other* than the one who bought an ostensibly similarly-premised one and I think I indicated a number of sound reasons for doing so.

The tracking research gives you a clearer view of the weight you should accord to any script sale, the script's specific nature, and a vague estimation of its chances of actually being produced. You need this info to be able to anticipate the marketplace view of those you'll be pitching to.

There are countless examples of scripts probably far more identical than Gum's and the sale that's depressing him. A fairly recent notable case was the three Frida scripts at different places simultaneously. United was set to go with one starring J-Lo. Someone pitched a different one to Harvey and Mark Gill at Miramax with Salma attached. Do you think they gave a damn about the one at United? They liked the script and Salma's passion about the project, and probably estimated that Jennifer would walk anyway, which she eventually did.

Somewhere between one-in-ten to one-in-twenty purchased scripts ever get made. Often owing to who, above the line, gets or stays attached.

So, stay positive and realize good scripts or even concepts can be kept in the fray. Ford was right: "If you think you can or you think you can't -- you're right."

-- Carlton

11-30-2004, 09:24 PM
Good posts, Carl.

A producer friend of mine was just talking about a movie concept that resulted in four different scripts and four different movies. Obviously the scuttlebutt didn't stop each film from getting made. It was survival of the fittest.

And I'll add that it's worth extracting the most vivid and original portions of your story and maybe placing them in a new premise or setting. As long as you're honest, it can work.

Carlton Redford
12-01-2004, 10:03 AM
Exactly, Roscoe. That's what I was driving at when I suggested to Gum that in the worst case, you can re-think the protag's gender, age, ethnicity, locale, time period, etc.

But importantly, first make a very aggressive push to market your seemingly similar script. You've got little to lose and may even capitalize on the buzz surrounding the initial news of the earlier script sale. If your marketing efforts aren't productive, then that's the time to re-tool yours into a new product and make the rounds again. Persistence is one virtue that's universally admired in the entertainment industry.

These boards serve a wide variety of helpful functions and certainly a vital one is offering experience-based advice and support when a fellow writer feels blindsided or understandably bewildered. Not a happy time, and a little positive and productive nudge gets you back on course fighting the odds with all your faculties at full strength.

And the effect of your good intentions ripple out to others who have been there, or will be someday.

-- Carlton