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Old 09-01-2011, 07:34 PM   #1
Patra
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Exclamation Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Recently one of my fellow screenwriters told me about producers who will re-write your high concept into their own with the help of staff writers. Anybody have any experiences? Copyright may protect you, but it also may not.
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Old 09-01-2011, 08:04 PM   #2
Hilario113
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Well producers don't really have staff writers, so no.
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Old 09-01-2011, 09:51 PM   #3
BattleDolphinZero
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Beware!!!
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Old 09-01-2011, 10:35 PM   #4
wcmartell
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

How do I get a staff writer job in features?

- Bill
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http://www.scriptsecrets.net
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Old 09-01-2011, 10:49 PM   #5
Mac H.
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Your contact sounds like they believed the stories of the lady calls herself 'The Mother of the Matrix' and who is convinced that her high concept for 'The Matrix' was stolen.

The press release was reprinted as 'news' all over the web - before people realised that there was somewhat of a mismatch between reality and ... umm... her perception of reality. If you want an idea as to how her perception is different - she now also claims that James Cameron stole 'Terminator' from her as well. From the same short story that 'The Matrix' was stolen from.


Don't worry about it.

There is a good reason why it doesn't make sense to 'steal' your script: Since you are a new writer you are probably going to accept a very moderate price for the script to break in.

That means that if an evil producer 'stole' the concept by paying an experienced (and so higher priced) writer to re-write the script she would simply be paying more. Much more - because she would have to pay the 'staff writer' whether the script sold or not .. whereas your deal would be an option which would only cost her real money when she took it further.

And why would she do that?

Good luck,

Mac
(PS: In case you still believe the Matrix lady - here is the smoking gun .. the exact sequence in her May 1, 1981 treatment that she believes was stolen to create the Terminator movie:

Quote:
One of the major research and weapon systems development organizations on Earth was headed by a philosopher-scientist, Ikahan. His organization was instrumental in building the Spacestar, a huge vehicle . . . designed for inter-planetary warfare and space travel. . . .

[i]t contained the most secret and highly advanced devices known at that time. The [leaders] commanded Ikahan to use the Spacestar as a vehicle for war against any people who resisted their tyranny. .

. . When all of the preparations were completed, the vessel left the orbiting dock where it had been constructed. . . . These orders clearly stated [that the] rebels on board the Spacestar [engage in interplanetary travel] and destroy . . . the consciousness of God from the population on Earth. .

. . The Spacestar fights many battles with Earth's fleet, pirates, and experiences space storms. Many are wounded, and others die. . . . Eventually, they are forced to land on the planet Sorr, ruled by Queen Johnny, that is completely operated by Machines powered by energy from the "Black Moons". The light from planet Sorr is such that it encompasses everything in darkness . . .

As they stand in the open, the surrounding heavens blaze with fire, lightning, thunderous roars, and other phenomenon. [The director] moves in for a medium close shot of Ikahn who is now standing . . . They are all naked and without shame. Ikahn retired to his quarters for meditation, and received notification from the [leaders] to open his secret orders.

These orders clearly specified . . . that the parties [engage in an] expedition of destruction . . . on Earth [for systematic termination of its future leaders]. [They] descend to Earth . . . [to engage].

Last edited by Mac H. : 09-02-2011 at 03:27 AM.
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Old 09-01-2011, 11:57 PM   #6
tony6pack
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Although you shouldn't be paranoid, I guess that stuff can happen. Anything can happen. Like you say, if you look at what copyright actually protects, what *they* come up with might be slightly different. Then it would become a legal matter should you choose to battle them?

But like Mac H says, if you write a really great script, they'll probably just buy your script rather than spend all that time/ effort writing something new... and avoid any potential lawsuits.

Unless you are dealing with cheap scum bag producers. In which case, you should probably avoid those in the first place.

I got a question. If you only deal with WGA signatory companies, will you still deal with those evil producers? Or just not as many?

Hopefully if your script is really good, you can win a contest/ get representation... and you'll have an agent/manager who can deal with the producers.

Hey Mac H, to have a discussion:

"That means that if an evil producer 'stole' the concept by paying an experienced (and so higher priced) writer to re-write the script she would simply be paying more. Much more - because she would have to pay the 'staff writer' (?) whether the script sold or not .. whereas your deal would be an option which would only cost her real money when she took it further."

I agree with what you are saying to a degree, but what about this angle?

I follow Todd Farmer's blog. It's interesting. I learn a lot from it.

http://wendago.com/

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0267805/

He has 7 writing credits to his name... But I know he has written over 70 scripts.

Now Todd's writing is amazing and he broke away from the evil producer... Sean Cunningham.

I think he learned a great deal writing screenplays from this experience... he was Sean's staff writer.

His words from his blog:

"I had a contract with Sean, several over the years. My deal was that Sean would pay me a thousand bucks every two weeks. IF we got a movie made then I would get a bonus minus the money (plus interest) Sean had paid me. While my deal was for a thousand every two weeks, what he paid me was two thousand a month. Clever. On his part. Do the math. Eventually I got paid the difference but it wasn’t until we were negotiating year 2′s contact. My contract stated that Sean owned everything I wrote."

I know Todd Farmer wrote Halloween 3 with his partner in like 8 days. So in 1 month, I guarantee he can bang out a script by himself.

Now I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet there are lots of these staff writers out there, working for cheap.

Todd basically wrote whatever he was told to.

So, in theory, if you didn't want to sell your script cause you were asking too much.. or even before those discussions come up, technically they could bring in their staff writer for $2k and do the script... and it might be cheaper than paying you for your script even with paying the staff writer the bonus?

If the execution of the idea and story were slightly different, but it was based on your idea you pitched to the company, maybe they could deter a lawsuit.

Another thing - I've heard about writers going in for an assignment, but they are up against 9 other writers... that writer didn't get the job, but parts of their take were used in the final draft...

Just throwing it out there. Hollyweird doesn't play nice sometimes.
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Old 09-02-2011, 12:35 AM   #7
jcgary
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Beware of bullsht bullsht slung by bullshtters.
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Old 09-02-2011, 03:44 AM   #8
Mac H.
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Hey - Todd Farmer!

He was meant to be working on a Queensland horror film - based on (allegedly) Aboriginal Mythology.

That was a bit of a head-scratcher for me - they would be missing out on plenty of production funding by not having an Aussie writer - and the funding agencies would not be keen on the headline 'White Americans make a fortune from Aboriginal Myths' .

It did seem odd when it was even suggested. I think that's just part of not having local knowledge. Similar projects have had the massive hurdle of getting co-operation from the community. A few have been made, though. (Full disclosure - As an Aussie, my pitch for a paid gig based on combining Bunyp mythology & a cool European connection was soundly rejected ... so I'm probably bitter deep down!)

I'd be absolutely staggered if they succeeded in their aim of getting Screen Queensland to put money into the project. There is basically so little upside - the funding bodies have a limited budget that they can put instead into projects which aren't going to give them the inevitable backlash.

The producer seemed to argue that this has a greater chance of being more profitable than dozens of other horror projects because it is original. That is irrelevant - profitability isn't the metric the funding bodies use. Nor is originality.

It seemed like such a painfully miss-aimed approach.

[*** Corrected to add : The producer is an Aussie who works in Hollywood. I guess I just don't understand it. They are going for the 40% offset too. ***]
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To get back on subject - I'm sure lots of terrible things happen. But even in your scenario - he would be having a script written by his internal writer on the exact same subject started the day after the pitch. (If you sue you get discovery - so the exact moment the script was started would be known)

Sure - it could still happen .. but it still wouldn't be cheaper ... he's paid $2,000 to option a script which the newbie might have optioned for $1. The only difference is that the internal writer has effectively given him an indefinite option for $2k - whereas he probably only has a year option for the dollar. Yes - I know that technically he owns the internal script - but if he has a deal where he has to pay the writer a huge chunk of change if it sells it is pretty much a $2k indefinite option .. the end result is pretty much the same.

And if he options the newbie's script for $1 he even gets the newbie to do plenty of 'rewrites' and tweaks without paying an extra cent.

Again - I'm sure terrible things do happen - there are massive risks like being killed in a car accident on the way to the meeting. (Yes - it has happened)

But given a newbie script ... I can't see the financial benefit in stealing it directly (high risk) when they can offer a lousy deal and effectively steal for no risk.


Quote:
Another thing - I've heard about writers going in for an assignment, but they are up against 9 other writers... that writer didn't get the job, but parts of their take were used in the final draft...
... It probably happens. But you can be sure that with 9 other writers parts of your take are GUARANTEED to be also included in parts of other writer's takes. And how could you tell the difference ?

Of course - if your pitch is "My take on 'Die Hard 6' is like 'Being John Malkovitch' ... except with nude, anatomically correct Muppets" ... then you are probably on your own.

Last edited by Mac H. : 09-02-2011 at 05:07 AM.
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Old 09-02-2011, 11:28 AM   #9
Patra
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

"So, in theory, if you didn't want to sell your script cause you were asking too much.. or even before those discussions come up, technically they could bring in their staff writer for $2k and do the script... and it might be cheaper than paying you for your script even with paying the staff writer the bonus?

If the execution of the idea and story were slightly different, but it was based on your idea you pitched to the company, maybe they could deter a lawsuit."

This is what i was looking for....
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Old 09-02-2011, 11:45 AM   #10
Joe Unidos
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Default Re: Beware of Development Interns stealing your ideas

Worrying about this kind of stuff falls somewhere between naively silly and moronically insane.
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