Paranoia - paranoia - paranoia



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  • Paranoia - paranoia - paranoia


    I've been lurking at or posting on this board for over a year now, have spent many hours visiting other sites and have come to the conclusion that the level of paranoia amongst new screenwriters is astounding. This is aimed at no poster in particular, it's just an observation that has been reinforced by recent threads (the "I need a Pro..." one being an example).

    We hide behind anonymous monikers, bemoaning the system that is Hollywood, bemoaning the exclusivity of the WGA and how hard it is to get read, how hard it is to get an agent and so on, then we cling to our scripts in terrified anticipation that if we let someone read the thing, they'll love it to death and steal the hell out of it.

    Come on, guys, face facts. 99% of newbie scripts are never going to get bought, never going to get made. And that's not because the script isn't good, not because the writer is a no-talent hack, it's due to various factors (a major one of which IS the Hollywood system and the form of contact-nepotism that pervades the business).

    And that 1% script? The one that is so awesome it knocks anyone who reads it flat? The one that launches a newbie from no-name-brand-land to 'overnight' sensation? Well that happens because the script got read. If no-one reads it, it never gets made. Simple as Pie (Ry-Ry).

    One has more chance of finding a fingernail in a coke bottle (and launching oneself to wealth and prosperity on the back of an over-litigious society) than of someone successfully stealing one's completed script. If the script is so good that it's worth stealing, it'll be a helluva lot cheaper and quicker to purchase it from a newbie than to steal it. [Ideas, on the other hand, are much more easily stolen and that's why one should think seriously before posting loglines of high-concept ideas.]

    Before I get lambasted, let me acknowledge that theft does occur (yes Kosk I know about Jingle all the Way - so does the court and the jury who awarded the damages) and because it does, we should all take necessary precautions such as registering the script, keeping a complete paper trail etc. But let's not be so paranoid that we question everyone's intent.

    Life is about risk. Screenwriting more so. So if a pro offers to read your script, you clutch that life line like there's no tomorrow. You accept any reasonable condition (and what constitutes reasonable, I suppose, is dependent on the individual) and you take a chance. Because while there's an extremely remote chance that he might steal the idea, there's a better chance that if he thinks it's worth stealing, he'll think it's worth buying or lauding or supporting. And if that happens, this potential pilferer might be the first contact that one has in the Hollywood hierarchy, and that my friends, is gold.

  • #2
    i don't disagree with much of what you say -- it's a positive attitude. but allow me to offer the flipside of the coin:

    most newbie scripts never get sold because, simply, they're shitty. that's a plain, simple fact. and all that other stuff about hollywood and the chain of command and the protocol and all that stuff, is true. but it's not the number one reason a newbie won't get sold. the newbie doesn't get sold, because the newbie isn't a good writer -- yet.

    the other factor is -- you spend x amount of time writing that script. let's assume it's not 3.5 weeks. let's say...6 months to a year. which is reasonable for an early writer with all the polishing required. it's understandable (and maybe not unreasonable) for them to feel very protective over their work. after all, not all of us came into the biz with managers and/or agents to take care of us and protect us. most of us are like that single sperm trying to get into that egg. it's a savage wilderness.

    and of course, the horror stories. check out the storybay thread in the business section of the forum. and the general fear that new writers are easy targets. all these combine to create quite a strong and perhaps sometimes necessary sense of paranoia.

    of course if you grow that paranoid, you're going to hold on to that script and no one's going to read it, and that's ultimately worse. but i think you just have to be intelligent and intuitive enough, and hopefully have some sort of support system you can trust, to take that chance. and if you're's the survival of the fittest, in some regards. maybe getting burnt might be the best thing that happened to you, business-wise.

    you know what they say about fooling you twice. shame on you.


    • #3

      Paranoia can come from something else not mentioned above; other writers.

      While I'm sure studios and production companies would be far more likely to purchase a script than to make a version on the sly, writers by their very nature are always on the lookout for interesting stuff. We listen to people talking, we watch movies similar to the ones we're writing, we read news papers with a keen eye, save funny quotes from IRC etc etc. Continually absorbing the world around us for those cool little nuggets that can spice up a story.

      So the paranoia that i have more than the other mentioned (but probably just as silly) is that 'readers' will get cool ideas from reading my scripts and use them in their own work. I'm sure most (all?) of them are writers too, and they'd almost certainly be comparing each script they read with their own work (in the back of their mind). It'd be hard not too.



      • #4
        Re: paranoia

        I have to agree with SM. Having read AmerZeotrope & Greenlight scripts, most of what's written belongs next to the crapper.

        I get most of my ideas from produced films. I started writing screenplays because I'd see a film and say, "I can write a story like that."

        My first script was from "The Verdict."
        My second was inspired by "The Sixth Sense."

        I have 10+ ideas outlined and most were inspired by films I've seen. None inspired by scripts I've read... yet. mu-hahaha

        So, you're right about other writers grabbing ideas. If you're worried about another writer taking your idea and writer a better script your concern should pointed to improving your own talent.


        • #5
          Any thread with that title is hitting too close to home. Just kidding. I love it.

          Anyhow, I think your point is ESPECIALLY valid in light of the "I need a Pro..." thread as it relates to someone being worried that his/her work is going to get ripped off, considering that Jeff Schechter is/was not hiding under an anonymous moniker and it takes just a minute amount of research to find out who he is. Jeez, just a TINY bit of legwork will tell you that he's not some low-life on the fringes of Hollywood, but a PRODUCED WRITER. A @#%$ PRODUCED WRITER for God's sake. Oh, sorry. I got a little carried away there. But my point is, he is known, he is in the public eye and he couldn't afford to rip someone off and would have no reason to do so in the first place.

          Squirrel Bait


          • #6
            Writers stealing other writers' ideas?

            Of course it happens, but isn't there a code of honor somewhere? I like to believe so. Personally, I would never get caught dead with someone else's material, not because I'm scared I could get caught, but because I like to come up with my very own damn stuff, thank you very much. Being derivative sure ain't my thing. I know you can't reinvent the wheel and getting inspired from produced work (observing what works and what doesn't work) is a part of the process. I will also eavesdrop on morons-obviously-without-any-literary-aspirations-whatsoever at the mall, no problem. But ripping off other writers?

            Whenever I collaborate with another writer, it's exactly to do that: collaborate. I like helping fellow writers cause I get precious help in return and I learn from seeing how their method differs from mine. Not cause I want to suck the life out of them.

            But that's just me.



            • #7
              Squirrel Bait:

              Thanks for the nice words of support.

              I think Bob Kosberg addresses the whole getting ripped off thing nicely on his website. Check out and in the contents frame on the left-hand side click on "Rip Off?"

              JEFF SCHECHTER


              • #8
                Wannabe's Post

                Well said. What you posted and how you presented it was pretty accurate.


                • #9
                  code of honour? amongst writers?

                  considering this is the one thing that any tom, dick or harry could decide to delve into -- it runs the gamut from grocery baggers and blockbuster employees all the way to your lawyers and doctors -- i wouldn't count on any code of honour. you're going to meet the people who want to screenwrite because it was what they were born to do, but you'll also meet the people who just want to be able to SAY they're screenwriters, and not much else.

                  we've seen both kinds here on the boards. including a potentially rather nasty incident, caused by a submission by a poster who's disappeared now. you have to figure out whom you can trust.


                  • #10
                    I forgot to mention that I agree with Wannabe's post.

                    I realize I went off on a tangent in my previous post and that I should have been more specific: I was addressing the issue of trusting writers as a whole, not specifically posting scenes on the internet. I agree that posting anything on the internet is a risky thing to do. But some people are scared to show their material to anyone at all, so I'm not talking either about trusting just about anyone who call themselves "screenwriters". Indeed, you do have to figure out who to trust (and it's better to take time figuring it out who's trustworthy than not be willing to trust at all).

                    I have no problem with giving a grocer with talent the chance to become a screenwriter, but on the other hand, I wish that hack wannabes would stop cluttering the channels. All hacks do not necessarily steal. But anyone who would need to heavily borrow from others in order to write, in my book, should not be considered writers and can only get so far in doing so (at least 99% of them). If those bozos give the profession a bad name and make some talented writers hide in a corner clutching their material (when they could benefit from other people's help), then that very much bothers me.

                    And yes, I'm not talking b.s. Klingon honor, but I do believe real writers should have a basic respect for their colleagues and their art. Business or not.

                    Done being cranky



                    • #11
                      you mean you were cranky?

                      well i didn't mean to imply that your background or career had anything to do with whether you'd steal or not. so maybe that wasn't the best way to make my point. all i was saying was that you get all kinds. and some feel less inclined than others to act or behave honourably at all. some people you can trust, some you just can't.

                      not unlike most situations anyway. plus if you really are a good writer, and you have an excellent script that's been well-written, well-polished and is in tip-top, it's unlikely that someone who stole the idea could pull it off as well as you. unless they were a better writer, or as good, and if that's the case, they probably have their own work to show.


                      • #12
                        In all seriousness, I would like to put in ma two sense. I've posted about five loglines and synopsis on Yeah, I was paranoid the first time or two, especially after some producer downloaded the synopsis to read it, and I never heard from them. But, hey, what can you do? We write da movies dat we want peoples to see, right? In order to do dat, we gotta just bite our bullits and put em out there. Of course, PLEASE and ALWAYS check out who you are dealing with.
                        Ma first (an only so far) option was wid a prod co who are really small, but the guy is really trying. To look at their website, you would go running, and when dey told me dey wanted to read my script, I was scared. But I did it, and you know what, I'm glad I did. If'n they had stole my script, then OUCH! for me, but I'll jess write anudder one, jess as good.
                        Ok, two sense over. Tanks for the talking stick!


                        • #13
                          Dol, while you have the cutest swishing tail on the board, some things need a response:

                          "Too paranoid? Nah, no such thing."
                          Actually, there is, and it often leads to more worries and ulcers than it's worth.

                          "Yes, risks must be taken, but before one does so, one simply makes sure that they cover their ass (as was suggested above)... in more ways than one."

                          "I don't see what the hell we care if others are or aren't "paranoid". Worry about your own stuff, and let others do the same."
                          I'm a professional writer (not in the US, but I make a living from writing) and it's something I've seen all over - newbies being too scared to let their babies breath. I thought Done Deal was for airing one's questions and thoughts. That's what I did. Excuse me if I was wrong.


                          • #14
                            You brought up an interesting point and you shouldn't be apologizing. I'm one of the paranoid, and I'll tell you why. I'm in that 1% with a hugh high concept script that got an agent immediately, has yet to be rejected. And I'm paranoid to post anything else because my agent asked me to let him read everything first and he has no time to read anything. So I have no clue what needs to be fixed, if the next three are as good, if I need to stick to one genre, or if I have amazing talent or incredible luck, or an ignorant agent. Just kidding on the last.

                            I think every agent with a newbie writer wants the high concept script, and not the writer. I'm not a 20-something male, and will only have a future in specs because of the very things that aren't supposed to be important in hiring, ie. age, sex, location. I know I have one fabulous script. I have no idea how it got to be fabulous. I know no screenwriters, I live in Timbuktu, well, not quite, and the only way I'll get feedback is to pay for it, or post it. I can't do either. And because I write only high concept, so far, I can't even share what it's about. It's frustrating when all I want to do is learn how to be better. So I just read other posters, learn from others' mistakes, and hope I hear something soon. You're right, I'm one of the paranoid. This thread helped me a lot. Thanks.


                            • #15
                              Wannabe, you darling you, I wasn't attacking you or anyone else. No worries! I'm just gonna take my own advice and worry 'bout me, and hope everyone else finds what works best for them.