Last week, screenwriter Chad Diez tweeted, “Can’t trust anyone.” Being recently screwed over myself, I reached out to Diez, asking what happened. He fears a script he wrote in 2007, and pitched around town, has been ripped off and produced without him.
This led to the question we all ask, “Is our work safe?”
Coincidentally, another Chad wrote a great piece for Scriptmag.com, "The Truth About Protecting Your Work." Of course, I’m speaking of columnist Chad Gervich. If you want to know all the legalities, it’s a valuable read.
But today, I simply want to discuss if any of you share the same fears.
All the pros tell us it’s amateurish and paranoid to think our ideas, characters, and plots will be lifted. I tend to agree, but every once in a while you hear of a story where theft is in question.
Diez sent a link to just a story from The Bay Citizen, titled "Local Novelist Fights Hollywood, and Faces Long Odds." The novelist alleges his book’s characters and plot were heisted by Sony and turned into the film Premium Rush.
Just writing those words sent chills up my spine.
Where do you draw the line between being naive, paranoid, and just plain stupid?
I don’t have the answers, but I’d welcome hearing what you do to protect yourself. I always register my scripts with WGA. It makes me feel safe … even if it's only a mirage.
However, a script is different than an idea. Ideas aren’t protected.
I see people on Twitter and Facebook, sharing loglines. I even have one Twitter follower who tweets out a new logline every single day. Not me. Not in a million years. I know, I know … it’s the execution of the idea that’s valuable, not the idea itself. But still.
Every time I see a writer sharing a story idea publicly, I wonder what benefit is in it for them to post a logline? I’m not being judgmental here. I sincerely want to know if there is indeed real value for the writer. If so, what is it?
I admit, I worry about people taking my ideas, but I’m not worried about people stealing scripts I have already written and pitched. No one has my writing voice. Period. Let’s take Diablo Cody’s Juno. We’ve all seen teen pregnancy stories before, but none like hers. Why? Because Cody has a talent for dialogue and creative characters. Her writing is what made that story great. You can’t steal that.
Bottom line, in my writing world, I don’t spend my time in fear someone might steal my ideas. I spent my time being productive and pumping those scripts out. My job is to keep writing as many original, interesting, well-written stories as I possibly can – fearlessly.
Maybe that’s the key: writing without fear. Not only will it keep us moving forward toward our goals, but it’ll also make our stories that much more interesting. Imagine never fearing a word you put on the page.
Now that would be some ballsy script … and a writer no one would dare steal from. Just sayin’.
What are your thoughts on script theft? How do you protect yourself? Are you even worried about theft? Help us all out and share your comments below.