Thursday, September 28, 2006

Ideas? Oh Dear!

Will everyone stop stealing my ideas....Please?

How many truly original ideas are there in the world? Not many, which makes it even more annoying when someone comes up with an idea that you thought was original a few weeks before. It's happened a lot to me in the last few months and it's driving me potty. Here are some examples.

First of all there was my idea for a three part drama that suddenly turned up in documentary form in the cinemas. I won't go into details on this one because it's still workable..... Just!

Then FX go and announce Brotherhood starring Jason Isaacs, about two brothers, one a crook, one a cop, fighting for control of their neighborhood. I had just such an idea half way through the treatment stage. That one's in the bin then. Bum!

Then came a fantastic idea about a new way to approach writing for TV. Having thought about it for six months, but not being able to put it into action, I was quite miffed when Danny Stack mentioned he and James Moran were going to do something similar. Again I can't mention what it is because their idea is top secret and I don't want James coming around my house with his axe and chopping my fingers off. I need them to type. Besides, I want in on the idea, after all I thought of it first. Not that they will believe me. Thieving gits!

I've come to the conclusion that original ideas are like buses; you wait ages for one to come along and two or three turn up at once. The question is, how quick can you turn your idea around? Don't sit on your idea until someone else thinks of it too, get it down on paper.

PS. This is my 37th post, the same number as the candles on my birthday cake last April. Woo Hoo!

PPS. Danny and James, you haven't really stolen my idea, I was just joking ;-)

Thursday, September 21, 2006


The Dennis Potter Screenwriting Award.

"Annual award established in 1995 in memory of the late television playwright to 'nurture and encourage the work of new writers of talent and personal vision'. Submissions should be made through a BBC TV drama producer or an independent production company."

Hurrah, another competition for new writers.... that was what I thought until I read the last line.

2006 winner: Russell T. Davies

What the f%&k? Since when is Russell T. Davies a new writer?

Does anyone else think this award is nonsense, or is it just me?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Contest Semi-Finalists

The semi-finalists have been announced and are as follows:

Jason Butler, Dublin, Ireland - TON OF MONEY
Stinson Carter, Los Angeles, CA - ANANIAS
Tom Cosgrove, Dublin, Ireland - THE SEA DEVILS
Steven Davidson, Logan, UT - BADLAND
James Duff, New York, NY - MOROCCO
David Eskin, Vienna, VA - THE WALK
Rick Fonte, Austin, TX - HER FORTUNE
Jen Frankel, Toronto, ONT Canada - MINNIE FINSTER
Jason Ginsburg, Valley Village, CA - THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS
David Haynes, Santa Monica, CA - BAD THINGS PEOPLE DO
Kellen Hertz, New York, NY - MASQUE
Ken Klein, Portland, OR - IMPACTS AND REMAINS
Yehudi Mercado, Austin, TX - BUFFALO SPEEDWAY
Bret Ootes, Toronto, ONT Canada - ATOMIC EYE
Jill Parker, London, UK - LOVE IN THE TIME OF BOLERO
Jon Preece, Newport, UK - ELVIS WALKS HOME
Richard Redlo, Albany, NY - THE OTHER TEAM
Greg Shea, North Andover, MA - HEARTBREAK HILL
Ian Taylor, Lilling York, UK - STREET MAGIC
Nizar Wattad, Los Angeles, CA - AGENCY

Well done to Jill Parker, Jon Preece and Ian Taylor for keeping the British end up. Good luck for the final.

You will have noticed that Sins of The Father wasn't one of the scripts mentioned. Never mind, there is always next year.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Being Professional Part 2

Copyright matters, but only to new writers it seems. New writers go to great lengths to copyright their scripts, using the circled C symbol, their name and the year, and making sure there is one on every page of their script. Even I have been guilty of this until recently. So why, as new writers, are we so paranoid about our working being stolen? The answer is simple; we're being unprofessional.

I can't remember where I read it, or who wrote it, but I once read an article about copyright, in which the author pointed out that the only people to make any money from infringement of copyright were lawyers. Can you think of any case where someone successfully sued for copyright infringement, because I can't?

It makes sense to assume that the large majority of producers, or production companies, would never dream of trying to steal a writer's idea, because if they were found out their reputation would be in tatters, and no one would want to work with them in the future. So why send out scripts covered in the copyright symbol? Copies of Hollywood scripts I've read are surprisingly copyright free. Besides, copyright infringement is near on impossible to prove legally.

I've also learnt that you can't copyright an idea, because let's face it with the millions of writers and film makers out there two people are bound to stumble on the same idea independently. Let's take Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Tombstone for instance. Two Hollywood films released at around the same time, both of which had rival productions; Robin Hood and Wyatt Earp. You didn't hear them scream 'Copyright Infringement'.

There are two ways you can protect your ideas as a writer. The first is the most simple; don't tell anyone about, or show them, your idea. The second is to write down your idea in as much detail as possible, that way if someone does copy your idea you have safeguarded your version of it. Once it's written down in detail it becomes your intellectual copyright. You don't need the copyright symbol to tell everyone that.

To safeguard your finished script there are several options. The first is to register it with the Writer's Guild of America for which you have to pay. There are also British companies offering this service, but again you have to pay and to be honest they are only taking advantage of new writers' paranoia. The best and cheapest way to protect your script is to post a hard copy to yourself, and don't open it when it arrives.

Otherwise stop worrying about copyright. Seriously, remove the copyright symbols from every page of your script (leave one on the title page if you're really that paranoid). Producers will only think you're unprofessional if you leave them there when you send out your scripts. They think like this; Copyright symbols on every page = New Writer = Crap Script = Bin.