So over the Labor day weekend I attended Dragoncon in Atlanta, GA. It was a weekend of fun for me, and the 1st ever Con I’ve really been to. The cool part for me was that they also have a film festival element to Dragoncon along with several panels including some fairly prominent folks from the independent film industry in Georgia. I sat in on a couple of panels during the event, including a screenwriting panel and a panel about producing on micro budgets. Obviously this festival was targeting beginning and independent film makers.
First off let me say Georgia and Nebraska are entirely different worlds on the film making front. Georgia has 2 major studios and some of the best film incentives in the country, some things that provide opportunities that we may not have in Nebraska. At one point one of the panelists mentioned being able to get “flats” from a Marvel show if you knew the right people.
Day one of Dragon Con I went to the screenwriting 101 panel featuring several panelists including Ken Feinberg. There was also a noteworthy comedian writer and a couple who have a feature in distribution in the Middle East. This was moderated by up and coming documentary film maker King Williams.
For the most part I found this panel to be fairly uneventful, there were a few questions about writing dialogue, and things around those lines. Someone asked a question about copywriting and protecting your idea and script. This is something I have heard a lot of people talk about and show a ton of concern locally, so I chose to hear what they had to say. Ken Feinberg stepped up and said “No one wants to read your script,” let alone steal your idea. Which seems to go against everything many people believe, but I for myself want to produce my ideas not steal someone else’s vision so this concept made sense to me.
Ken reinforced this concept by telling a story about him getting a chance to have Mel Brooks review his comedy script, there was quite the story behind this, but that is not about my point. Anyways Mel’s attorneys sent Ken a document that pretty much said, “If we produce something similar to this in the future we are not liable.” Ken chose to not sign it and didn’t get his screenplay read by Mel Brooks, and he says that he regrets that decision. It turns out that this is standard practice in Hollywood, and it’s not because they are planning on taking your idea and making it without crediting you, it’s more about the fact that a lot of people have similar ideas, and the studio can’t be held liable if they produce something that may have a shred of your idea in it and have to deal with the liability.
I found it interesting hearing about the lengths that people will go to to get their screenplay read by a specific someone. King Williams talked about having people stop him in the coffee shop and hand him scripts when he used to work for Spike Lee.
I guess I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum, I want to tell everyone I know about the awesome ideas in my head. I also believe that I can do the exact same thing better than anyone else out there, and I hope you would too. I know there will be tons of opinions on this. I would love to hear your story of someone stealing your idea so leave it in the comments below.
by Nathan Rogers