I get this question fairly regularly:
How do I make sure my screenplay idea won’t get stolen?
There are a lot of reasons you shouldn’t worry too much about this and instead concentrate on writing the best script you can write. One of the main ones is:
There are a lot of “great” ideas out there
Of course, this doesn’t apply to you. I know YOUR idea will revolutionize movie making for the next century, and centuries to come.
But for everyone else, let me just say: I hear this a lot. “Eric, I have a great movie idea,” “Eric, how do I protect my screenplay idea?” “Eric, I can’t enter your logline contest because my idea will blow the lid off of Twitter and driving every screenwriter to flock to their keyboards in a race to churn out a guaranteed blockbuster!”
First, I love your enthusiasm! Seriously. And while I think it’s great that you love your idea, it’s important to understand that this is a common thought. As a screenwriting consultant, I hear it quite a bit. As a screenwriter, I have this thought all the time. “This idea is gold! Don’t tell anyone, Eric…they’ll see the gold and take it!”
It’s an understandable concern. And also irrational.
Let’s say I’m a screenwriter or producer. If I’m serious, I’m constantly coming up with movie ideas and have 50+ script ideas of my own jotted down that I solipsistically believe are better than YOUR idea (which may or may not be true). Why would I take your else’s idea and risk being sued, when I have 50+ (better ideas, I say!) of my own to choose from?
I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. There are definitely high-profile cases of producers taking an idea and turning it into a film and then getting sued by a writer.
What I’m saying is that ideas being stolen are rare at best, and at the beginning stage of your career you really can’t worry about that anyway, because…
The execution of your idea that will sell the script and/or land you a writing job
If you write a great script and it happens that a similar movie is in production at the time you’re showing yours around, instead of thinking someone stole your idea, congratulate yourself! You’ve tapped into the zeitgeist!
People may read your screenplay, love it (maybe it’s better than the movie in production) and hire you to write something else. And because someone is making a movie SIMILAR to the one you wrote, they’ll know you have your mind on the “idea pulse.”
I know it’s not called the “idea pulse,” but you get the drift.
So meanwhile, I fully support Blake Snyder‘s view: test out your ideas. Pitch them to your friends; gauge their reaction. Get help from others on how to make them better BEFORE you write your screenplay.
Then WRITE that screenplay. Go on. Get it done.
When you need someone to read it, let me know. I’m here to help.