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  • …But I Thought Of It First!

    April 16th, 2012

    By Danny Manus

    There are no original ideas in Hollywood. How many times have you heard or said that?

    And generally, it’s kinda true.

    Case in point – the newly announced thriller project “The Tomb” starring Schwarzenegger and Stallone about a man who is imprisoned in the very prison he created and must seek help from a guard to escape – is pretty close in basic concept to the project I was hired to write a few months ago, which was registered and copyrighted and all that good stuff.

    Did this make me think twice? Maybe.
    Does it mean I stop writing it? No.
    Did they steal our idea? Not at all. This shit just happens.

    But it means once it’s done, my plan of attack for how I try to sell it will be different and the timing of how to sell it may change. Plus, it means I will have to come up with ways to make our script different and even more original.

    Another example – when I was still an executive at Clifford Werber Productions, we developed a project for a couple years called “Family Bond,” a family action film about a father/spy whose kid gets kidnapped and whose arch-enemy moves in next door in their suburb town. The SAME week we decided to go out with it to the town, another project was also sent out by a different producer called “Family Bonds” (with an S). Guess what it was about. Yup – almost the same exact fucking story.

    And there was nothing we could do. Yes, I looked into the chance that the idea was stolen from us after mentioning it in some meeting to someone, somewhere. But we’ll never know and it pretty much killed our project.

    Clifford and I sold a Wizard of Oz project to United Artists before two of the other Oz projects sold. Now there are FOUR other Wizard of Oz projects out there and ours is in turnaround because the others got going first (through no real fault of our own).

    There are TWO Snow White projects about to be released within a couple months of each other. Last year, No Strings Attached came out just months before Friends with Benefits.  And this is nothing new.

    Deep Impact and Armageddon came out in the same year. Volcano and Dante’s Peak.
    Antz and A Bug’s Life. Mission to Mars and Red Planet. Capote and Infamous. The Prestige and The Illusionist. The Score and Heist. Chasing Liberty and First Daughter. And The Back-Up Plan and The Switch, which funny enough also killed a sperm donor comedy Clifford and I were developing.

    They ALL came out within months of each other, which means they were all developed and green-lit around the same time as well. Did the writers of all of those movies scream and yell and wonder if someone stole their idea? Probably. But it didn’t stop them from going forward and making their movie.

    If anything, it should tell you that at least you’re thinking commercially – you’re just thinking commercially 3 months too late.

    And I can’t tell you how many times at a pitchfest I have been pitched the SAME exact idea 2, 3, 4 times in a day. If it DIDN’T happen, I’d be shocked.

    So for all you writers out there scared of pitching or sending out your project because you’re worried about it getting stolen – don’t be. Because it’s probably already been written by someone else. In fact, if you’re truly writing something that has never – in any way – been done before – there’s probably a reason for that.

    That’s also part of the reason studios like intellectual property – because they KNOW it’s not original material. They know that when they get the rights to a book, there isn’t some other writer trying to adapt it. They don’t have to worry about random writers suing them.

    This is not supposed to depress you – it’s supposed to make you realize that some things are out of your control. All you can do is write your story as originally as you can and study the market to see where you can and can’t sell it to and when the best time to do so might be. That’s the business, baby!

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