Greatness lies in more than an idea.
Even legally, what’s protected is the execution. Because therein lies the soul.
If you gave the same logline to seven great writers and asked them to turn it into a script, you would likely get seven brilliant scripts – all vastly different from one another in tone, theme, pacing and even content. They could probably all turn around and sell their scripts without fear, because they would be that different.
We, as writers, each have a unique perspective. Which means that though an underlying idea is great, it’s not your meal ticket. Your golden spec idea? There are at least five people out there who have had the exact same idea. Three of them have written it. Two have pitched it – one’s gotten turned down and the other’s circling the drain in development hell. But you don’t realise that you’re not a singular genius because none of the others have hit the market.
And that’s with the most unique idea you might encounter.
Which is why, when writers clutch their pearls about sharing their scripts online, I’m a little baffled. If you’ve gotten it properly protected – with the Library of Congress or the Writers Guild of your respective country – then legally, you’re protected if they steal the script wholesale and try to pass it off as their own.
And if they try to steal your idea? Forgive my bluntness, but: who cares?
When I develop a new project, I know it’s not the underlying bones that I’m selling. It’s why I try to write every project on spec: because the gap between the idea and the work is so big that the exact same project – with the same writer – will look completely different with a network or production partner involved intimately from day one. I want to sell me: my instincts, my style, my writing, and then work with them to hone it once it’s formed. I want to sell something that nobody else could write – not because they didn’t stumble upon my brilliant concept, but because the finished work is so distinctive, even someone attempting to ape my style wouldn’t be able to. That, for me, is the point.
A bad concept will sink a script, but a good writer and a bad writer will still do different things with it, and the script by the good writer will still be better. And a script with a genius concept by a bad writer will still fail to outrank a script with a derivative or flawed premise but an undeniable talent and passion behind it.
Power lies in execution. So don’t just cling to an idea. Write your ideas. And when it’s shit, write it again. And just keep writing. Because the only one who can make your script something people will rally behind is you, after years of practice and hard work. You’re not selling a concept. You’re selling you.
So make sure your product kicks as much ass as possible.