Great Movie Idea

An actor friend keeps sending me his movie short pitches… the problem is, he’s not written anything on them. Ever. Basically it’s the pitch with the expectation that I (or someone else) is going to “run with” the idea and do 100% of the work.

So since it seems like I’m sending this out more and more, I’m going to paste what I emailed him this time. Actually I’ve sent this out more than once to different people.

Most of the work in screenplay development is not the brainstorming part, it’s the writing part. People are always telling directors their great ideas, hoping that they are going to “run with them.” But not only would this mean a tremendous amount of work on someone else’s idea, it would also be impossible for liability reasons.

Like what would happen if I “ran with” one of your ideas and cut you out entirely? I imagine you wouldn’t be very happy about that. Worse yet, suppose Sam Raimi develops an idea very similar to something I told him about once. Wait a second! He stole my idea! Now I sue Sam Raimi. But his new work very well could have nothing to do with what I told him. To avoid this scenario, most producers/studios do not accept submissions.

Here’s my point: the fundamental problem is that your current contribution (the premise by itself) is not a very significant percentage of the effort on the development, making it unlikely the idea will ever be made into a film. It’s just too much risk (the threat of being sued) for the possible reward (the free premise). I could get a group of screenwriters in a room for an hour and come up with fifty premises for shorts, or maybe ten fully-developed shorts. I could pay them in coffee. Or, to put a positive spin on this, YOU could get a group of screenwriters for an hour and pay them in coffee.

But: here’s a couple of suggestions to edge this and some of your other ideas closer to fruition:

  1. Have you ever taken a screenwriting class, or considered joining a writing group? It might be very advantageous!
  2. Your pitch is EXACTLY the type of thing that gets pitched at a Scary Cow meeting. You don’t even have to write it yourself. Lots of producers have started with just a premise, and recruited writers, the director, and the crew, right there at the meeting. This is what Scary Cow is for.