I thought this deserved it's own entry.
There's a little Twilight Zone in the screenwriting world called "parallel development". What that means is that through no evildoing on anyone's part, more than one identical idea can be created by complete strangers. It's a strange little phenomenon which happens to bite monkey toes, but it happens.
Sometimes it doesn't even have to be an identical idea, but similar enough that it will remind someone of another story they've seen. Hollywood wants the original story - but they prefer spending money on stories with a good track record of making money.
So we all walk this line to write an original spin on a proven formula. It's not easy. That's why when you get a nugget of an original idea, it really bites the big one that someone else is developing it, or it's shot and in the can.
My first script was one I came up with the idea in 2000. I had a weird dream where I was going to buy a house, but had no money. The devil was in my dream, and it occured to me I could get the money from him and just get out of that sneaky soul selling business before I ended up dying and going to hell. Artis was soon born, a hapless loser who can't even sell his soul to the devil right. The devil (as played by Jim Carrey in my mind), would be a complete moron and get all the wishes completely wrong - so Artis would then sue the devil for breech of contract. I thought it was brilliant, everyone I told about it thought it was brilliant, but by the time I actually got it written, Little Nicky and Bedazzled both bombed at the box office. Not to mention The Devil & Daniel Webster, a remake eerily similar to my original idea (except mine was a comedy and this was more of a drama) was in production and subsequently shelved.
After the thing was written all I heard was, "It's too much like Bedazzled." "Devil movies don't sell." So there's a lesson for all of you - don't sit on your ideas... act on them as quick as you can.
Fast forward to fall of last year when I was engrossed in The Bachelor with Bob Guiney. I had such a crush on Bob Guiney that he was just a regular guy, most of those Bachelors are unattainable rich hunks that most average women wouldn't have a chance at. Bob on the other hand, looked like someone you could actually meet and be friends with. I even began to have dreams about him, where I was actually a friend of his and helping him decide who was best for him.
Ding, ding, ding, another brilliant idea. I'd write a story about a reality dating show where the guy can have a female friend actually pose as one of the bachelorettes, who can ultimately help him choose who is best for him. GUESS what this season's twist is for the Bachelor???
But I'm not mad. Noooooooo.
If I had written the thing last year when I started it, MAYBE I would have a legitimate complaint. As usual I sat on it so I can't really gripe. I can be nauseated and curse the producers of The Bachelor and watch this season with a knot in the pit of my stomach, but I can't complain.
As for this idea I'm not sharing it just yet. Once it's completed and WGA registered I'll post it here and beat on every Hollywood producers door trying to get it sold. I really do think this is the one, the idea is pretty original (knocking wood against parallel development hell) and I think I'm doing a pretty decent job writing it out. It's probably the most polished and the most streamlined I've ever written a script, which is no easy feet.
And this is no easy story, it has to be intricately layered in order to work.
I aspire one day to write a story like American Beauty, where Alan Ball developed not just one character and story, but six. That is not easy to do. You only have 120 pages or so to invest an audience in the lives of your characters... you have to make them care, and to do that you have to make your characters jump off the page and become real. Their problems have to be real and organic, they have to develop naturally.
So once I'm done anyone who reads my journal who wants to read it can read it to tell me if I accomplished this.
And keep your fingers crossed that no vampire scripts with a unique twist manage to sell until I get mine on the market. And then let it be mine that sells. :)