ADAM ZWAR: WRITERS, NO ONE "STOLE" YOUR IDEA
If you write for television for any length of time, there will come a moment when you’ll eat the shit sandwich that comes in the form of seeing your idea on TV – created by someone else. It’ll be beat-for-beat just like you had it. But, in your opinion, it’ll be worse. At this point it’s important to say that this isn’t a post about plagiarism. The cruel truth is there are a limited amount of ideas in the zeitgeist. So why didn’t yours get made?
It could be that you didn’t pitch it well. Perhaps, you didn’t put in the hard yards before you went in the room and your pitch came up short. Or perhaps you did put in the hard yards, but you just didn’t say the magic words in the right order to get the idea over the line. It happens.
Another reason great ideas fall-down at pitch stage is they don’t have a big star attached. It’s 2022, what are you doing pitching a show without a star? It’s a crowded market. You think your genius idea is enough to get it made?
But what if you did have the star attached, and you said the magic words in the right order, and still didn’t get a sale? And then someone else rolls up six months later and they get it across the line. This is the moment you realise our wholesome little craft is just as susceptible to the fickle currents of fashion as fashion itself. If you’re lucky enough to hang around for a few decades you’ll go in and out of favour many times. There’ll be the moments when you’re loved and your clunkiest dialogue is seen as a stylistic choice. And then there’ll be the moments when the words are coming out beautifully, but you’re viewed as just a washed-up hack. You’ll turn up to industry events and people will look at you across the room and say “It’s sad, isn’t it.”
So writers, the main reason you’ll see your idea on the screen with someone’s else’s credit is that the buyer loved it - they just didn’t love you.