When I finally give up on screenwriting after a lifetime of not selling anything, it won't be because I didn't have good ideas for stories.
As I pointed out a while ago, if you check the latest movie listings, most of the films running are remakes, sequels or based on source material such as a novel or comic book. (Ironically, "Inception," the top movie for three straight weeks, is a completely original concept).
TV is in a simlar boat, with spinoffs and remakes dotting the landscape. Two of the most anticipated shows this fall? "Hawaii Five-O" and "Law & Order: Los Angeles."
So, as a struggling writer with no Hollywood connections, it becomes difficult to try to write something that's original when that's not what production companies and studios are looking for. And, since I don't have the ability to pitch an idea for the next "Spider-Man" or James Bond, because those things are copyrighted, it makes it that much more difficult.
But that doesn't mean I haven't come up with good ideas. Take my first script, "1066," which was a finalist for a Disney Screenwriting Fellowship in 2002. Mine wasn't the only script about William The Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings out there, but it did get some notoriety. Despite that, I was unable to get any traction for it.
Seven years later, one of the writers of "Gladiator" is writing a "1066" movie, and apparently a separate production is also coming out, as well as a TV miniseries on British TV.
A few years later, I wrote an animated script about a medieval boy who befriends a dragon. A manager I know even showed it to executives at Sony Animation. Nada.
But this summer, Dreamworks came out with "How To Train Your Dragon," about a boy who befriends a dragon in medieval times. Go figure.
A couple of years ago, I switched things up and decided to write some TV pilots. The first one, called "Psi," was about people with psychic abilities living secret lives. I sent it out to a few people, but no one really cared.
Coming this fall to SyFy, however, is "Alphas" a series about people with psychic abilities working for a secret government agency.
A pilot I wrote immediately after that was called "Messiah," about humans in the near future escaping Earth and establishing a colony on Mars. It's one of the rare bits of my own writing that I actually liked. Apparently, however, no one else did.
Searching the Internet last night, I noticed a new series set to debut in a month called "Outcasts," starring Jamie Bamber and Eric Mabius, about colonists leaving Earth and trying to create a new society on a different planet.
Now, before anyone gets any ideas, I'm not accusing anyone of stealing my ideas. Despite the infamous "Coming To America" case several years ago, that actually goes on very rarely, because it's cheaper in the end to pay the original writer than it is to go to court over plagiarism.
And one could say my ideas aren't that original. After all, the events of 1066 are famous (at least in Europe). There have been other movies about humans and dragons becoming friends. And is the premise of "Psi" that much different from something like "Heroes?" (Trust me, it was, but on the surface, it may not seem that way).
I suppose the frustration on my part is to be on the right track for something, only to see someone else sell the concept.
But hey, I do take some solace that at least I had the right idea.
THURSDAY'S BEST BETS: A rather unoriginal idea is ABC's "Rookie Blue" (ABC, 9 p.m.), which continues with a new episode and is followed by "Boston Med."
On cable, there are new episodes of "Burn Notice" and "Royal Pains" on USA, beginning at 9 p.m., while "Futurama" (Comedy Central, 10 p.m.) is also new.
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