DO NOT READ
….said no accomplished screenwriter ever.
How many times have you heard this sentence: “I have this new idea for a script but I’m afraid if I tell anyone someone will steal it”… “Its a really good concept”… “Can you promise not to tell anyone?”.
I have heard this said so many times its unbelievable that anyone would ever share a script with another person. Why does this happen? It’s because we hear rumors (true or not) that so and so shared a script at this meeting, and then suddenly they were making that film a year later without ever consulting them back. Sadly – this can happen, I would say that it is pretty rare but it is possible. Is that a reason to avoid being open sharing with people?
Short Answer – No.
Long Answer – Not really. There are a few things off the bat that prevent someone from just up and “steal” your script, content or character.
The first of which is the fact they they didn’t come up with it in the first place. Which means that they may be able to see your idea as valuable, just like anyone on the planet could look at the idea of ordering a taxi with an app using GPS as a good idea, but there was only a few bright individuals that saw exactly how to go about making Uber, Lyft, Grab, etc.
The second is, they likely don’t have the time or resources to suddenly take your idea and capitalize on. Like you, whoever you are sharing this potential million dollar script with is probably up to their eyeballs in their own commitments and projects. Pulling a 180° and suddenly stealing your idea likely isn’t that appealing to them.
Finally – hopefully everyone you are talking to can be vetted online and through a mutual network. If this is the case, just ask around a bit. If this person, company or god forbid – studio, is known for taking people’s work and making it without purchase or accreditation then it should become known pretty quick. And thus the answer is simple – don’t give them something you cant prove in a court of law you own (more on that in a sec).
The Benefits of Sharing
Sharing you script with trusted peers and advisors can have so many positive repercussions – enough to ignore whatever potential downsides there could be lurking. They could give you a great piece of advice or idea to really take it to the next level. They might also know someone or some group that your could collaborate with to get it made. Hell, if they really love it – thy could introduce you to a lit agent to start representing your work, at which point you don’t need to get advice like this from a blog like mine.
Register your script
Here is a quick guide on how to register your script if you live in the US. You can register your script with the WGA to give it a layer of protection to show that it is your original work.
Fill in your info (including what format you expect the script to take on – like TV, Film or Web content).
Pay them $20 ($10 for WGA members)
That’s it. $20 to make sure that there is a record and certificate saying that script is yours. If you start shopping an idea around with an agent to a lot of people you have never met – this might be a good idea.
Otherwise, just trust that anyone who is down to read your script – likely wants to help you make it somehow, and not steal it for themselves.