Many film companies won’t read a screenplay unless it is submitted by a talent agent or lawyer. If, however, you do find a film company that agrees to read one of your screenplays, they usually won’t read it unless you first sign a Release Agreement. One of the clauses in the Release Agreement will require you to acknowledge that someone working for the film company, or perhaps another writer like yourself, may have already submitted a concept that is similar. No matter how original you think your idea is, there may be other writers working on stories with very similar themes.
However, just because other writers may have similar concepts, shouldn’t discourage you from developing your story ideas. Consider these facts: White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen were both movies about an attack on the White House, and they were both released in 2013. Despite the fact Deep Space Nine and Babylon 5 were both series about space stations, and they appealed to the same demographic, between 1993 and 1998, they were on television at the same time.
Although The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins books, is the best known story about teens fighting to the death, it wasn’t the first one. The first Hunger Games movie was released in 2012. The Japanese movie Battle Royale, based on the novel by Koushun Takami, was released twelve years earlier in 2000.
So, how do you distinguish your story concepts from other writers? Characters: Gandolph in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies are both powerful, charismatic wizards, but they have very different personalities. Setting: Dragons are used in The Hobbit trilogy, the Harry Potter movies and The Game of Thrones series, but the worlds in which they live are unique. Dialogue: What accents will your characters have? Will they sound like they’re reading from a dictionary, or will they use slang?
You should do your best to avoid copying another writer’s work; some of the worst B movies ever made were the result of a Director trying to copy a blockbuster. There are, however, many variations on a theme. The Twilight Saga movies and the Blade trilogy both concern vampires, but they approach the subject from very different perspectives.
Here’s the key point to remember: It’s the writer’s voice and how he or she approaches a subject that makes a story unique.
The only question is: What are you going to write today?
Copyright © 2020 by J. Paul Cooper