How Do I Protect My Screenplay Idea?


Last week we mentioned Michael Lucker's Writers Weekend for screenwriters looking for that extra boost to help hone their craft. We asked Michael for some wisdom to help tease his seminar, and ended up getting a real gem – the answer to a question he gets all the time.

How do I protect my idea?

Everyone always wants to know how to keep their original concepts from getting stolen.  Well, I got news for you.  It’s not that easy for someone to just run off and write a great movie even if they did take your idea.  It’s certainly not easy to sell it.  Let alone get it made.  Just ask anyone who’s been trying for a year.  Or seven.  Or more.  And it’s easier to fit a small rhinoceros into a toaster than to sell just a concept on its own.  You know how many spec screenplays are registered with the WGA each year?  Around 50,000.  You know how many scripts are bought each year?  Around 50.  You do the math.  This is to say nothing of the fact that there are really only seven plots anyway.  Chances are your idea has been done.  Somewhere.  Somehow.  Someway.  It’s all about what you do with it.  How you make it your own. So do that.  As best as you can.  Then throw caution to the wind.  Get it out there to anyone and everyone who will read it.  Enter it in festivals.  Contests.  Poetry slams.  Get it to anyone in the business who can get you in the door.  Don’t insist on NDA’s.  Remember, producers and agents and executives all have mountains of scripts piled all over their desks and couches and air conditioning units and are looking for any reason not to read them.  So don’t put up any roadblocks.  If you’re going to insist on anything, insist on buying them lunch, or chocolate, or a new refrigerator if they read your work.  If, however, you do want to sleep soundly at night knowing your work is indeed protected, all you have to do is this…

Register it with the writers guild here: 

Trust me, trust them.  They’ve been protecting ideas just like yours since 1927.  It takes 3 minutes.  Costs $20 bucks.  And anyone can do it.  Should you copyright it, patent it, mail a certified copy to yourself?  No need.  Once you register it with the guild, it’s stored for five years.  If after five years you haven’t been able to do anything with the idea and you’re still afraid of it getting stolen, check yourself into a facility.  Or re-register it again.  Then at least you'll know it's safe and sound for another five years.  Sleep well.

Writers Weekend with Michael Lucker

If you liked this tip and want more, Lucker is offering the opportunity to share his expertise with Atlanta-area writers by hosting a Writers Weekend on August 10th-11th. Over the course of two eight-hour days, aspiring writers will be guided from the germ of an idea to the final pitch, learning everything they need to know about crafting a successful screenplay.

This weekend workshop packs nearly every nut and bolt of the screenwriting craft into one wild and woolly two-day seminar that teaches you what you need to know to bring your story to life.  We are proud that The Writers Weekend will be held in conjunction with the Atlanta Film Festival at Georgia State University. 

Writers Weekend

Saturday August 10th - Sunday August 11th



Photo Credit: mpclemens via Compfight cc