I have been working on a spec that has a great premise. Not long ago, a Big Hollywood Movie came out with a very similar premise, and touched on similar themes as my script. Now, I’m NOT asking, “Can I sue?”, or any of the other similar questions I have found asked by others in this situation.
My story has a different angle, and of course, I think it’s better than this other movie. What I want to know is this: when this thing is ready to send out (looking for agent, mainly, but as evidenced by Big Hollywood Movie, it might sell), should I mention its similarity to the Big Hollywood Movie? Would doing so help or hinder my cause? I can foresee the situation where I mention up front that my script is like Big Hollywood Movie, not wanting to look like a copycat, but I end up looking like more of a copycat. On the other hand, I can foresee coming off as a copycat if I don’t mention it. Sacrificing brevity for clarity, I again ask:
When this thing is ready to send out, should I mention its similarity to the Big Hollywood Movie?
Without knowing the specific details of your plot, it’s impossible to say. But here’s the issue I think you’re overlooking: is your script really that similar?
You think so, because you’ve been staring at your script for months, cursing your dumb luck to have written something so much like Big Dumb Hollywood Movie. But to an outside observer, it might not seem that way.
Years ago, when I was working on my Untitled Zombie Western, I read in Variety about two different “cowboy and aliens” projects rushing though development. I was certain my project was doomed — no way would anyone want to do my genre-crossing hybrid now. I refused to listen to friends’ reasonable advice: aliens are not zombies; my setting was distinct; most movies never make it out of development.
My friends were right on all three counts, and neither of the cowboys-and-aliens movies have shot. (Neither has my zombie western, so my schadenfreude offers limited satisfaction.)
You say that your script has a similar premise and theme, but neither of those speak to plot. X-MEN and SKY HIGH have similar premises, but if you’d written the latter, you wouldn’t automatically draw the comparison to the former.
Here’s probably the best test for whether you need to acknowledge the similarity to Big Hollywood Movie: write a three-sentence description of your script. If it sounds a lot like the other movie, you should probably call it out. But if it’s clear how it differs, then leave it alone.
Ultimately, the similarities between your script and the other movie might be enough to keep it from progressing. But remember that the goal of this script is to get people to notice how good your writing is. Execution is what matters.