Help! Everytime I think of a cool screenplay idea, and start developing a treatment, I find out later that practically the exact same idea is already in development somewhere in Hollywood! What should I do? Ditch the idea and move on, or stick with it?
–Frustrated and slightly paranoid screenwriter
Every working screenwriter I know has been in this situation, where you flip open Variety and find that Paramount has just bought a project that sounds horribly similar to yours. Just remember that you’re only reading a one sentence description, and the script itself could be completely different.
For instance, the logline might read, "The project concerns a team of scientists who must stop an ancient evil." That storyline could be describing THE RELIC, or just as easily be about GHOSTBUSTERS. And no one would say those are the same idea.
In short, my advice is not to worry about it, unless (a) you find out more details about the other project which prove it to be very similar to yours, and (b) there’s evidence that the other movie is probably going to get made. While occassionally two competing projects will get greenlit, such as ARMAGEDDON and DEEP IMPACT, or VOLCANO and DANTE’S PEAK, far more often neither project will, as happened with the multiple Janis Joplin biopics.
Just remember that a well-written script has value for a writer even if it never gets made, in terms of its ability to showcase your talent. If you have a great idea that can make a great script, don’t be afraid to write it.