“So pretty much you have t


“So pretty much you have to have extremely good luck or know someone?”

It doesn’t hurt, but don’t count on either. Steve is dead-on. However, not all producers are scrupulous to simply shred your stuff. There have been many a famous / infamouscase of stolen scripts and treatments. First of all, as per the US Copyright Office, ‘ideas cannot be copyrighted’. So the burden of proof will fall to the creator in such a scenario as potential theft. Key word ‘Burden’. It costs a lot of money and time to get someone into court and nobody ‘fesses up despite overwhelming evidence.

The smart thing is to develop your ideas first. You may have collaborators, but keep the circle small as possible and make sure all involved get the credit they deserve. Get the story in writing (on paper and electronically). Once it’s completed and ‘fixed’ in a permanent form as in a treatment or a script (and dated) according to the US Copyright Office your story is then automatically protected under copyright. HOWEVER, ownership of theintellectual property(i.e. script/treatment)must beregistered asap in order to complete the ‘chain of title’.Unfortunately, getting your written work copyrightedtakes a long time (used to be six months, now it’sa year or more.)The best way to start the chain of title is to register your completed work with the WGA (writer’sguild of america.) It’s not a copyright, but it establishes a link proving your ownership rights as creator. WGA registration is cheap and quick if done online and no you don’t have to be a member. At the same time your sending off yourwork to the WGA, you should send your work off to the US Copyright Office. Copyright is also inexpensive but as I mentioned, it takes a long time. Make sure you download the proper forms from the US Office of Copyright (and nowhere else!) and fill them out properly. Soon as you get them completed, send them off. Make sure you keep a copy of your forms and notate the date you sent them.

So why go through all of that when ‘you just want to pitch your ideas?’ Leverage. Being an unknownif your story gets picked up you’re going to get @$$hammered in the deal. More than likely since you won’t be putting up any of the money or resources to pull the project off, the producers will literally take over your story. Having documented ownership of the story via WGA and Copyright gives you some protection as any good producer will be hesitant to steal protected work when they can negotiate a cheap deal. Without the protections, there’s nothing stopping them from giving you the brush off and rolling with a ‘modified’ form of your idea and it’ll be on you to prove they did it.

As an independent (that word is inadequatefor your situation), you’ll be better off producing the story yourself. Pitching a story is a helluva lot easier with a completed ‘teaser’ in hand than purely relying on your verbal storytelling chops. It’s a lot harder and can get expensive if you don’t do proper pre-production, but you’ll have a much stronger position with a completed work in hand. Of course all of the steps for copyright will apply except you’ll have only send a copy of your film to the Copyright Office separate from your script. As for how the process works in other countries, you’ll have to check with your own Office of Copyright to get the steps.

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