John August is a great man. He's a working screenwriter of some pretty big movies (Big Fish, Go, The Nines, Charlie's Angels), and he started up a blog to give back to the community. Being a writer, not only is his site well written, but it's chock full o' wisdom for all aspiring screenwriters. I read his blog every day over grape nuts, fat free milk, and a packet of Equal.
Occasionally, John answers mail, and today's question was about plagiarism, a cause of common concern among writers. In particular, this paragraph caught my eye:
In my early days, I outlined a series that would chart the last years of Earth — a meteor was coming, and everyone knew it. So I was understandably disappointed when not one, but two movies with essentially the same plot hit theaters. It forced me to look back and remember where the idea really came from: a bunch of popular-science articles at the time which mapped out what had likely killed off the dinosaurs, and what would happen if another such asteroid hit Earth.
Ha ha. No way. I thought. So I posted my own reply:
Wow, here's the irony of all ironies: I also had an idea for a TV series about a meteor coming to hit earth and everyone knew it! The only difference with my series was that nobody could do anything about the meteor and the show was more of a exploration on how people dealt with the inevitable destruction of everything and everyone they had ever known... It sometimes blows having a commercial taste—damn you, John August! :)
I often wonder how Hollywood releases two films of strikingly similar subject matter within months of each other (Robin Hood and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Deep Impact and Armageddon, Antz and A Bug's Life). Rather than paint Hollywood as a dishonest pride of Johnny Come Lately's, I'd like to think that two equally influential development execs just happen to be watching the same late night documentary on the History Channel about Robin Hood, or see the Discovery Channel's documentary on how to stop an meteor impact, etc. Then, because the studios might have already spent many months in production before becoming aware of a competing studio's project, they decide not to jettison their project onto a backburner for a few years, but instead to race to the finish line to recoup any monies already spent. And in any event, Burger Kings sell more burgers when they're planted directly opposite a McDonald's.