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Talentville Bar & Grill : Ask the Expert
Submission Release Agreements

Greg Sheridan
Posted August 20, 2013 12:35 PM

          Wondering if all companies used these. I've been told they pretty much are a license to steal, so what's the scoop?

Ben Cahan
Posted August 20, 2013 1:00 PM
There are two sides to the idea of releases, the perspective of writers and the perspective of producers.  Almost no producers will read unsolicited scripts without a release because for their standpoint it is a license to sue if they do not have that protection.  Writers may see it differently, but since the producers are the ones who get the movies made, I would say the power is in their hands to demand releases.  I might add that even I rarely read scripts that are not uploaded to the site and thereby bound by the Submission Upload Agreement to both protect myself as well as to encourage use of the site.  It is true that I do not require any release from personal friends, but that is a different cup of tea anyhow.

One other point I might make.  If you have written a great script that a producer really wants to make, it will likely be cheaper for them to buy the project from you as opposed to trying to have someone rewrite a movie that is similar but not clearly recognizable as coming from your script.  If your plot is a generic rom-com, it may be hard to know if theirs came from yours, but if your script is about a three legged dwarf who steals a pot of gold from a visiting alien, that might be harder to pawn off as their original idea even if they read your dwarf script after having you sign a release.  Releases don't absolve direct stealing if you can prove it occurred.

Do scripts and story ideas get stolen?  Sure, but it is not all that rampant and unless you have the 10-20 mil to make your own movie, you are going to have to put your story out there and hope it is strong enough to get bought on its own merits,

Ben Cahan

Jeff Langham
Posted August 20, 2013 1:41 PM
" but if your script is about a three legged dwarf who steals a pot of gold from a visiting alien..."

Thanks Ben for my next idea!  Just kidding.  Ben is spot on and really cares about writers.

Zell Jr
Posted August 20, 2013 6:41 PM
Yeah, like Ben said, you can't sign away your right to sue. You can always sue, even if you signed a waiver, release, etc.

Ted Cabarga
Posted August 20, 2013 7:56 PM
Probably the reason stories are getting stolen in Follywood is because they are all madly trying to write the same story—the one that's already made a fortune for someone else.

Darren Seeley
Posted August 20, 2013 10:03 PM
What a timely subject! A number of years ago I signed a release form for a couple of indie filmmakers "Pete" and "Matt" (who I won't name in full unless they gave me the okay to do so) who were interested in a script of mine and literally tracked me down to Chinatown to inquire about it. I personally don't see it as a problem, release forms. Doesn't have to be fancy, doesn't have be a thick book, just has to be a written and signed document. Generally speaking, if you have copyright and/or WGA numbers you have little to worry about.

But the project was pitched through the last few years off and on. They still renew option from time to time (almost due for another one) but I'm thinking right now the project is on the ICU. In any case, just the other day I found out a major studio has bought an option on a recently published comic book which has a similar premise as my script in question. But upon quick investigating, that's as far as it goes. A little too close to home? Maybe. It depends on how the other property gets adapted if it gets made.

But what I do know is that the folks who were interested in my work had nothing to do with it. The people they pitched had nothing to do with it. Nobody stole from anybody.
(the script would have been the basis for a horror themed webseries) Period. It's nothing more than coincidence and/or just a general premise. My characters are still my characters, theirs are theirs.

That all said, I know that one element has been done to death (excuse the pun) in vampire flicks, so I'm considering rewriting my work to soften that up and/or excise it as much as I can.  Aside from a short script and a feature length script - My script isn't produced yet on film or print. That's the bottom line. And my characters are not in the comic in question (to my knowledge) in name or essence. Especially the main character. But his "job" loosely is. That's as far as it goes. It's just a concept.