Monday, May 17, 2010

Great minds think alike, or fools seldom differ

Spent most of Saturday at day 2 of the CBeebies Lab for writers run by CBeebies Scotland and the Scottish Book Trust. Lots of fascinating insights and information, such as the revelation that writers get paid per line of dialogue! That's because many shows have the same opening and closing sequence every time. It's more cost efficient to pay writers by the line, not the ep.

But it was something that came up during a conversation at the break that inspired this blog posting. I was talking with another writer about why spec scripts of existing shows don't work in the UK. Send a Doctor Who script to the production office in Cardiff and they can't read it, for fear of wannabe writers claiming their great idea got ripped off in a subsequent episode.

Somebody asked if it was really possible for two writers to come up with the same idea entirely independent of one another? And then it happened, right in front of them. A writer on a CBeebies show had come in to talk about their experience on that series, and as a professional writer on numerous TV dramas for adult audiences. (I won't name names, not without their permission.)

One of the projects they mentioned is getting presented to the BBC soon. The writer had their fingers crossed, hoping it gets accepted for further development. When we broke for coffee and the conversation about coincidence came up, I mentioned a pilot script I've been developing. Lots of research interviews and thinking, nothing on paper just yet.

When I mentioned the premise, the guest speaker was flabberghasted - my pitch sounded exactly like the project they've been developing. It's entirely coincidental, and pure chance that it happened to come up in conversation. But the synchronicity was a touch unnerving, even if it proved how writers in different places could have very similar ideas without knowing it.

Having talked it over with the guest speaker, I'm going to keep developing my pilot. It's a good idea, and could make a great calling card script. Right now I need a strong, contemporary pilot in my portfolio and this fits the bill. But the whole thing was living proof that no idea is wholly original. It's not the idea that counts, it's the execution. Onwards!


laurence timms said...

You nailed it at the end there - it's all in the execution.

I suspect this kind of thing happens even more than we might imagine. Let's just hope that the readers and development execs can see past superficial (or even deeper) similarities and drill down into the juicy goodness beneath.

I'm sorry, I left my Analogy-o-Matic at home today, hence the #metaphorfail.

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