Tuesday I participated in this massive discussion on Go Into The Story, during which I opined, "Ideas are cheap." Perhaps some of you saw this talk, but for those who didn't, here's what I meant by that.
In both interviews and in person, I've heard many a working writer roll their eyes at that notion, usually citing an incident that follows as such:
Said writer mentions his profession at a party. A fellow unknown to that writer says, "Hey, I've got a great idea for a movie! How about I give it to you, you write it up and we'll split it 50-50?" This story usually ends with the working writer straining not to be incredibly insulted at the proposal.
Perhaps even some of you have been on the receiving end of this. I'm always a little put off by the attitude of the pitcher. The implicit message seems to be that coming up with an idea and developing an idea take an equal amount of effort. Quite simply, anyone who believes that has not sweated over multiple drafts of a script.
For example, these are ideas:
4 teenage guys make a pact to get laid before prom.
Two teens experience trouble getting beer to a high school party so they can impress girls.
A case of mistaken identity has a couple on a date night hunted by cops and crooks.
Those are ideas, but are they story? Do they trump the work that goes into the structure and execution of said ideas? As someone who's had a couple really, really good ideas that resulted in a script or two that didn't live up to their promise, I can say yes. A thousand people could have come up with those ideas, but only a few could have executed them as successful films.
How often have you watched TV or seen a movie trailer for an idea that you could have sworn you had first? I don't know a writer who's hasn't had that experience.
THAT is what I'm trying to express when I say ideas are cheap. It takes more than a good idea to make a good script.