A writer calling themselves "Inconsolable Cat" sent me the following question:
How likely are you to pass up the line a script that has a great concept, but which is merely competently executed? Have you ever written, "The only good thing here is the idea. But what a great idea!"? How likely is a studio to buy a script just to own the concept, opting to send it to an established pro for a re-write?
I've been asked variations on this question before, and usually with a specific subtext to the query. I'm not saying "Inconsolable" is guilty of this motivation, but this seems like a good opportunity to address those who are.
When I'm asked, "If the idea is great, would the studio buy that and get someone else to rewrite it?" my first thought is that I'm dealing with a writer who doesn't have confidence that their writing is up to the level of other professionals. But somehow, they're convinced their idea is wildly original, so original that they can cash in by selling that and banking on someone else to get hired to do all the hard work.
I hate this sort of attitude.
It smacks of the laziest sort of writer, the kind of writer who's just in it to "cash in." A real writer with a brilliant idea shouldn't want to give it up. A true writer resists someone else coming in to work on his baby.
If you want to be a writer and you have an idea you believe in, they should have to pry that script out of your cold dead hands. The only reason you should ask the question above is out of the fear that you won't get to complete the project on your own.
If you welcome the idea of someone just tossing a nominal fee at you to buy the idea and then do what they want with it, just get the fuck out right now.
I mean it. This isn't a profession for dilettantes. When you treat screenwriting in that manner, it's disrespectful to the people who work hard to develop their craft and better their product. If you don't show respect to the profession, I'm under no obligation to show respect to you.
As I said, Inconsolable Cat might not be coming at the question from the motivations I ascribe above, but I know that there are people out there who DO think like that.
To cover the rest of the questions, yes, there have been plenty of coverages where I've said, "Good concept, terrible execution." It's somewhat rare to find an EXCELLENT concept and terrible execution, only because the work of a weak writer might end up undermining anything good about the script.
A weak writer also is less likely to conceive with an entirely unique concept. If it's an idea they came up with, odds are someone ELSE has thought of something similar, and they might have done it even better. So while readers like me can always champion the concept while slamming the script, a sub-par writing sample does no one any favors.
The decisions about that kind of purchase are made above my paygrade. While it might happen now and then that a concept is SO impressive that it merits immediate purchase, I can't say I've ever seen that scenario happen at any of the companies I've worked for. In other words, don't bank on it.
I'd say it's more likely that a script would sell if it's by written by a writer just short of professional level. That writer would then get their guild-obligated rewrite and then the script would get passed on to another pro only after it was decided the original writer couldn't get the script to where it needed to be. That kind of thing is probably more common than the concept being bought and the original writer being immediately removed.
Your goal should to sell that script, and be strong enough to be hired on even after the requisite rewrite. Strive to be a writer, not a concept farmer.
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