Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Will a spec with similarities to mine hurt my script?"

Rochee asks:

I'm a regular reader of your wonderful blog, and I have a question that is keeping me up late at night. I have developed a pilot for a tv show that I think is pretty awesome, but I just learned that one of the primary relationship dynamics in my teleplay is very similar to a relationship dynamic that is at the center of a feature script that is in development (Father Daughter Time). 

Although my overall concept is very different from Father Daughter Time, my protagonist is also an unemployed recovering alcoholic with a complicated relationship with his ex-wife and his 11-year old daughter. My protagonist is also involved in illegal activities. Every other aspect of my pilot is different, but will these parallels hurt the reception of my pilot?

I doubt it. Frankly, for such a grounded, character-based story, I wouldn't be worried even if there was a passing similarity conceptually.  There have been a lot of scripts, movies and TV shows over the years that have dealt with a recovering alcoholic who has a complicated relationship with his family.  A broad character outline that bears some resemblance to another pre-existing character is hardly cause for concern.

How many lawyers have we seen on TV over the years who are zealous in pursuit of winning cases, even to the point where it leads them to skirt ethical and professional guidelines.  How many young doctors have we seen who get emotionally involved in their cases?  (And how often are these people depicted as brilliant in their professional lives, but struggling to maintain their personal relationships, be they marriages or friendships?)

Honestly, "recovering alcoholic who has complicated relationships with his family" probably describes at least half the alcoholic characters out there. I wouldn't worry about it.  A parallel that broad won't hurt you, especially since FATHER-DAUGHTER TIME hasn't even been produced yet.

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