On Screenwriting: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Tolerate Getting Ripped Off

This article was first published last February, and while we’re sorry we took so long to bring it to your attention, we’re mighty glad we found it at all. Cherce words here, gang. (As Spencer Tracy might’s said back in the dim, dark 1940s.) Don’t just sit there – read:

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by Adam Charles Campbell

At the risk of sounding like one of those old-time Hollywood gossip rags, I will keep things maddeningly vague  here to protect the innocent.

Or perhaps not so innocent.

A couple of years later, the movie version of this novel came out, written and directed by this certain successful screenwriter.  It was a good movie. I don’t think I would have done a better job of writing it, or certainly of directing it.

When asked in an interview where he got the idea for the movie, he answered only that he’d found a copy of the book in an airport bookstore.

Now, obviously, I didn’t write the novel. I had no legal claim on anything to do with it.  Still…

A little acknowledgement would have been nice.

Around that same time, I had several pitch meetings with development executives at Disney. It occurred to me that Disney hadn’t been exploiting some potentially lucrative properties in their theme park attractions.

With a writing partner, I put together pitches and outlines for movies based on The Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, and, yes, Pirates of the Caribbean. Our Haunted Mansion would have been better than the Eddie Murphy thing. OurPirates? Gore Verbinski’s version blew ours out of the water.

Here’s what happened:  When I checked in with my agent, he told me that this whole theme park synergy thing was just not something Disney wanted to pursue right now.

Do I think they ripped me off? Absolutely not. I think these properties were in development and they just weren’t ready to go public with them.

The Lesson?  Sometimes people just have the same ideas as you.  Especially when they’re obvious. And especiallywhen they own the toys you’re playing with.

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