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How to protect an idea...

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Sam Lesante Jr.How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 5:24:49 pm

So I have this idea for a documentary. I am going to pitch it to an organization. My question is how do I protect my idea so, if the company decides not to go with me, they can't take my idea and run with it?

TIA & Happy Thanksgiving


Sam


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David Roth WeissRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 6:35:08 pm

You can\'t protect an idea Sam. You can write a proposal and date it, hoping to show that you created tangible intellectual property based on an event, and that you subsequently entered discussions with the other company to develope that particular property. If your document predates their own work on that subject that can be helpful, but since stories about real events are typically public domaine, you\'d have a tough road enforcing your position. Plus, since docos are worthless in most cases, it would hardly be worth a lawyer\'s time anyway.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles
http://www.drwfilms.com

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing and Apple Final Cut Pro forums. Formerly host of the Apple Final Cut Basics, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Sam Lesante Jr.Re: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 6:42:02 pm

Thanks Dave for the advice. For shits and giggles :) why do you say "docos" are worthless? Just curious?


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David Roth WeissRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 6:49:49 pm

Other than the three or four documentary feature films that see the light of day each year around Academy Award time, and those by Michael Moore, Ric Burns, and Morgan Spurlock, most docos are big holes into which people poor money. Occasionally there are exceptions, but not often.

Meanwhile, do you still have your TV station?

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles
http://www.drwfilms.com

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing and Apple Final Cut Pro forums. Formerly host of the Apple Final Cut Basics, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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Sam Lesante Jr.Re: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 6:57:31 pm

Yes, still have the local station. We are actually a production house that produces a live news every weeknight for the local community. We also produce other programs that we air in other markets on the east coast.

I can see your point about doc's but I still think they are needed, even if most are poorly produced. I have been watching a couple on Netflix and it got my creative juices flowing. So hopefully, after I get the greenlight from this company, I can produce my first one and do it well.

I heard that Netflix offers some type of funding for independent doc's. Do you know anything about this?


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David Roth WeissRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 7:35:09 pm

[Sam Lesante Jr.] "I can see your point about doc's but I still think they are needed, even if most are poorly produced."

I love documentary films and filmmaking and work on docos almost exclusively. And, I love watching docos too, and do so all the time. There are many that are beautifully produced, but that doesn't guarantee they will see the light of day, and unfortunately, many of the venues that buy docos are either closed shops (PBS, Discovery), or almost closed, and while they do acquire indie-made docos, they most often pay bottom dollar for them.

David Roth Weiss
Director/Editor/Colorist
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles
http://www.drwfilms.com

POST-PRODUCTION WITHOUT THE USUAL INSANITY ™


A forum host of Creative COW's Business & Marketing and Apple Final Cut Pro forums. Formerly host of the Apple Final Cut Basics, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.


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walter biscardiRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 7:44:31 pm

[Sam Lesante Jr.] "So I have this idea for a documentary. I am going to pitch it to an organization. My question is how do I protect my idea so, if the company decides not to go with me, they can't take my idea and run with it?"

If you're pitching to a production company, network or station you really can't. You will have to sign something that says something like "You acknowledge that we might have something in production / development that might be exactly like your idea."

Basically projects are kept secret until ready for announcement to the public so what they are saying is that they will listen to you, but if you see something that comes out looking remarkably similar to something you pitched, they already had it in development / production.

If you are trying to raise funds by pitching to a company or organization to help pay for the doc, well then you have to create some sort of a document for them to sign acknowledging that you're the one initiating the concept. Have a lawyer draw this up. Still no guarantee that it will protect you though, but it's something.

Docs are fun, but definitely a lot of work and very often for very little payout. We have two documentaries currently in the film festival circuit and are currently in discussions with multiple outlet regarding distribution. foulwaterfieryserpent.com and thetestfilm.com

We're using every contact and friend's contacts to get the films this far....

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" Winner, Best Documentary, LA Reel Film Festival...

Blog Twitter Facebook


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Sam Lesante Jr.Re: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 7:55:26 pm

Hey Walter,

Just checked out your websites. Powerful stuff. Good luck with them.
I, on the other hand, am choosing a lighter topic for my first run at it.

What type of camera did you use? And can you give or David give me any tips for my first time producing a doc?

Thanks


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walter biscardiRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:11:24 pm

[Sam Lesante Jr.] "What type of camera did you use?"

Those documentaries were shot by about 6 different videographers using Panasonic Varicam, HVX-500, the HVX-200 and the Sony Z1U for a few pickup shots. Foul Water was four years in the making and The Test we turned around in about 18 months as that was built around a specific event.

The only advice I can give you is be prepared to spend a lot and I mean a LOT of your time completely immersed in your project. And when you think it's done, screen it to as many people as you can to get feedback. Foul Water was completely re-tooled after initial screenings with Producers in the area who gave a lot of great advice.

One last piece of advice, a team is better than a single person. The Producer of Foul Water brought that project to me and we ended up teaming up on the project to the point where he made me Co-Producer of both that film and The Test. Together we made a much better documentary than any single person could. You really need to bounce ideas off each other, argue with each other, and ultimately work together to make a great project.

Ok, one more last piece of advice. Watch lots and lots of documentaries to see what you like and don't like about them. I find Fry's Electronics has a tremendous selection of them and I bought about 40 of them before we started Foul Water. And this from someone who watches documentaries all the time....

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Editor, Colorist, Director, Writer, Consultant, Author, Chef.
HD Post and Production
Biscardi Creative Media

"Foul Water, Fiery Serpent" Winner, Best Documentary, LA Reel Film Festival...

Blog Twitter Facebook


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Jonathan ZieglerRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:12:47 pm

Just a quick note: correct, you can't protect an idea. You can protect the individual expression of that idea. This is the realm of copyright. So, if you have a detailed treatment, proposal, etc., you could copyright it, but it won't protect you from someone else making the same thing in another form (ie: film, video, website, etc.). Other things you can protect are trade secrets (difficult to protect, but this is the basis for a standard NDA form), patents (not where you are at), and trademarks (also not where you are at). Remember, also, there are at least millions of people coming up with ideas all the time - most of them will never see the light of day, but those that bring their ideas to fruition have a much better chance than those that don't (infinitely better).

Don't let the fact that you can't really protect your idea keep you from developing it. If you can package your idea so it's marketable to a broader market, you may still have a shot. Look at the "documentaries" on places like Discover, History Channel, etc. - the 30 minute info-mentaries which give little in the way of actual information and offer more speculation and flashy graphics are fairly popular and could be used to make a documentary profitable. Think like Roger Corman - why make 1 movie at x price when you can make 2 or 3 or more! You could turn the footage into a 30 minute program for a cable network and use the money from that to put together your final documentary - just be sure to shoot separate footage for each unless they'll let you reuse your footage for the documentary.

Jonathan Ziegler
http://www.electrictiger.com/
520-360-8293


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Sam Lesante Jr.Re: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 23, 2010 at 8:18:35 pm

Awesome guys!! Thanks a bunch. If and when my doc gets produced, I'll throw you guys in the credits as some type of consultant or something similar if you'd like. :)


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Bruce BennettRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:29:11 am

Hi Sam,

“How do I protect my idea?” was one of the questions that I asked veteran documentary filmmaker David Hoffman for my 90-min. CreativeInspiration.com documentary on him. David has won Emmys, Cannes, most major film fests, aired on History Channel, Discovery, HBO, TBS, PBS, etc. His bottom line answer... Sign the people that you want in your documentary first/before approaching others for funding and development.

Best of Luck!
Bruce

Bruce Bennett
Bennett Marketing & Media Production, LLC
Creative InspirationDocumentaries for those who love to create … and to be inspired.


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Mark SuszkoRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 24, 2010 at 1:56:04 am

This is kind of a peripheral thing, but, if the program has a script, you can have it registered with the WGA for something like ten bucks for ten years. That would be one solid way to prove "prior art" for your version in a way that would stand up in court. You don't have to be a Guild member to do this AFAIK.

http://www.wgawregistry.org/webrss/

Library of Congress also has a registration service, last I heard. Don't know anything much about it.

Bruce gave you a pretty good answer. You can't own the idea, but you can commandeer the people a rival would need in order to steal and use your idea. This is related to the idea of "optioning" a story from a book author or any person's life story; you pay them a fee an in exchange they don't work with anybody but you on the movie version, for a set time. After that set period, if nothing has happened, the option reverts to the person and someone else can make that deal. It's more complicated than what I've laid out, of course, but this is the general idea. Buy the option on those people's story and lock them into a commitment long enough that a rival can't make use of it in time; then they have to come to you, if they want to do the project.

This is the supposed reason there was never a sequel to "Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension": the guy who owned the options on the characters and etc. refused to allow it.


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Jonathan ZieglerRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 24, 2010 at 5:49:51 pm

This is pretty close:

If you are a WGA member, it's $10 to register a script; $20 for non-members.

Library of Congress does not have a registration service. If you click the link, it takes you to the US Copyright Office which is $35 to register a work for a US copyright.

For a script, you can have both WGA protection and US Copyright protection. There are pluses and minuses for both methods and having both is not a bad thing. Also, US Copyright protection is much longer (many decades after your death versus 5 years total with WGA).

There is no such thing as a poor man's copyright (sending it to yourself in mail). If you are going to go through that trouble, spend the $35 with the copyright office or $20 with WGA to register the work.

If it's worth money at any point down the road, it's worth registering. Protecting intellectual property is getting to be some pretty serious business moving into the future and will continue to be serious business as the Internet makes more and more challenges to much older intellectual property laws and precedents. I shoulda been a lawyer... ;)

Jonathan Ziegler
http://www.electrictiger.com/
520-360-8293


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Mads Nybo JørgensenRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 25, 2010 at 1:08:21 pm

Bruce and Mark is right, if you've got the sole access to the contributors/sources then the idea is yours to exploit. One way of doing it is to get the contributor to sign a release form.

Certain broadcasters won't accept the programme as a documentary if the subject has been paid for it, so be very careful about offering money. Expert opinions is a different matter.

All the Best
Mads
London, UK

Please don't to visit our new faceBook page here: http://www.facebook.com/MacMillionProductions

Mac Million Ltd. - HD Production & Editing
Blog: http://macmillionltd.blogspot.com


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grinner hesterRe: How to protect an idea...
by on Nov 25, 2010 at 2:36:10 pm

You can't protect an idea because everyone has them. That's the easiest part in the industry, afterall. Without taking the initiative to create something you can protect, you are just giving folks with initiative good ideas. They really will take them without even saying thank you.



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