What is a movie idea worth?

The answer to “what a movie idea is worth”, is nothing.  I know this comes as a shock and many of you will just leave now. But for those that read on, I will explain why.

What is a movie idea?

I know that seems like something we should have understood from the start. But some people will get the concept of an idea and a story confused.

A story is a unique telling of an idea.  It has a unique perspective and explores the idea.  In a nutshell, if someone heard your story they could recognise it as your story because it is a unique expression (telling).

An idea is just that, a thought, not a unique telling. It doesn’t have bones. It is just an idea. This is why there are so many movies that as an idea look the same. 

White House Down has fallen is the same Olympus Has Fallen

Dante’s Peak is the same as Volcano

Armageddon is the same as Deep Impact.

Even though these movies are all based on the same ideas. The telling of the stories is all different and therefore can have copyright attached and therefore have value.

An idea must have some value?

As I just said. They have so little value they can’t even have copyright applied to them. Any implied value, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Someone may hear your idea and what to pay you to develop it into a unique expression of the idea.  You may get paid to write the screenplay.  But that is not because the idea has value.  It is because they are using your idea as a telescope or a time machine looking into the future, try to see what they think the final product will be.

Effort equals money.

So you are in the shower or eating toast or recovering from a cold and you have an idea.  How much effort did that take? None? So that is how much money you deserve.

A lot of people that think their ideas are gold are looking at the final product in their imagination.  They fail to see the year of effort that the screenwriter will spend writing the screenplay, in many cases completely dumping the original idea. The months in development, the camera operators, the wardrobe people, production design, actors, director, rehearsals.  They see all that and think it is their idea that has all the value.  You hear it all the time “I have a million-dollar idea”.  Sorry no.

So how do you add value to your idea?

Write it into a story.  This can be just a few pages. Give it all the complexity and detail you can.  This is a unique expression of an idea.  This has value and can be copyrighted.

This is why journalists get paid for movie rights to an article.  They are reporting facts that are public domain.  That guarantees them no copyright. However, their unique expression has value. It is easier for a producer to pay them and cut off future issues.

To underline the point.  Here are 14 free movie ideas.

  • Two sisters find that one of them was adopted after she was found to be terminally ill.  They go on a road trip to find the birth family.
  • A woman comes home to find a man hiding in her home. He is wounded. He is an escaped convict. He has a partner that has taken the woman’s daughter. She must help him avoid capture to get her daughter back.
  • A woman gets a ransom phone call, but it is a wrong number.
  • A gangster has introduced an undercover cop into his network. He escapes a police ambush and heads to see his boss try to explain and save his own life and the life of his family.
  • A man turns into a werewolf and goes on a murderous rampage. He is hunted by his friends that are trying to stop him from reaching a nearby town. It turns out it was just a hallucination from a new drug they are making. He awakens to find he has murdered all his friends.
  • A soldier wakes up in a forest behind enemy lines. He is helped by the ghosts of his dead fellow soldiers to escape capture and make it back to his own side. 
  • A terminally ill man befriends a suicidal teen. together they learn to appreciate what life has given them.
  • A couple from opposing planets fall in love. During a period of fragile peace, they have a child. War breaks out. They are forced on the run by both sides. 
  • Escaping from slavery a woman must allow herself to be captured to execute a plan to free herself and her child.
  • Set in the wild west a war criminal from the civil war changes his name and becomes a loved sheriff of a small town.
  • An atheist man learns that he was a clone baby. Only problem. The blood came from the Shroud of Turin.
  • A man on death row can prove he is innocent by informing on the real guilty person, his son.
  • A crew of a long-distance vessel comes out of hyper-sleep.  There is 100 passenger beds. But 101 passengers.
  • A woman is a suspect in her husband’s death when he is killed in the same manner a short story she wrote in college.

Even once you have added value to your idea. You are still safe. Read this next article to see why people will not steal your idea.

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