A while back, I was watching an interview conducted by the eminent Christiane Amanpour, with the makers of a film that had been nominated for an Oscar. I can’t remember if it was nominated in the foreign film or short film category – assuming those are both actual categories. I can’t be bothered checking, especially since I’m not going to be detailing the names of the filmmakers, the title of their work, or the plotline of their film (which, now I think with more doubt about it, might have been a documentary – my stupid memory) which was discussed in depth in the interview and turned out to resemble an idea I’ve had on the go for months now.
Christiane Amanpour has a pleasantly modulated tone and interesting accent, and normally I watch her programme on CNN without the slightest distraction because her voice gently heralds the content so engagingly. But on this occasion I wasn’t to be consoled. I wasn’t to be re-hooked into the programme by that beautiful voice. I was sent spinning by this interview with the man who created a whole Oscar-nominated film using my idea.
Yep, at least until the credits rolled, I was lost to the world, trying to grapple with the injustice of not being able to use my idea anymore – that someone older and therefore more apt to get this idea out there before me, bah, had done so – that I would look like a huge fat copycat if I went on with the idea with the excuse that in transcribing it in my own medium, it’s not really the ‘same thing.’
But really, after all, before the film could come about, this man’s idea had to exist in words. It would have existed in script form. Which obviously is different to the novel or short story form (the latter of which being the medium I planned to use for this idea for all the several months since it’s occurred to me).
But that difference doesn’t necessarily outweigh the similarities the forms bear. Words, essentially, are what you read, what take you directly on a process and a set of tangents that work together to lead somewhere coherent but also chaotic and consuming when done right. So before the film existed, the idea must have worked in words. Someone else's words.
So someone had the same idea as me – only several years earlier, or perhaps decades before me – and they wrote the thing out better than I could have. Well enough that it got the green-light to enter Film-Land. But this fact ought not to matter as much as whether or not to keep the idea in mind, I think. For I am not a scriptwriter. I don’t foresee a potential career in filmmaking for myself. I daren’t even dream of my work ever being ‘cinematic’ enough that anyone would consider adapting it. Let me get something published first, yeesh. This would only truly matter if I'd been planning on making a film around this Idea, wouldn't it? I think that's the case. Because I want to use a different medium the idea isn't ruined, probably; isn't unusable, hopefully.
Anyhow, being a storyteller means I exist in the same world as these people who had the good idea, the same good idea, as me, just got to it first, completed it first. Frustrating as it is – and yeah, I’m not serious when I say bitch stole my idea, that’s just admitting to what the silly ego thinks when one first encounters one’s good idea developed and pruned to fruition by some other artist – once the credits stopped rolling, jolting me back to reality, kind of, I realised that I’d actually had an idea that someone else had made work. I’d never come across one of my older ideas in another’s work, work that becomes internationally known and successful and lauded.
(Maybe others have heaps upon heaps of ideas all the time and experience plenty of their ideas being used well in other people’s books, films, paintings, TV shows, so on. Not me.)
Not to say the ideas that don’t coincide in an obvious way with a successful person’s ideas aren’t worth anything. Just that now I know – there’s elements to this idea I’ve had that people do like, that I could work with to make my story light up. It feels as if my mind was in the right place when it churned up the idea.
It lets me know my other ideas of the same sort of depth or weight or theme are workable. If in the right hands – so I have to improve myself (to make my hands the right hands) and my idea, develop it to make it my own, so I’m not copying, and face it, when you discover someone's used the same idea you had, but in a different manner, it'd be too easy to filch ideas, and while that's not necessarily a no-no, it still sullies what you could have created with your own pure analysis and tangents, which could turn out to be a piece of work just as great, or creative - generally as worth consideration and admiration.
I am superstitious about nothing but my writing, which is why I don’t want to detail the idea or the film that struck me and made me mad for an unsettling fifteen minutes; I do believe I’d jinx my own process by sharing anything about what should be private, in my mind, until it’s ready for editing and shaping by way of external feedback. I will say that this idea is going to stay on my list of ideas to use when my current ideas are Done With - and
I’m going to use it anyway.
If I liked it enough to let it ferment on my list, I might as well keep on considering it and use it as planned. Anyway, I doubt the end product will much resemble an elegant and noirish foreign or short film that was nominated for an Oscar – it’ll just be another one of my stories.