I hear lots of talk about stolen ideas, the unlikeliness of concurrent independent creativity, etc. I’ve just had a great example of this happen to me… My buddies and I had a great idea for a zombie mockumentary, based on the concept of high-functioning zombies being integrated into society. We wanted to do a “Best In Show” type of thing, interviews with families, sociologists, economists, counselors, etc, on the difficulty of integrating functional zombies into our culture. What jobs would they hold? What products might be created for them? How would they impact the workforce, the economy, etc? Interviews with families dealing with a zombie dad/son/daughter, Zombie pride parades, zombie food service workers, tofu-brains commercials, high-functioning zombies in corporate jobs, and so on. The title: Zombie America.
We went so far as to outline the script, and started writing scenes. We even initiated an early casting call to find comedic actors with improv experience, etc. Then we heard about FIDO — a new film about to release based on the concept of post-zombie-war integration of high functioning zombies into our culture. Initially depressed, we decided that though we’d lost “first mover” status on the core concept of integrating high-functioning zombies into society, our approach was different enough from FIDO (ours being documentary style, theirs being a narrative) that we could benefit from their breaking the ground for us. So we went on.
Then, today I stumbled across another film – American Zombie — an apparently identical treatment of the subject, which just premiered a couple months ago. Not just a similar “idea”, but some IDENTICAL “expressions of the idea” — dialogue virtually lifted from our notes, were we paranoid (and believed in time machines). Even a near-identical title. We’re disappointed, but glad we did our due diligence before we got too much further into the process. We like to think we’d have done a better job of it, but it’s good to know we had an idea worth producing. Maybe some of you had already heard of American Zombie, but we had not. And maybe, for all I know, there’d been another one sometime before this.
Nevertheless I find it a prime example that concurrent conception DOES happen… perfectly innocent simultaneous, spontaneous, nearly identical movie ideas AND expressions, without any conspiracy, theft or copyright infringement.
Ironically, I met with a Producer shortly thereafter to discuss a job Art Directing a feature in July (not zombies), and related this story to him… he laughed, and told me that he and another writer had put together a concept for a zombie mockumentary integrating functional zombies last year that they had put on the back burner. Crazy. Do people steal ideas? Sure. But sometimes, kids, there’s just something in the air.