One of my favorite bloggers put my question online on his forum. Interestingly he even followed the correct protocol by mailing me & asking for my permission to post it online, which I didn't expect. I was just hoping that he would put it online and when he mailed me, i said - wow.
Here is Scott's response to my question.
Hi Scott,I have little knowledge of the inner workings of Bollywood although I have heard anecdotes through the years about how studios there have no problem lifting story concepts and even whole plots from Hollywood movies, and remaking them. In fact, if you Google, "hollywood movies bollywood rip off," you'll find several threads like this one which provide lists of supposed Bollywood rip-offs.
I am not sure how much to (verbally) describe my story to people of the industry when they ask me what I am working on. I haven't really jumped-in into Bollywood yet (I live in Mumbai) but I do have some contacts and 'lifting'/stealing one's idea isn't so rare out here.
Sometimes I give complete logline - most of the times I get excited and can't resist talking about what my story is, which I believe is unique and later I wonder if I got over-excited and get a bit concerned - what if someone shall rip the idea off :-)
What's your take on this? Even if with respect to Hollywood.
So, when you say "'lifting'/stealing one's idea isn't so rare out here," I think you are probably correct in taking the safe approach re your own story ideas.
Here in the States, if you are a working writer and represented by a recognized agency or manager, there is little risk of having an original idea you pitch or write being stolen. The fact is Hollywood is a small community, one where deals are made over the phone, and usually committed to paper several weeks, even months later, so trust is a big thing.
For those who are attempting to break in as a screenwriter, the situation is a bit different -- with no rep, they lack that level of protection. That's why it's always a good idea to register a treatment or script with the WGA, which you can do here or copyright the material. Still no guarantee someone won't steal your ideas, but at least you have something tangible for a possible legal option down the road.
I'd think the same would pertain to Bollywood. At the very least, register your story before you discuss it with anyone. The other thing is more of a matter of thinking like a screenwriter: you always want to leave them wanting more. So if your instinct is as you wrote -- "most of the times I get excited and can't resist talking about what my story is" -- you have to learn to restrain yourself. If you happen to cross paths with a producer or director or studio exec and you have the opportunity to pitch them, give them just enough to hook them. If they are interested -- and you can generally tell, especially if they start asking you questions about the plot -- then that's time for you to say, "Why don't we set up a meeting and I can walk you through the whole story?"
That's your initial goal: get the meeting. This is important for several reasons. First if you have a meeting, then things get a lot more official, and less likely you'll get ripped off. There is a date and a time and a place where you met. Second the buyer will be much more likely to give your story a fair shake if they are in their office and in official pitch-hearing mode. And third, even if you don't sell your story, you've opened a door to an actual Bollywood contact, a relationship you can nurture and build on.
Your best bet is to write a complete script and register that. Scripts are harder to rip off than pitches because they are more substantial, more of the story worked out, as well as easier to buy because a buyer can see how the story plays out in full.
So in summary, always register your stories, even if only in treatment form. Better to have a completed spec script in hand before you try to pitch anyone. And don't give them everything, leave them wanting more, and use that as a means to get a meeting with them.
I know we have a lot of GITS readers who live in India. If you have some advice please weigh in with your thoughts in comments.