Saturday, June 07, 2008

A Writer's tragedy

From Technodirt.com comes this story that is the screenwriter’s version of the Darwin Awards. Apparently some guy wrote three screenplays (with the delightful titles of COLOR OF TULIP, BLOOD ON ICE, and – keeping with the theme – BLOOD ON SEVEN HILLS). He claims that at one point he was in negotiations to sell the screenplays for $2.7 million. But the talks went nowhere. So he ended up with nothing. Ohh??? There’s no middle ground between $2.7 and nothing?? But that’s not the point.

He later signed up for DSL and the technician installing it “cleaned up some unused items on his desktop” which included -- oh no! - the screenplays.

Oooops!

Data recovery was only partially successful in retrieving them. So the guy sued, claiming the screenplays were worth MILLIONS. He lost. And the jury felt he was also at fault FOR NOT MAKING A BACK UP OF SUCH “VALUABLE” FILES!

Ooooops!

I also question why the skeesix didn’t have a single printed copy. How did he submit them to these potential million dollar buyers? PDF files? And would perhaps one of the eager recipients bother to make a printed copy? These producers who had millions of dollars to just throw around couldn't afford a Xerox machine? Or send a guy down to Kinkos?

Always back up your scripts!!!

I do it every time I finish a writing session. I load it onto a thumb drive. I also have the nifty new Mac Time Capsule that backs up my hard drive constantly, and sometimes I email the working draft to myself just to be triple sure.

Nothing’s going to stop me from breaking the bank when I sell my latest screenplay -- BLOOD ON MAPQUEST DIRECTIONS TO PISMO BEACH.

30 comments:

Bruce said...

For digital files, don't forget an off-site back-up in addition to your local back-up. In case your house catches fire (or earthquake or whatever) and everything (including your Mac and Time Capsule) burns and/or transforms into something completely unrecognizable.
The nice thing about scripts is that they are small as opposed to your digital photo library. So saving them in some sort of online repository can be cheap if not free.
Take if from someone who has learned the hard way, it is one thing to back up locally and still loose everything and being able to recover something from an online back-up source should the unthinkable happen.
It is very true what you say, if you earn your living with these digital files as we do nowadays, they become ever more precious. And the emotional cost to recreate them is difficult to bear.

Charles Jurries said...

It is even easy enough to just e-mail yourself a document as back-up. I always do that for school papers, I'm sure it can work in the "real" world as well.

Gnasche said...

If the scripts are registered with the WGA, wouldn't they be cooperative and send him a copy of what he registered? I doubt he would have been showing them to studios without registering them.

Back on topic, though, backups are easy and valuable, even if only for stumbling upon years later and saying "Hey, look! My old 'Manimal' spec!"

chrismo said...

Check out mozy.com for off-site backup. First 2GB (IIRC) is free.

Carlo Conda said...

I don't believe this. Even if he didn't print out the script, why doesn't his agent, the potential buyers, or people who have given him notes have a copy of the script in the pdf format?
Silly.

sephim said...

Everybody knows real writers use typewriters... why else would Stephen J Cannell go to all the effort of making sure after the credits of every show he ever wrote there was footage of him doing so?

Tim W. said...

The only problem with storing your files online, is if the world ends, and with it the internet, you're basically screwed.

Anonymous said...

tim w.

way ahead of you... I've set it up so that in case the rapture comes a copy of all my scripts will be sent to every exec and my agent. (We know they'll still be around.

http://www.raptureletters.com/

Stephen Gallagher said...

I created a free Hotmail account, and email an attachment to it at the end of every session. Not only is it free off-site backup, but I can access it from anywhere.

(I also use a datastick and a backup hard drive, which I suppose makes it belt, braces, and two pairs of underpants. But better that than no pants at all.)

Carlo Conda said...

Final Draft also automatically backups your files, so if the tech guy deleted his Final Draft directory, those Backups will still be lurking in his "My Documents/Backups/Final Draft 7" folder.

John said...

I assume you got the Mac Time Capsule at a discount through family connections. Even if not, you can tell your son our 1 TB is humming along fine at the office, though every once in a while the G4 server we upgraded to OS 10.5 seems to forget it's there, and you have to manually go back in and point it to the Time Capsule as backup source through the Time Machine utility.

Not a big problem, as long as someone does a check of the G4 periodically, but just in case, I do use the e-mail myself option as a way to create an off-site file for the really drop-dead important documents.

Anonymous said...

I just rename my files to something like "hot lesbians.avi" and upload it a P2P network (any one will do). Instant, world-wide, multiple off-site backup.

Carlo Conda said...

Ken's gonna be getting some strange visitors to hit site now that you said "hot lesbians".

Gail Renard said...

The writer should have settled for $2.6 million. Then he wouldn't have had this problem.

Sebastian said...

Ooops

thanks for the reminder. My last backup is three months old *blush*

All because I bought a new laptop and didn't put a proper backup in place. My desktop had a raid 0 (mirrored harddisks) so it wasn't a problem but your post reminded me that that isn't the case anymore *blushes some more*

Pretty embarrassing. Especially because I burned new copies of about all my data I burned over the years with this machine and a new DVD burner within those 3 months (back in the day DVD media were expensive and very very faulty and even today you should re-check them with PI/POF checkers to be sure that the data ended up ok on the disk) - so I virtually re-backup-ed everything I already had as a backup without backing up everything I produced in the meantime.

This post is getting sillier by the letter. I'm off to do some backups now.

Nat G said...

I sense a new screenplay coming: Blood On The Hard Drive

A. Buck Short said...

sephim said...
Everybody knows real writers use typewriters...

Not so fast. There’s danger in that too. As is my want, I was just finishing my spec “National Lampoon’s Polygamous Ranch Vacation” on the IBM Selectric when we had a power surge and I lost and entire word.

Here’s a depressing, frightening, slightly OT, and let’s face it sick Darwin Awardly thought. (But only because our fearless leader has disciplined himself to moderate the number of sports stories on his blog).

Former Texas Longhorn, now Chicago Bears rb, Cedric Benson was arrested by Austin police yesterday on suspicion of DWI, driving while intoxicated. This follows his arrest last month for BWI, boating while intoxicated, on Lake Travis.

That leaves only one more world to conquer, FWI, flying while intoxicated. This immediately prompted an unusual joint admonition to Benson from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig that nearly two years ago, the late NY Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle was able to pilot his small plane into a 40-story New York City apartment building without the use of any performance-reducing substances.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

Google Docs is wonderful. You'll have a record of your work forever; plus, if you have a writing partner(s), Google Docs allows collaboration and ID's who-wrote-what.

Lev said...

First off--and I say this as a computer guy--never save anything of value on your desktop, especially if you're a PC. All that stuff is stored in memory, and if something goes haywire you might lose new changes. Use "My Documents" instead. Yes, it requires an additional click or two, but it's a better idea all around.

Also, to tim w., if the world comes to an end I suspect your script going MIA will be the least of your problems.

Bob said...

Stuff you save on the Windows desktop is stored on hard disk (C drive, usually). That said, it's not the greatest place to put something valuable; it's just too easy to inadvertently delete the file.

Based on the title of the screenplays that were erased, I'd say the poor service tech should be awarded some bucks for toxic waste removal.

Anonymous said...

lev- you probably mean on the Mac, because on windows the desktop is a directory on your hard drive like everything else (and unless there's some new Vista feature, windows doesn't support mount points in the middle of a drive).

Jeff Tompkins said...

I also back-up on thumb drives. I have two of them. One stays on my desk, the other is on my key chain. I also email everything to a G-mail account so it's always available online. If you're a writer and you don't do a back-ups, you're a moron. And it looks like the guy in your example is exactly that...or he's lying.

The Plush Armadillo said...

Anonymous -- I hate to burst your bubble, but on a Mac, the Desktop is also "a directory on your hard drive like everything else."

But then again, so is the "My Documents" folder on Windows, unless you happen to have your home folder on a remote server and are accessing it that way.

Carlo Conda said...

I think we should all know that EVERYTHING on your computer is stored on your hard drive, so enough bickering about that. :P

Also, who saves stuff on their desktop? I thought writers were better of organizing everything they wrote rather than plopping it onto an inevitably bloated desktop.

One of the ways I back up is, since I'm on a home network, there's another computer I can use as off-site backup. I got a free program called "Syncback" (which is awesomely easy to use), and it backs up my Writing folder to the other computer on my network every day at 12:00 am (and doesn't even need to open itself as a program to do this - it just happens in a split second with nothing popping up to annoy me).

I imagine it's a pretty safe way to back up my work. Unless our house gets hit by a comet.
In which case I'll have something interesting to write about that will likely put my old, destroyed scripts to shame.

Tim W. said...

Bob, I was being ironical.

growingupartists said...

Yes, be sure to save your drafts in blogspot on at least 3 computers. And don't let anyone steal your work while the kinks are being polished.

Anonymous said...

So, Ken, I trust you'll be working a reference to "turn right at Alberquerque" into that script somewhere?

cheers
B Smith

TCinLA said...

Morons not only have these things happen to them, they deserve to have these things happen to them.

Maybe he can go back to the job he's qualified for: "Ya want fries wit' dat?"

Keith said...

I back up my writing on a jump drive after each session, then archive a copy on my gmail account. About once a week, I'll dump everything onto the laptop. Once a month I load it onto the external hard drive and when I'm thinking about it, I store backups on my ipod. And I have hard copies of finished pieces.

Maybe it's a bit paranoid of me but I've just spent the last 18 months writing an 80,000 word novel. I'm not about to loose that just because some damn fool turned off the power or blew out the internet. Sure, civilization could collapse but my manuscript will survive!

Anonymous said...

Keith, I sure hope for your sake you're also making a hard copy of your work, too. A printed and/or burned copy on disk stored in a firesafe box is idea. One can be stored offsite as well. The thing with relying on jump drives/memory keys/thumb drives (all the same thing, btw), although they are solid state technology, they all have tiny electrical charges inside them to keep them working, and should it die very much like a mechanical hard drive will without any warning, you will be screwed. And let's be honest- my husband isn't the only one who has sat on his while storing it in his pocket and broken it in half, now is he? Hee. And he's probably not the only one that put it in a USB port that was incorrectly wired, thus forcing a charge surging through it and wiping out the entire 8G of contents he uses daily at work.

Disasters can happen all the time. The key to recovering fast is multiple copies, scattered on and offline, in and out of the home.

And I don't believe that writer, either. Not only is a total 'tard, but a lying one at that. And why would a tech delete anything from a desktop if he wasn't asked to while servicing a customer's PC?? That doesn't jive for me. We don't do jack without the customer's ok. And that includes rearranging icons to clean up the appearance of desktops. We only delete malicious stuff during virus sweeps, stuff you will want us to delete and you won't want left on when you come to put up your "clean" PC.

Stacey