Saturday, July 13, 2013

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? Even if a PDF file was submitted 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 I drop a copy in Dropbox.  (If you don't have Dropbox you should!) 

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

29 comments:

Paul Toohey said...

I keep all my screenwriting on Dropbox, so it is available everywhere and a bit harder to lose...

Igor said...

Ken, I went to TechnoDirt.com to read the full story, and after searching myriad ways ("tulip", "blood"...), I could not find it.

Are you sure it was TechDirt.com?

Igor said...

Oh, I found it. The story's at TechDirt:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060707/0950223.shtml

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Between scripts, audio production and libraries, I take ZERO chances. I back up to Time Machine (on a dedicated 8 terabyte Drobo drive), a cloud service AND manually on an external drive. It is a bit retentive anally, but it saved my anal area many times. Listen to Ken here.

RobertElisberg said...

Ken,

1) I always make *three* three backups.

2) Yes, many producers will ask for just a PDF. But --

3) That means the producer has a freaking copy of the PDF!!!

Verna said...

"My mama always said, "stupid is as stupid does""

Winston Groom "Forest Gump"








Phillip B said...

Recently there was an apartment house fire in a university town - 19 units were destroyed and most of them were graduate students.

One fellow was just finishing his PhD in the sciences and had all of his research data on his computer. Which was destroyed in the fire.

He had carefully backed everything up on thumb drives - which he locked in the the desk drawer in his apartment. So they were also destroyed.

Having back up in the cloud or on another server is not anally retentive. And it sure beats carbon paper...

Mac said...

Hmm... hard to believe there wasn't one hard copy of this blockbuster trilogy, given the 2.7 million dollar negotiations, or no-one who'd received it as an email attachment who could still print it off, or if he'd emailed it as an attachment it would still be in his "sent" folder. And they weren't worth 2.7 million at he point he lost them, they were worth zero. As the story notes, if they'd been worth anything he'd have done a basic back-up. Sounds more like he took a (very badly-advised) shot at a payday. So now he has the legal costs to pay on top of his "lost millions."



Wendy M. Grossman said...

I get angry when I see this kind of thing in TV shows (MEN IN TREES, SEX AND THE CITY...) because it makes me hate the characters for being stupid and self-destructive.

But it is also the reason why no technician is ever allowed to touch my computers. They may stand behind me and tell me what they would like me to do. I recommend this approach highly. It's not only that it ensures they can't do something destructive to your machine because they don't understand what you have or where, it also means you learn a bit about what to do when stuff happens.

wg

Igor said...

Wendy M. Grossman wrote: "But it is also the reason why no technician is ever allowed to touch my computers. They may stand behind me and tell me what they would like me to do."

I think I saw that in the opening scene of an episode of Law and Order, SVU.

(But otherwise, yeh. I do the same.)

Ane said...

I use Dropbox, isn't that enough? Do I need a backup in addition to that? I don't think I they will just shut down without giving notice... Am I being naive?

Irv said...

I'm glad you're still writing, Ken. Even though nobody's going to hire a geezer to write a script, it probably helps keep your mind sharp to continue working on them. Like doing crossword puzzles or playing solitaire. And you can at least soothe your ego by pretending to believe you might sell a script. Hey, whatever keeps senility at bay, right?

Daniel said...

Actually, Ken, it's common for scripts to be submitted as PDF files these days. Try and keep up.

Rich Shealer said...

@Ane - Relying on a single source for backup is a risk. Much better than no backup and better than an on-site backup.
It’s very rare but the online sites have lost data from time to time. It’s rare but it’s worth having a local back up as well.

Tom Quigley said...

While backing up your file and saving it to a separate drive is ulitmately the best way to go, sometimes electronic backup isn't the only recourse. If this guy had bothered to register his scripts with the WGAW (assuming they were complete scripts and not just random notes on various pages), they'd have copies of them -- plus he'd have proof that he was actually the author. If this story is true, it sounds like a very slipshod and careless way to go about conducting his business. In addition, I don't know of any agent, producer or production company who DIDN'T ask me to include proof of WGAW registration for any script I was ever invited to submit. If the company he was dealing with was legitimate, they should have presented him with that stipulation right up front.

Lou H said...

Ane, there is a wrinkle with Dropbox. It copies every change you make to a file onto its servers. If you (or your computer) accidentally erase a portion of a file, you can get the old version back, but unless you buy the "packrat" level of service, old versions of your files are only kept around for 30 days.

So it's worth making your own backups, too. I periodically buy a hard drive and copy everything to it, lock it in an overnight deposit bag, and give it to a relative to hold onto.

Victor Buhler said...

Mr. Levine, did you vote on the Writers Guild list of the Best Written TV Series. I know you wrote for "Cheers" and "M*a*s*h". I think they made a huge mistake not including "The Waltons". There wasn't a single drama series on the list after 1980 that could have have been written without "The Waltons". Earl Hamner pioneered the continuing storylines that all drama series have used since. My 3 favorite TV writers are Rod Serling, Earl Hamner and Tom Fontana of "St. Elsewhere". I just heard from Tom today. He is in Europe working on a new series.

Victor Buhler said...

Mr. Levine, please send an e-mail vicbuh@aol.com

Breadbaker said...

Just mail the stuff to yourself and the copy will be saved on your mail server. If he submitted it by email, the outgoing copies are probably still on the server somewhere. Which is why I never erase email.

Mike in Seattle said...

If d-bag emailed it to somebody there's probably a copy in the sent email. Keep every sent email.

A copy in the house and a copy on Dropbox protects you mostly, but what if you have a fire and the Dropbox server fails and your Google mail server fails all on the same day? Every night when I finish my script, one copy on Dropbox, one copy on Skydrive. Dropbox also syncs to another computer in the house.

I also date stamp my backup files. I can look at the evolution of the script over the last 6 months that way, too.

Paul Duca said...

BLOOD ON MAPQUEST DIRECTIONS TO PISMO BEACH...AND ALL THE CLAMS WE CAN EAT!

Pete in NY said...

Amen, Ken. For those of you out there that have blogs, call your blog provider (Bluehost, GoDaddy, etc.) and ask for a backup of the database from (in my case) the Wordpress content folder. I mistakenly didn't do this and now I'm paying a heavy price. Speak to your company live, on the phone. Do it now.

Johnny Walker said...

Hmm. If he sent the scripts as PDF files, they should be in his sent items folder.

Anyhoo, JOHN CLEESE recounts a tale of how he lost a script he'd just finished. After venting his frustrations and kicking himself, he just sat down and wrote it all again.

After he'd finished his second version, he found the first. After venting his frustrations again, he read the original draft and compared it to the new one.

Conclusion? The new one was better.

Yes, it's annoying. Yes, the DSL guy was an idiot. But for $2.7 million, maybe he should have got off his litigious arse and re-written his scripts.

Johnny Walker said...

Here's the full story. Turns out this all happened in 2006:

Police blotter: SBC sued over deleted screenplay

Dan Ball said...

In reality, the dog probably ate it. Since nobody in their right mind would give him $2.7m for THAT...

He might've been able to score $2.7m by writing a script about this very chapter of his life.

DBenson said...

How many million dollar ideas were lost or damaged beyond repair when a robocall or telephone solicitor knocked them from the front of my mind?

I was this close to making "James Bond: The Musical" work . . .

Kathy said...

Dropbox is amazing. But I wonder...can't their servers crash too?

chuckcd said...

Just finished mine.
Titled "Blood on Toast"

jbryant said...

I'm glad you're writing blog comments, Irv. Even though nobody's going to hire a disrespectful jerk to write anything, it probably helps keep your mind sharp to continue working on it. And you can at least soothe your ego by pretending to believe you might one day have a fraction of the success Ken has enjoyed. Hey, whatever keeps self-awareness at bay, right?

Seriously, why on earth do people come here to give Ken crap? Irv's disgusting ageism is best ignored, but I'd love to compare his resume to Ken's.