When is a script not a script? When it's a half-formed mess of ideas, scribblings and random notes. Which pretty much covers everything until the final draft you'll be delivering to your agent/publisher/producer (delete as applicable).
At some point in this development period, sometimes known as Hell, some variation of the following question will arise: When should I tell people what I'm working on?
Like many things in the writer's life, there are extremes of viewpoint on this. On one hand, there are those who cling desperately to their project until the last possible moment, never intimating to a soul what they're up to for fear of their precious baby being stolen, copied or otherwise snaffled in some way.
There's more than a whiff of paranoia about this approach, and loads has been written on t'Interweb about its lack of foundation. For a start, ideas are ten a penny and if your writing's any good, why wouldn't a producer simply buy your script rather than risk an expensive legal battle? Presumably, unless you're Aaron Sorkin, your services will come cheaper than a lawyer's. Yes, of course there are horror stories about examples of copyright theft, but the fact that they get talked about means they're the exception, not the rule.
What's more, this stance is unlikely to endear you to the aforementioned agent/publisher/producer, who generally like to imagine they know what's going on, at least to some extent.
At the other end of the spectrum are those who willingly scatter their seed upon the ground (metaphorically speaking, and stop sniggering at the back). They offer up loglines, pitches, treatments - even full scripts - for public consumption or competition entry without a second thought about protecting their intellectual property. These folk are generally glass-half-full people, ever ready with a cheery smile and an optimistic outlook.
Well, you know what the pessimist said in answer to the argument that optimists live longer: it serves them right. And keeping your powder dry can have its merits too, if it means added 'Ta-daa' value at the right moment, or avoiding casting your pearls before swine (not meant to refer to any agent/publisher/producer in particular but if the cap fits...).
There is, as you might expect, a middle way, if that doesn't sound too Blairy-touchy-feely for you. First, a couple of personal experiences that helped persuade me that keeping things quiet didn't make any damn difference anyway.
A few years back I was involved in a scriptwriting project based on a brilliant concept: a week-long stripped drama about a multiple car crash in which each episode followed the occupants of one of the vehicles involved. As the eps went on, a game of detection would unravel for the viewer. Our title? Impact. Three months into the planning, ITV announced they would soon be screening a week-long stripped drama about a car crash in which each episode followed the occupants of one of the vehicles involved. As the eps went on, a game of detection would unravel for the viewer. Its title? Collision. ITV's version was written by established scriptwriter Anthony Horowitz. Ours was dead in the water. I still think we had the better title, though...
More recently, I pitched a series of young adult novels to a well-known agent based on another brilliant concept, which I can't reveal here. I know it was brilliant because not long afterwards it became a successful published series of young adult novels. By another writer. Represented by that same well-known agent.
My point is not that I keep having brilliant ideas stolen, but that brilliant ideas do tend to float around in the ether at the same time, and your stunning concept is quite likely to be rather similar (or, as in my cases, extremely identical) to someone else's at precisely the same time.
Which brings me to Lesson Three of How Not to Write a Musical: Letting the cat out of the bag. Ultimately, only you can decide when and how you're going to reveal your project, and who to. My own feeling is that, provided you've taken reasonable steps to cover yourself (see Part 2 of How Not to Write a Musical), you might as well put it out there. Let's face it, keeping it to yourself probably won't make any difference anyway, and at least publicly you've claimed first dibs on it.
So, having thus convinced myself it's OK to go public, here's the moment you've both been waiting for.
The exciting new project that is now well under way, courtesy of writing team Michael Blore and Michael Davies, is a large-scale musical version of the Thomas Hardy classic Tess of the d'Urbervilles.
Don't all copy us at once...
Next time... Which comes first, the chicken composer or the egg lyricist?