I didn't get to watch Spacehopper in the end, as I had to get a very early flight back to the UK, but hopefully it'll get repeated, and also - Stu-pot has a blog. Although it looks like it might not last. So go and say hello while it exists.
In response to the previous post, cello said:
Isn't there a fourth version where they say, "We have something very similar in development" and then they pinch your idea and give it to a staff writer to work up?
and then sylvia said:
yes - how do you protect yourself against that? threats of violence? bribery with curly-wurlies?
The thing is - this has never happened to me. Or to anyone I know. Admittedly, I have an agent, whose job it is to hunt to the end of the earth anyone who even looks at my scripts funny,but most producers would give their eye teeth (or that attractive receptionist) to have access to a script so blimmin' good, there were bits worth stealing. And of course, if they did find a script that good, it makes rather more sense to just pay the writer some actual money instead.
This isn't to say that similar ideas don't bob to the surface at similar times. The first script I ever had in development was a beast called 'Skiffy', about a couple of guys who worked in a comic shop. The script had won a Channel 4 sitcom-writing competition, and there was some interest in taking it further. The humour would be character-based, but there'd be a lot of drawing on film references as the common cultural reference point for both characters and viewers. The project had a producer and script editor attached, and went through a couple of (unpaid) rewrites until C4 eventually told us they had 'something very similar in development' (you see, I do slightly know whereof I write) - and were going to go with that one instead.
So when Spaced* finally came out, I watched it with arms folded and a general sense of 'Harrumph', which dissolved after about thirty seconds, because, er, it was much much better that what I'd written. And much better than what pretty much anyone else was writing at the time as well.
But there were probably ten, twelve, thirty scripts out there about people who worked in comic shops, and whose cultural references were films like Evil Dead, and The Terminator because.... there were lots of us about at the time. Didn't mean more than one of them were actually going to be any good.
I once went to a Bob the Builder story meeting, at which we were encouraged to come up with a variety of plotlines that would be fun for the animators and directors to bring to life. We all went home, and the next day, completely independently, all sent in stories about a windmill. The editor was most confused, and asked if we'd all seen a windmill on the way back on the train or something. But we hadn't. It remains a mystery.
And thinking about it, look at the setups for any of the most successful television comedies: people bickering in an office environment, some losers hanging around in a bar in Boston, a hotelier in Torquay; they're not particularly astonishing ideas in and of themselves - what makes them successful is the depth of character, the voice of the writer and of course the quality of the performances, which is something you can only 'steal' by being really talented and original yourself. In which case, you tend not to steal stuff, because it's more satisfying to come up with something that's truly yours rather than a pale imitation of someone else's.
Of course this isn't to say your script/student film/website won't get out there and instantly be nicked by unscrupulous television advertising executives, but that's why it's perfectly legal to wander into their minimalist offices with a length of two by four and humanely dispatch the feckers (not cello though, she's one of us).
UPDATE: experts have pointed out that cello is not in fact a television advertising executive, nor has ever been one. But if she was, that would be okay, and she'd be a good one as well, I reckon.
* Weirdly enough, I've just remembered that when potential casting notes came up, I said 'Ooh there's this bloke called Simon Pegg who does standup and a bit of acting, and this guy called Bill Bailey I think would be good as well'. I think they did all right for themselves in the end.
UPDATE: the same expert has cast doubt on this one, but it is in fact true, so she can SHUT UP.