He was my friend and I considered him a mentor so it hurt to let him down.
I’ve suffered from chronic depression most of my adult life. I work in TV and films, primarily as a producer/editor. The following story happened in the middle of my horrible divorce with my first wife, which also involved a prolonged custody battle. I won the custody trial but it left me completely broke and frazzled and I was still stuck with a very high alimony payment after all was said and done. What happened to me at work during that time was almost the nail in my coffin – it sent my depression over the edge into suicidal territory: I pitched a show to a network – presented a show synopsis and a list of topics that would cover two seasons worth of episodes. The development exec for the company who owned the network looked it over and said, “It’s great but we have something similar.” Fast-forward two years and I was called in by the same network to edit a promo for a new show – I’m a freelance so work with a variety of clients. I imported episode one into Avid, hit play, and the first line of the show was the first line of my proposal, to the letter. Was the exact same show I pitched – they barely even changed the title. Checked it out with an entertainment attorney and was told there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I still managed to deliver the promo and it actually turned out pretty good. The show I pitched was was a horror-based show.
I have the back-and-forth emails with with the star of the show to prove the concept development on my end and also all the documents I presented to the executive at the network who was later laid off for reasons that probably have nothing to do with my situation. Regardless of the proof of plagiarism I had no recourse. It’s part of the risk of pitching these days – the laws are completely in their favor. Once you tell a development executive an idea they are basically doing you a favor by hiring you to help you make it. It takes a bit of political clout to continue on and be part of the project – clout I didn’t have at that stage in my career. Still, I was SO angry. So was the actor. I felt awful for him because, seriously, how cool would that have been for him? How many books would that have helped him sell? He was my friend and I considered him a mentor so it hurt to let him down. He passed away from cancer recently and this situation still nags at me. I wish I had never involved him. This was probably the lowest point of a very bad decade. Of course there was a ton of other stuff going on but being betrayed and backstabbed and RIPPED OFF in such a blatant manner hurt me more than I was prepared for. I was already in a depression but this put it in hyperdrive. All that said, I’m not bitter any more and I regard that whole period as a vital part of my journey. I learned so much about myself and about how to maneuver in my industry. I still work with the network and the company and have actually been supported by people who work know the story. It was not the company that betrayed, rather one of their former employees who chose to be duplicitous. I’ve managed to make that horrible time in my life a period of growth and for that I’m very thankful.