Mystery Man GifKevin of Cincinnati saw a listing like this on Craigslist:

Screenwriters Opportunity

Can you do it better than
the films you see?
Do you have the next SIXTH SENSE
Now’s your chance to prove it.

Award winning Hollywood producer/manager
Looking for motion picture scripts.
All genres. Send synopsis
plus contact info. Cinn.

Kevin asks:

What would you make of a posting like this; is it to be trusted? Is there any difference between a synopsis and an idea? Can a synopsis be legally more protected than an idea?

There are some legitimate managers who solicit via the Internet. However, a legitimate manager will share his or her identity and credentials, usually on a website, and these credentials will be easily verifiable. Also, usually, a legitimate manager will make the writer sign a release before submitting material.

I am not saying the person above is not legitimate. I am saying you probably want to learn more about the manager before sending in your material. Email him (or her, who knows?) and ask for the manager’s background.

Aside from the lack of disclosure about the identity and credentials, the fact that the manager is in Cincinnati is also a red flag, or at least a yellow flag. Managers must be in regular discourse with producers and other dealmakers. Most of these contacts are in Los Angeles (at least, for the American market) and, naturally, so are most successful working managers. (There are also a good number in New York.) While it may not be impossible to function as a legitimate manager from Cincinnati, knowing the manager’s credentials is even more important.

As for the last part of your question, I assume it means, “Do I have to worry about my idea being ripped off?” Any time you share an idea with an anonymous source, you have to worry about being ripped off. Irrespective of the legalities of intellectual property law, you normally would not send ideas or synopsis to an anonymous email address. You should always keep a submission log and know exactly where and when you submitted material, always submit material with a cover letter or email (of which you keep a copy), and always follow up in writing if you hear no response.

The bottom line on listings like the above: before sending in your material, inquire of the person’s identity and credentials in order to make an informed decision.

12 thoughts on “MYSTERY PEOPLE”

  1. i’ve replied to some of these craigslist posts, just to see what was up with them…
    never sent them anything (besides a link to a press release about a project i sold)…
    but i always ask “Who are you? What’s your company about?”

    they never respond…

  2. I’m in a similar situation with a director/producer who solicited scripts on Craigslist. I emailed asking for information and he got back. He gave his name, phone number and name of his production company, then directed me to imdb to check his credits. I’ve got access to Studio System–a subscription service only employees can edit–and it turns out his credits are legit. We then had a phone conversation and he seems to be on the up-and-up, albeit a bottom feeder.

    I’m surprised, to say the least, that he’s been forthcoming so far, yet I remain wary. I’m to send him a script via snail mail, but I’m still debating whether or not to do so. He claims he’s got financing for $5-6 million and wants to shoot in London. Should I ask where his financing is coming from? Should I make him sign a release? What precautions can I take prior to sending him a script?

  3. Shawn:

    Producers will not sign a release. They often make you sign one for their benefit, not for yours. If you have checked out this producer’s credentials and they are legitimate, and if your script is registered either with the copyright office or the WGA, you can send it to him if he is someone with whom you think you would like to do business. Use a cover letter and keep a copy. You may want to get a proof of mailing from the post office (it costs about 50 cents) so you have some record that it was actually sent.

    Whenever you send out material, you have some risk of theft. However, if you never send out your material, you will never sell it. Accepting some risk is just part of being a writer. Do not be overly paranoid, just use common sense.

  4. Seems like an award winning producer/manager would be drowning in specs and would not want or need to ask for them. But, what do I know?

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