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Imitation: The Sincerest Form of…?

March 24th, 2010

Imitation is a strange thing. If you’re in the media world, imitation is a double-edged sword. Done right, it is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.

But how do you imitate right? In most cases, imitation is derided as unoriginal, formulaic, trite or even plagiarism. If you’re in the film business, though, that answer must be cast through one of several prisms.

Business Affairs, who handle all the contracts, would say that Imitation is the sincerest road to litigation, since it is Business Affairs’ task (along with Legal), to defend the studio’s properties and maintain the ‘integrity’ of the company’s ‘intellectual property.’ But Production would have a different answer, because it is their task to exploit properties, and bring in as many audience members as possible – and the best way to do that is to copy the latest and greatest in the marketplace – even if it’s not technically theirs. Finally, the Development department would split the difference. They’d strive to make their scripts very similar to the best-selling product already out there, but they would do so with an eye toward sustainability of the ‘brand’ as well as putting the studio’s ‘unique’ spin on the finished film.

So, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, of thievery, of efficiency and of, well… imitation. Why are so many fanboy adaptations coming out in the next few years? And let’s not forget the virtual tidal wave of mythological films we face. It’s all about Hollywood’s desire to stretch its wings, push its boundaries… then return to the comforting cocoon of cash generated by cookie-cutter and ‘tentpole’ films.

Get ready for lots more of the same. Unless you feel like taking a chance and writing something original, something too good for Hollywood to refuse. There’s value in uniqueness – there’s quality in originality. And who knows? You might be starting the next big trend!

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