Let me tell you about the time that a friend and I accidentally/simultaneously wrote Free Guy. And you can read it, if you want!
You may hear about “simultaneous creation” in Hollywood—well, it’s true, it happens. We’re living proof.
In 2016–17, Robert Nathan and I wrote GAME, about a virtual-reality video game in which a non-playing character (NPC) becomes sentient—and a chase ensues inside and outside the game to control him.
Sound familiar? Our version wasn’t an action–comedy, like Free Guy—we played it straight, with a darker look at a Facebook-like company.
Because Robert has an extensive television career (Law & Order, ER, numerous stints as showrunner of other shows), two things: One is that the script came out great!
The other was that when the script went on the market, it had the visibility to be optioned by STX Television. This was great in and of itself but it opened other professional doors for me, the neophyte. It was huge!
The rewrite process under STX was also hugely valuable—to make the script even better, and learn how to work with studio notes (which were excellent).
And...in the end, the show didn’t go forward. There are a lot of reasons for that, and it was disappointing, but we got much further in the process than most projects.
So I prefer to think about the good things we did, how much we love the script, and what valuable experience I got.
And we were going to put it back on the market...when we learned about Free Guy.
What can we say? Great minds think alike. It really is the same concept. (And to think, at the time, we were mostly worried about Westworld as possible competition.)
Because of the timeline—the Free Guy feature spec script went on the market at almost the exact same time as our pilot—there’s no way it could have been anything but simultaneous creation.
What’s uncanny is that, due to the laws of storytelling (not really “laws,” but inescapable patterns), there are so many similarities—the rules of the gameworld, the company that makes the game, the name of the game (“The City” vs. “Free City”), the supporting characters, the narrative engines and conflict, etc.
Of course we were frustrated and upset—but time makes it sting less. We at least have a certain closure of knowing that we tried our best, we did a good job, and, since there’s no way to actually make the project now...we’re happy to make the script public.
Hope people choose to read—let us know what you think!