Hollywood’s Leaky Faucet: How the Industry is Reacting to the Threat of Script Leaks
Tarantino’s Script Leak Lawsuit
Patience is a virtue. Apparently the mothers of the fan-boy blog-o-sphere never instilled this value. The Internet presence of Hollywood’s fan community has become a dominant force over the past ten years or so. Throughout this time, hundreds of successful blogs have been created, feeding an intense demand for any and all information regarding Hollywood’s popular upcoming releases. Don’t get me wrong: as a fan-boy, I actively participate in this journalistic phenomenon. However, our collective desire for information could lead to the destruction of the exact films that created this feverish fandom in the first place.
The case in point is Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight.” The blog–o-sphere had a virtual heart attack when it was revealed that Tarantino planned on following up his Oscar winning “Django Unchained” with a pure western entitled “The Hateful Eight.” As a Django fan, I will admit to uttering a girlish shriek upon learning such news. Unfortunately, our excitement was pre-mature. Deadline recently reported that Tarantino plans on scrapping the movie altogether after an early draft of his script was leaked onto the Internet. Instead, Tarantino claims he now plans on publishing the script as a novel. The script was leaked after being given to only three actors: Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Bruce Dern. Tarantino’s script joins a long list of major movies suffering a similar fate, including “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra,” “The Social Network,” and Tarantino’s own “Django Unchained.”
Tarantino’s decision is likely one only a filmmaker of his pedigree could make. More often, it is the fear of “negative buzz” that prompts a studio to kill a film after such a leak, the most infamous being J.J. Abrams’ “Superman: Flyby.” Warner Bros. halted production on “Flyby” after the leaked script received a scathing review on AICN.
Thus, studios have two options to control this issue.
First, studios attempt to prevent such leaks by increasing security around popular scripts. By “security” I mean studios treat unproduced scripts like vital national security secrets on a particularly dramatic episode of 24. Last year, The Wall Street Journal took an in-depth look at this practice and the results were astonishing. In order to read the script to last summer’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” cast members had to travel to a discrete brick building in Santa Monica marked only by a sign that exclaimed “The National Typewriter Company.” Once identified and buzzed in, the cast was allowed to read one sole copy of the script printed on bright red paper as to prevent any sort of photocopying. Legendary Pictures LLC, which produced last summer’s fan-boy friendly “Pacific Rim,” provides their casts with special iPads that allow the user to view a script for a small period of time and then promptly deletes all such material. Less drastic measures involve watermarking copies of the script so that at least studios can identify the source of the leak.
Secondly, through litigation, studios can attempt to provide a disincentive to potential script leakers or past offenders. The case of Tarantino’s Hateful Eight is a clear-cut case of copyright infringement. The fact that he intends to publish the leaked material as a book makes his case for infringement even more cut and dry. However, such a suit breaks one of the cardinal rules of show business: don’t sue your fans. Fox broke this cardinal rule in 2010 when it sued a New York women who hosted produced and unproduced scripts on her website. The media pounced, painting the women as a struggling mother and Fox as a greedy corporation seeking excessive damages. Fox promptly dismissed the suit. In other words, such suits are a PR nightmare. However, Tarantino, like many of his vengeance driven protagonists, recently filed a suit against Gawker Media. During the initial leak, Gawker promoted itself as the first source to provide the screenplay in its entirety. Although the outcome is unclear at this point, Tarantino’s suit is poised to set a precedent on how studios and filmmakers approach litigation over script leaks in the future.
More information on the possible outcome of Tarantino’s suit is available here, via The Hollywood Reporter.