It’s probably easier at this point to personally contact the President of the United States than it is to read Hollywood’s latest scripts. If you can get through locked doors, secure-to-the-teeth iPads, ironclad nondisclosure contracts, and get your name on a secret guest list, you just might be able to read the latest wannabe blockbuster.
Via The Wall Street Journal:
“Intense security on scripts has become standard operating procedure in Hollywood, where studios and producers no longer just worry about movies being pirated. Now they stay awake imagining that an incomplete draft of a script will be posted online, reviewed by a fan blogger and trashed on Twitter, potentially souring audiences before a frame has been shot.
As a result, even some of Hollywood’s most veteran hands are treated like they’re being shown state secrets when they read a 120-page story about superheroes, robots or Jedi Knights.”
There are certainly problems with scripts leaking to the wrong hands—one only need mention the name Harry Knowles or his movie gossip mill Ain’t It Cool News to a studio executive in the early 2000s to see what pure unadulterated fear looks like. The Journal points out that even the scripts for adaptations of books released years ago (like The Hobbit or The Hunger Games) are placed under the highest possible security.
“If the script appears online, executives at the studio need only check a database tracking the changes to find out whose copy was leaked and ensure that they’ll never be invited to the post-apocalyptic world of Panem again,” writes Ben Fritz for the Wall Street Journal.
Protective measures are so extreme it seems they are inspired by the spy movies they protect. Cast and crew working on Neill Blomkamps’ Elysium were given iPads with the script that were loaded to the gills with security software so they couldn’t transfer any files from it.
Hollywood’s been taking extreme measures for a long time, though. 1989’s Back to the Future II was codenamed “Paradox” to mislead potential thieves; Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was codenamed “Blue Harvest.” This method is still in practice today—The Avengers was codenamed “Group Hug” by Disney, and protected with Elysium style software. I’m sure Back to the Future II director Robert Zemeckis and Star Wars producer George Lucas would’ve been all over Blomkamp’s methods had they been available.
There are cases where a leaked script can change a movie’s outcome. One such case mentioned in the Journal recalls when the script to Michael Bay’s planned adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles leaked and the fans reacted with such vitriol that the project was pulled. But I’m pretty sure that’s in the common interest of everyone, anyway.