I think its safe to say that if you want to make movies, you first of all have to have an idea of the movie you want to make. (This is not exclusive however, as I have seen films that have been finished and they still don't really know what they were about). That aside the key to successful film is a GOOD idea.
Good ideas are completely subjective of course, as everyone has an opinion. What tickles someones one metaphorical film boat won't necessarily grab someone else by the scrotum of cinema, All that matters is that you believe in your idea enough to bring it to fruition.
So people often ask how I come up with ideas for films, and to be honest it has and will continue to happen in a variety of different ways. Here are some of the most common.
One of the best ways to come up with ideas for movies in look at what you have available. Creepsville was born of a title, but its substance was based on stuff we knew we had access to. I often joke that If you look out the back window of my old university building from the top floor you can see every location that we used in the film. That is absolutely true.
Even whilst casting we held an open auditions and had people come down and do their own prepared thing and adapted the script for the people we liked. We worked with what we knew we had and it really limited the amount of things that could go wrong*, because we knew our locations and props etc very well before we even started.
*Loads of stuff still went wrong.
Sometimes I look around at characters I've designed, which is quite common as I do a fair amount of graphic design and comic book work. Every so often I look through these sketches and doodles and scribblings and find a character that grabs my attention. Usually something I've sketch from subconsuiness or boredom and I start to give them a story and then sometimes, that story becomes a movie, or at very least the idea for one.
Thorn and the feature Legacy Of Thorn came from using this approach. I had been sketching the skull faced brute for about a decade before I finally decided to try and flesh out a back story for him in 2007. Eventually I fleshed it out a bit more for Slasher House and then even more for his solo movie Legacy. The approach all came from designing a character and then telling his story.
Slasher House was born from creating Red, I knew I wanted to create a very specific kind of character that could exist in a world of Slasher Villains. I knew I wanted to do something interesting with the 'Final girl' archetype that appears in that kind of movie, after that It was coming up with a scenario to place her in. That scenario became Slasher House.
This is quite common for me, I have an idea for a title, then I sit down and brainstorm what that film would be about. Creepsville started out as a title, then I sat down with another writer and came up with the story that I felt fit the title and tone that I wanted the film to have. 'Blood On Santa's Claws' was the same, an idea for a title that then left me with the difficult task of figuring out what that movie would be about.
Its not an uncommon approach and I find that this is a great approach to forcing yourself to be creative, by limiting what you allow yourself to input, to a degree it allows you to be more creative with the small amount of information that you've given yourself. This is by far my favourite foundation to start with. I also sometime give myself extra limits or things that I force myself to include to spark my creativity just that little bit more.
My favourite title I ever came up with was a movie we have in pre production currently which was I'VE GOT BETTER THINGS TO DO TONIGHT THAN DIE (A line spoken in the Animated Transformers movie). That sent my brain crazy and within a few days I had an immensely complex plot for an extremely unique rape/revenge movie.
STUMBLE ACROSS THAT LUCK SYRUM FROM RED DWARF
I wanted to limit it to the 3 most common ways that I come with and begin to develop ideas. However, there is one other that I think is fair to mention.
On a clear night, when the moon is at its largest size, and the stars move into alignment with Jupiter and Uranus (lol) you may, from absolutely nowhere, come up with an idea so radical and fully formed that it will surprise even you. It will be instantly ready to go down on paper and you will for a brief moment trick yourself into the belief that you may actually be a screenwriting genius.
Don't worry this attack of ego will only last till you begin work on your next script and realise that you somehow managed to fluke an amazing story from thin air. Its rare as a Pie at a Sumo Wrestling contest, but it does happen.
I have come across this amazing occurance only once in my life in which the film simply fell from my brain onto paper, but that is is a story for another time. Its safe to say that the first 3 approaches work great and if you get stuck, just rip off some blockbuster thats coming out next year its works for our friends at the Asylum. You can check out thier latest release 'Android Cop' at http://the asylum.cc (I'm joking btw).
Coming up with ideas is the most exciting part of filmmaking for me. It's the part when you are at your most creative, but it's also the easy part. Bringing them into fully formed stories is something else and turning them into fully fledged scripts is another all together. But we'll talk about that next time.
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