Many people have seen a bad movie and thought "I could do better." However, when it comes to brainstorming movie ideas, most people are blank. However, this is not because people are not creative, but because they think of big ideas instead of thinking about how a movie works and working backwards from there.
Method 1 of 2: Start from scratch
Step 1. Understand the essential parts of a movie idea
Most people get stuck because they want to make the whole movie at once, rather than starting with the necessities and building from there. Many movies are created simply by mixing and matching three things (setting, character, and conflict) to make a new movie. Sometimes, if one of them is original enough, that's all you need to start writing ("The Cabin in the Woods" starts with a government-run horror factory, which is an idea original enough to start the plot.). Regardless of what movie you want to make, you'll be on your way if you have the following:
- Stage: where your movie is located in time and space. Can you imagine a space epic or a medieval Earth or just a small town somewhere?
- The protagonist (or the protagonists): Who is the main character? You don't need the characteristics yet, just the vague outline of a character. Are you a space pilot? Is he a peasant? Are you a dental hygienist?
- The conflict: What does your character want? Do you want to be a hero? Do you want to fall in love? Hate your boss or your job?
Step 2. Make your movie from these three simple elements
All films, from the rare indie ones to the biggest blockbusters, are the result of combining these three concepts. Don't worry about the intricacies, subtleties, or even finer points (these come from writing the idea). You need a strong base idea that you can build on.
- A space epic + a pilot + the desire to be a hero = “Star Wars”.
- The Middle Ages + a farmer + a hero or a love = "Knight's destiny".
- A small town + a dental hygienist + hatred towards his job = "How to kill your boss."
- Juvenile detention + idealistic counselors + a guy who doesn't want advice = "Grace's lives."
Step 3. Set aside some time to brainstorm
Ideas rarely (or never) appear out of nowhere. The reason people seem to come up with great movie ideas is because they take the time to do it. This is as simple as grabbing a pen and paper, eliminating distractions, and taking some time to think. If you need help, give yourself some pointers. The most important thing is to write everything down (on the subway, at home, at work). These ideas will be the building blocks for bigger ideas.
- “What if…” are three of the most important brainstorming words. Jurassic Park, for example, is the result of "What if people could bring dinosaurs back to life?"
- "What if two of my favorite movies were combined?"
- Look for news events that interest you. What if you were there?
- Write about your interests (any of them). "Clerks" was made from the passions of intellectuals and rooftop hockey, "Super Hot" stems from a love of classic youth party movies, "Lincoln" was written by people with a passion for history. Nothing is out of reach.
Step 4. Seek inspiration in real life
Right now, in any major newspaper there are probably 5 stories that can be turned into good movies. Real life is often stranger than fiction and you will find that news stories are good starting points for new stories. How did the person who won the wolverine competition become a professional eater? Why is the country club closing? What was it like for the police record officer to respond to a call about "stray bacon?"
Use these things as propellant points (the beginning of arguments or ideas with which your imagination can take off)
Step 5. Determine the gender
Genre is the type of movie. Although it can be said that many films have several genres, most of them fit perfectly in one or the other. Genres include comedy, romance, science fiction, action, horror, drama, or documentary, but there are also many combinations (such as romantic comedy, dramatic comedy, action horror, etc.). The great thing about the genre is that it helps you develop an argument (which can give you a focus for brainstorming). For instance:
- Do you like horror films. So your movie idea "must" involve the invention of a good villain. Once you have the monster or the bad guy, you have your movie idea.
- Do you like romantic comedy? Then you need a girl and a boy who for some reason cannot fall in love (she is a Republican and he is a Democrat, one of them is married, one of them is an alien, etc.).
- Do you like science fiction? Think of an invention that you would like to see exist, such as space travel, spaceships, teleportation, or a device that builds new planets. Your story should be about the aftermath of that invention.
Step 6. Modify existing movies to make something original
You will never invent a completely original idea. Although it sounds harsh, it is incredibly liberating. There are no films that have no influence or that have not drawn ideas from previous films and art and yours will be no exception. How can you modify or change something you enjoy to do something new? Here are some ideas:
- "Austin Powers" is simply a comedic twist on spy movies, especially James Bond movies, which dominated theaters. The plot is the same, only the action scenes are replaced by jokes.
- "Where are you brother?" It is a story that is based on Homer's “The Iliad”, but takes place in the rural world of the North American South.
- "Avatar" is strikingly similar to "A Dance with Wolves," but it is set in a space where James Cameron was able to capture a new perspective.
- "Memoirs of a Teenage Zombie" has all the arrangements of a romantic comedy, but one of its main characters is a zombie. This rapid “merging” of film types helped the film to stand out immediately.
Step 7. Come up with a concept to cement the idea
Concepts are one-sentence summaries of your script. Good concepts tell you three things: the hook (what makes the movie different), the conflict, and the characters or settings. To learn how to write good concepts, check out some famous examples.
- "Back to the future": a young man is transported to the past where he must reunite his parents before he and his future disappear forever.
- "Jaws": A police chief with a phobia of the open sea battles a gigantic shark, while a greedy city council demands that the beach remain open.
- "Ratatouille" - A Parisian rat secretly teams up with a talented chef to prove that anyone can cook, despite what the critics and pest control might think.
Method 2 of 2: Turn an Idea into a Movie Script
Step 1. Give your idea a movie structure
There are many structures out there, ranging from the basic 3-act movies to the common “hero's journey”. However, they can all be summed up in 5 basic parts found in 99% of all movies (action movies, dramas, romantic comedies, and children's movies). Take your idea and elaborate these 5 essential points and you will have a movie that is likely to be made.
- The configuration- Determine the characters, settings, and world. This is the first 10% or less of your movie and introduces the viewer to it. It should not be more than 10 pages.
In "Star Wars", George Lucas introduces the premise of space warfare, conflict ("Help me Obi Wan, you are my only hope") and many central characters (Luke, Leah, Darth Vader, R2 D2, and C3 P0)
- The change of plans, the opportunity or the conflict: something happens that sparks the conflict on pages 9 or 10 (Erin Brokovich gets a job, the school throws a party in "Supersalidos", Neo knows the "Matrix", etc. The next 10 to 20 pages should show your characters facing these changes.
In "Star Wars", it is when Luke rejects Obi Wan, but discovers that his family has been murdered. So, he agrees to go to Leah's rescue
- Point of no return- Up to this point, the characters have worked hard to achieve their goals. However, in the middle of the movie, something happens that makes it impossible to go back. A Bond villain strikes again, the "Gladiator" arrives in Rome, Thelma and Louise they rob their first store, etc.
In "Star Wars" they are trapped in the Death Star in the middle of the movie. They cannot reach Alderaan as planned and must fight to escape
- The main setback- From the point of no return, the stakes go up. For the characters and for the audience all hope seems lost. This is when the girl and the boy end their relationship in all the romantic comedies, when Ron Burgundy is fired in "The Reporter: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and when John McClane is beaten and bloodied in "Hard to Kill." This happens at 75% of the movie.
In "Star Wars", Obi Wan is dead and the Death Star is on the move. The only chance to succeed is a last-ditch effort to destroy the Death Star
- The climax- Characters make one last big effort to reach their goals, ending in the greatest challenge of all. This is the moment of the journey through the airport, the final holes in "The Crazy Club" or the final showdown between the hero and the villain. Once the last 10% of the script is settled, tie up any loose ends and show the conclusion of the climax.
In "Star Wars," Luke makes his final heroic run on the Death Star, blowing it up despite the odds against him
Step 2. Develop your characters
You must make your characters seem real, as if "they" were driving the story and not some writer. Remember that good characters are the heart of a movie, they make the audience either love them or hate them. Also, even a great movie idea will fail if it has bad characters. This is easier said than done, but there are a couple of tips that will make your characters fit into your movie idea without a hitch:
- Make sure your characters are "done." This means that they must be multi-faceted and not just be a "nasty man" or a "strong hero." The finished characters have strengths "and" weaknesses, allowing the audience to relate to them.
- Give your characters a wish and a fear. Even if it is one of each, a good character wants something but cannot have it. Your ability or inability to overcome your fear (of being poor, of being alone, of aliens, of spiders, etc.) is what drives your conflict.
- Make sure your characters have will. A good character doesn't budge because your "script" needs to go somewhere. A good character makes decisions and the plot follows. Sometimes this is one of the decisions that drives everything else (Llewellyn in "No Country for Old Men", Luke Skywalker joining Obi Wan in "Star Wars"), sometimes there are a series of decisions (good or bad) at every turn (all the characters in "The Great American Scam").
Step 3. Customize your idea by modifying the expectations
It may seem limiting to have a rigid script structure, but it actually makes it easier to surprise your audience. How can you come up with a 5-point structure and recognizable characters and do something personal? How can you make this movie original? The best way to do this is by breaking a few rules:
- What if the character fails rather than succeeds at the climax?
- What would happen to your "finished" character if he refuses to change? What if the protagonist is not really the main character (as in "All in One Day", where Ferri's friend, Cameron, is the real character showing growth)?
Step 4. What will happen if you change the settings?
A romantic comedy that takes place in New York is nothing new; However, what if you place her in rural Thailand, in a bowling alley, or in a nursing home?
Step 5. Keep brainstorming ideas
The most important thing to realize when thinking of ideas is that they come with practice. Your first 10, 20, or even 50 ideas may not be good, but going through the bad ideas will help you recognize the good ones. Nobody thinks of perfect ideas all the time and you will not be the exception.
- Keep a notebook handy so you can fill it in with ideas as they arise.
- Try brainstorming with a friend to brainstorm twice as fast.
- Use this process with each idea. Giving content to a movie idea through the essential parts is how you will know if an idea is worthwhile.
- Remember to develop the backstory.
- Be patient, it will take time to come up with a solid story.
- Ask your friends to suggest some ideas.
- Allow your parents or friends to read some of your scripts to find out what they think.