Every film starts with an idea, but ideas don’t come as easily as you may think. Conceiving the story for your next project is often one of the hardest parts of the process when you are trying to develop a new project. Most filmmakers you meet will tell you something different about their creative process and how they come up with ideas, but in general, there are a couple of things anyone can do to train their creative muscle.
Develop a routine
While it seems pretty basic, discipline is the key behind many things in life. Developing a habit to write at least one line each day can be one of the ways in which you can come up with ideas unexpectedly. Like they say, inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. Writing something every day can also help you with perspective, revisiting old pieces and developing some others more and more.
Write what you know
This point is often made and misinterpreted by amateur filmmakers as “don’t come up with some sort of sci-fi or fantasy opera”, or “don’t make your characters part of the mafia”, and so on. You can do whatever you feel like doing, as long as the ideas for your story are deep-rooted in things you actually know. While you may not know anything of life in the countryside, you can still tell the story of a farmer as long as their conflicts and desires are based on things that you actually know and have felt. This will make them believable and resonate with the audience.
Find contrast in the opposites
When you are running out of elements and ideas to toss around, you can always come up with more by thinking and writing about the opposite of what you already have. Try this exercise in which you think of the opposite roles and professions for your characters, or what would be the opposite of the setting you had thought of for your story. Some contrast is always good, and it might be just the thing your idea needs to finally click.
Watch films for inspiration
They say every story is just a remix of other stories. However, the versatility of the medium comes from original ideas that breathe new life into the same elements we blend into the stories we all know and love. Watch films, read books, and pay attention to your everyday life in search of those original ideas that will make a difference in your project.
Keep notes of everything
Note keeping is a technique as old as time. It works like a charm for some writers who, instead of brainstorming endlessly, just go through their notes to review the ideas with the most potential for development. Keeping a journal is a great way to also create the habit of writing, even if it’s just a note of an idea, a concept, a song, or anything that might develop into a story you can shoot on film.
Know what you can count on
Another way to work in reverse towards an idea for your next film is knowing what you can feasibly do with your resources. If you have access to only some gear, not many locations, and a couple of friends who can work as crew, then you obviously cannot aim to shoot a super production as if you had a studio backing you up. Keeping things simple and grounded on what you can be a way to come up with reasonable ideas that you can actually shoot.