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May the Best Idea Win: Animator Lucas Martell Outlines His Ideas Tournament

One of the main challenges all creatives face is not only generating new ideas for content but also determining which ideas are worth pursuing and which ideas should be discarded. Many new ideas seem great at first, but after several weeks of brainstorming, outlining and writing, too many ideas lead to dead ends and wasted energy. With this in mind, I was happy to come across a recent video podcast posting from award-winning Austin-based animator Lucas Martell focusing on his technique for conceiving new story ideas and discerning which ones to pursue.

I met Lucas back in the fall of 2009 at the DC Shorts Film Festival where we both had shorts screening during the same program. Lucas’ animated short, Pigeon: Impossible, blew me away. His short screened at over 200 festivals around the world and won numerous awards. Check it out below and you’ll see why:

Following the opening night screening, Lucas and I talked at length at one of the after-parties during the festival. On top of creating this amazing short, Lucas happens to be a very funny and generous guy. He created a series of video podcasts explaining his animation process during Pigeon: Impossible so others could learn from his work.

Lucas is now working on his next project, The OceanMaker, a 9-minute animated short which he describes this way:

After the Earth’s oceans have disappeared, one courageous pilot fights against vicious sky pirates for control of the last remaining source of water: the clouds.

He has recently launched a new video podcast to accompany the pre-production of The OceanMaker, and the second episode titled “Five Ideas” caught my attention. You can watch it below (it’s only 3 minutes). The video podcast begins with a few quick clips from The OceanMaker, which look pretty stellar:

As you can see, Lucas’ concept of a weekly ideas tournament is simple, but I think it’s powerful both in its construction and its specificity. Using this technique, writers really have no excuses for not having time to generate new story ideas. Plus, this form of writing exercise will naturally generate better ideas not only over the course of a week, but will lead to a stack of solid story ideas over time. I would bet that, if used consistently, most of a writer’s initial daily ideas would only get stronger.

To keep up with the progress of The OceanMaker, make sure you stay tuned to Lucas’ upcoming video podcasts on the project.

What do you think of Lucas’ ideas tournament? Do you use a similar technique to develop story ideas and to distinguish the good from the bad (and the ugly)? Share your techniques with us in the Comments.

Link: Martell Animation: The OceanMaker video podcast series

[via Martell Animation Facebook page]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Brilliant! Thanks for posting this!

  • Interesting. But keep this in mind: brainstorming doesn’t work. And understanding why that is can help you be more productive:

    • According to that article, brainstorming is a group activity, so what he’s doing is not brainstorming.

      • What I said is that it’s important to know why brainstorming doesn’t work. According to that article, it is because postponing criticism and temporally accepting every idea as potentially valid, is not helpful at all.
        So, applied to this: accepting every idea as potentially valid in your initial 5-ideas-a-day step may not be helping you.

        • And, in any case: you know your thought process better than anyone else, whatever works for you…

          • They don’t say how the individuals came up with their ideas, though. They could have very well “brainstormed” on their own. They’re comparing a group effort to an individual effort. You’re deducing from the article that brainstorming in general does not work, but that is not necessarily the case. That is your conclusion.

          • It’s a 6-page article, I’m guessing you only read the first one (since the website is so badly designed). Brainstorming doesn’t work, and the reason is that postponing criticism and temporally accepting every idea as potentially valid is inefficient. It’s not my conclusion, it’s on the research cited by the article.

          • I did only read the first page I guess, that’s why I was confused by your statement. Samuel H is the winner.

  • The idea tournament, a systematic way to unearth new ideas, interesting. Thanks for posting!

  • Thanks Christopher! Really great article and we so appreciate the support. We will keep you posted and send us articles and ideas we can promote as well. Warm Thanks!

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