August 1, 2015

9 Quick Tips for Coming Up with Great Short Film Ideas

How to Come Up with Short Film ideas

Filmmaking is a challenge on many levels. There's planning and pre-production, lighting and shooting, and then putting it all together in the edit. Before you can get to any of those steps, however, you have to have an idea. More than that, you have to have an idea that is worth the considerable time and effort that it takes to make that idea into a film. And for me, and I'm assuming for many others as well, that's one of the hardest parts of filmmaking. I mean, you don't want to waste time on stories that suck and ideas that don't resonate with you. And you sure as hell don't want to waste other people's time on those mediocre ideas.

So, how do you come up with good ideas on a consistent basis? YouTuber Darious Britt has a few tips that are sure to get you coming up with great short film ideas in no time flat.

Here are the tips that Darious lays out in the video:

  1. Routine: Make writing and generating ideas something that you do on a regular basis, say for 10 minutes every morning or before you go to bed. This is a great habit to have. Even if 3/4 of your ideas suck, you'll still be left with lots of good material.
  2. Write What You Know: Drawing from your own experiences is a sure-fire way to create believable scenarios and authentic characters. Dig into your past and ask yourself if there are any instances that could be the basis for a film. This doesn't mean you should make biopics about yourself, but instead, apply your experiences to different ideas that you've generated.
  3. Game of Opposites: Take a well-known concept and flip it on its head. This is a playful way to brainstorm ideas that go against the grain.
  4. Watch Other Films: This one is self-explanatory. Being a good consumer of art makes you a better artist. Plus, as Darious mentions, it's a great way to mine for ideas. Keep in mind that very few, if any, ideas are truly original. Don't feel bad about taking somebody else's concept and putting your own spin on it. Chances are the filmmaker you're borrowing from did the exact same thing.
  5. The Magic Notebook: Ideas often come at the worst time: in the shower, when you're out with friends, when you're cooking dinner. It doesn't have to be a physical notebook, but having a way to capture spontaneous ideas as they come to you is essential. The notes app on your phone works great, as does the voice recording app.
  6. Research: Start doing research about a topic that interests you. Along the way, you'll almost certainly come across interesting facts and scenarios that can be turned into film ideas.
  7. List Your Resources: As independent filmmakers, our resources are often limited. By listing out the resources you have, whether it's certain locations or props, you can generate ideas that you know you can make. This is a super practical way to go about making short films.
  8. Keep It Simple: For short films, it's often better that the concept is something extremely simple. Stop thinking about complex plot lines and characters, and instead try building a film around a simple idea.
  9. Live a Little: This goes along with #2. It's much easier to write what you know if your life is somewhat interesting. 

So there you have it, 9 tips that you can use right now to start generating short film (and feature film) ideas. Now it's your turn. Share your best tips for coming up with film ideas down in the comments.      

Your Comment

11 Comments

...and if you have a boring life, kill yourself...

August 2, 2015 at 2:18AM

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Vidrazor
532

Boom. Theres your short film idea.

August 2, 2015 at 7:46AM

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But then can we really appreciate why he'd make that decision in 12 minutes or less?

August 3, 2015 at 5:15PM

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Ah, BOOM indeed! Thanks for that :)

January 24, 2016 at 3:57PM

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TA Thuelin
Writer Director
81

10 minutes might be short to come up with ideas, but making it a habit will surely give you something to start with :-)

This video by John Cleese about creativity is a must see:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qby0ed4aVpo

August 2, 2015 at 3:46AM

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WalterBrokx
Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer
8804

great performance, thanks for sharing!

March 19, 2016 at 5:15PM

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So many great tips

August 3, 2015 at 3:24AM

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I'm reminded of this interview:
https://youtu.be/7kWdpEnJfxI?t=49s

Or this:
https://youtu.be/R37zkizucPU?t=3m37s

Dig deep and find something real.

August 3, 2015 at 6:24AM

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Great tips, but broad. There is much more going on in storytelling and narrative strategy:

https://throughanarrativelens.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/confidence-game/

August 3, 2015 at 5:15PM

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I find music a great way of generating ideas!!

November 15, 2015 at 5:53PM

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Dean Pearson
Cinematographer
83

What if you like an idea so much that you don't want to change it, but then you change it completely because you thought another idea would work, and then you repeat this action until you don't have an idea at all?

May 10, 2016 at 12:37PM

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Interesting article! Your story will turn out interesting for its proximity, newness, its ability to address a societal problem, its relatable themes, its ability to reflect environment, attention catching ability and generally its realness. I have found out this semester from my Script Writing class that we get story ideas for film from
1. Personal experiences (always try to tweak this until it becomes very interesting, still keeping its 'realness')
2. Other people's experiences (seek their approval before making them into a film though)
3. Observable lapses in the society (societal flaws)
4. Other art forms like books, poems, music (adaptation)
5. Folklore
6. Historical Events
I would like to emphasize that routine practice is very vital in churning out a block bursting film at the end of the day.
Thank you!
Mabel Benson
Caleb University, Lagos

December 3, 2016 at 4:15AM

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Good tips on ideating short films... good read..

TalkingTree.Media

May 26, 2017 at 9:49AM

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