Original Movie Ideas: Is my idea good enough to be a movie?
It’s been said, most recently by Christopher Booker, that there are just seven basic plotlines in all of the storytelling. Booker’s book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, was written in 2004 – an exploit that reportedly took him 34 years to write! To put that in perspective, the No. 1 movie in America when he started was M*A*S*H in 1970!
If only someone had told him about Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, who broached the same subject a century ago, although he couched it as seven basic themes. The first five pit man against man, nature, himself, God, and society. The last two deal with man caught in the middle and man and woman.
Gender equity wasn’t really a thing in the early 1900s. So maybe it was a good thing Booker updated the list. There’s Comedy and The Quest, Tragedy and Rebirth, Rags to Riches and Voyage and Return, and Overcoming the Monster.
So what does all of that mean? It means, some would say, that there’s no such thing as an original idea when it comes to books, plays, or movies. Does that mean there are no more great ideas? Of course not! Look at The Quest plot: movies range from the Lord of The Rings trilogy to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
And, in Run Lola Run, The Quest is seen in three different 20-minute vignettes. That’s one movie plot and three different ways to tell a story. All of this is to answer the question: is your movie idea good enough to be a movie? Yes! It all depends on how it’s written.
Boy Meets Girl
There’s nothing new about a love story. The earliest rom-coms were probably written on caves’ walls ten thousand years ago. What is your love story about? Who is the pursuer/pursued? Are they teenagers or septuagenarians? Or is it an animated tale about two dogs, one a pampered pooch, the other a conniving canine?
There are plenty of good movies that use this familiar theme – how is yours different? Why should an audience care about the love affair in your movie? Taking a well-worn idea and making it new again isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. The most important thing about writing a screenplay? Start writing.
It’s a terrible answer to an interview question:
“I’m too much of a perfectionist.”
It’s a cliche. It’s not quantifiable. And it’s probably a lie. Except for writers, who feel that every verb, noun, and turn of phrase has to be just so. Take Booker for example – 34 years?! That’s more than three decades of best-adapted screenplay, best original screenplay, and best movie Academy Awards.
But it’s the way of the writer. Except for you. Starting now, stop trying to be Shakespeare and just be yourself. Write what you know, research what you don’t, and take a stab at everything else. Done with that first page? Move on to the second.
Then the third. And so on. Really… just tear through the pages. Push through mental blocks, brain locks, and every other obstacle. Let your idea bloom, your characters grow, and your story unfolds. You may find yourself at a different ending than you originally hoped for.
Because that first draft isn’t going to be the final draft. Not by a long shot. It’s been reported that it wasn’t until his fifth draft that M. Night Shyamalan finally hit upon the idea for the ending of The Sixth Sense. That idea shocked audiences and immediately catapulted Shyamalan to fame.
So it’s okay if you need to take a couple of stabs at it. Get feedback from friends, family, even someone you know in the industry. There are even people you can hire to read your work for this very reason. Is your idea good enough to be a movie? You’ll have a better understanding at this point.
After a few edits and rewrites, it may not be your original idea anymore. There may be nuggets here and there, but if your heroes and villains change, if the genders change, if the setting changes organically, it’s still your idea – you just went where the creative waves took you.
Which, as a writer, you need to be able to do. If things aren’t working, change direction. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Mix it up. Change the setting from the Old West to a base station on the moon (or at least hypothesize about it).
Did that jump-start the brain? Is changing Roy Rogers into Buck Rogers the edit you needed? Does it fundamentally change the underlying theme, plot, or idea? Take it all into consideration and decide what direction you need to go.
Soon, you’ll be done. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be done. Now it’s time to start shopping your title around. Is anyone biting? This might be the most difficult part of getting your screenplay made into a movie. But Film Connection has a way to help.
Getting Your Story in Front of the Right People
With the Film Connection Screenwriting Workshop, you’ll be paired with an industry professional to help with every facet of turning your idea into a screenplay. From character development, writing drafts, polishing, and rewrites. Then the scary (fun?) part begins.
What sets Film Connection apart from many traditional schools is the ability to get your script in front of decision-makers. We’ll show you how to get an agent, how to sell your script, and even how to become a member of the Writers Guild of America.
And it all starts with your idea. Is it good enough to be made into a movie? There’s only one way to find out – and Film Connection is ready to find out with you.