Original Movie Ideas: Is my idea good enough to be a movie?

Still from The Fallen, short film by Film Connection graduate Ananth Agastya 2019

Still from The Fallen, short film by Film Connection graduate Ananth Agastya 2019

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! Just take the “Quest plot.” Quest-plot-movies range from the Lord of The Rings trilogy to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. In Run Lola Run, the Quest plot is seen in three different 20-minute vignettes. That’s one movie plot resulting in three different ways to tell a story. All of this to ask: Is your movie idea good enough to be a movie? Yes, yes it is, if it’s written as well as it can be i.e. it needs to be in order to get bought or made.

If it’s Boy Meets Girl, how is it different than what we’ve seen?

There’s nothing new about a love story. The earliest rom-coms were probably written on caves’ walls ten thousand years ago. So 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 and why would an audience care about the particular love affair in your movie? Taking a well-worn idea and making it new again isn’t easy but it’s definitely not impossible.

Nobody’s Perfekt

Take this terrible answer to the interview question, What’s a shortcoming of yours?

“I’m too much of a perfectionist.”

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 unfold. Ultimately, you may find yourself at a different ending than the one you’d been driving towards.

Just keep on doing it. Exercise abandon interspliced with the discipline of improving your writing as you learn the actual craft of writing well.

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 of how to end The Sixth Sense. Yup, that was the very same idea that shocked audiences and  catapulted Shyamalan to fame.

So, is your idea good enough to be a movie? You’ll have a better understanding if it is once you get in and start working on it for real.

Course Correction

After a few edits and rewrites your original idea might not be the same idea anymore. There may be nuggets here and there but if your heroes and villains change, if the genders change, if the settings change organically, it’s still your idea – you just went to where the process of writing it and developing it more fully took you.

As a writer, especially one that wants to work regularly, you need to be able to make changes to a working script. If things aren’t working, change direction. Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” So don’t be afraid to mix it up. Change the setting from the Old West to a base station on the moon (or at least hypothesize about it).

Write and write and hone and write. One day soon you’ll be done. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be done.

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 polished, ready to pitch screenplay. From character development, writing drafts, polishing, and enacting rewrites, the fun and fear of it all can be had in our no-nonsense approach to mentorship in writing for the screen.

What sets Film Connection apart from 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 (WGA).

It all starts with your idea. So is that idea of yours good enough to get made into a movie? Here’s one way to find out – and Film Connection is ready to find out with you.

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