The Spark. The Fire.
In one of my previous blogs I wrote about crowd sourcing and how brands ask filmmakers to create for them. It basically involves the brand giving the filmmaker (via crowd sourcing company) a creative brief and then the filmmaker interpreting that into a video. A brief typically includes a paragraph about the concept for the video that is left pretty open ended, then the target audience (age, gender, culture), how long the video should be, and then finally what the tone of the video should be.
The best asset a filmmaker can bring to the making of a successful video is a good idea. Granted, you will need the proper equipment, experience in the field, and shooting/editing skills to make a good video, but an idea is priceless because it is unique to you alone. Everyone has a different skill set and everyone sees things differently in their own head, thus making the creative process different for everyone. Regardless, this entry outlines how I get from thinking about doing a project to preparing for pre-production.
Know What They Want
When I get my hands on a brief, I read it, then read it again, and then maybe read it one more time for good measure. The reason that I do this is because I need to be very familiar with the material before I can get inspired to create something based off it. Once I have sat there and read it a few times, typically I might get a few little off-shoots of strange ideas that rarely make sense, I just let it sit for a while and mull on it for a bit. I may periodically revisit the brief every so often just to try and glean some bits that I missed before, but other than that I sorta just wait for an idea to hit me. Sometimes the stroke of brilliance comes in the middle of the night or as I bite into a sandwich, it sorta just decides by itself.
Sometimes I do have brainstorming sessions with the sole purpose of getting an idea, but I make sure that I have something else to do so I don't get too frustrated when I come up with nothing. During said brainstorming sessions I typically make use of sticky notes and a whiteboard to record my thoughts, if I use a notepad I end up doodling and then throwing it across the room. I get into the filmmakey mood by drinking a Monster and maybe eating a few Twizzlers. Fajitas help me a lot too :). It also helps me if I seek out things that may inspire me.
External factors that inspire me are so fickle. They can be anything, but a great place to start is watching short films that display the tone I want my film to have as well. The content doesn't need to be related at all to what you are working on and the format can be pretty much any source of media like advertisements, movies, print ads, art, or music. Sometimes a certain song will have the mood that I am looking for and I will listen to it over and over trying to visualize what the song makes me think of and then relate that to my video. Being spontaneous can make an idea pop out of nowhere! Sometimes just taking a day off and sleeping is just what I need, sometimes I go find a new place to eat or hang out or whatever. I love finding new stuff to do and meeting new people, couple that with making ideas, you may have a completely different view on the subject from when you started! Along with that, telling other people your idea and having them try to elaborate is also a great way to get inspired.
When I have an idea, even if it is 100% insane and completely impossible, I'll share it with my dad or my girlfriend, or whoever, in hopes that they have a better (and more feasible) idea. Unfortunately, as with all of these methods, talking to different people is hit and miss. There is never one concrete solution and there is no set amount of work you put in to get an idea. Sometimes you accidentally get a great idea and sometimes you work your butt off and get nothing that the brand likes. Which leads me to my next point...
Submit Something Anyway
It doesn't matter if you think your idea is good. Just submit it! Or at least pitch it. The reason being, that the brand may see something in the idea that you didn't. If they can take your idea and make it into something a little more toward what they are looking for, and more importantly, fund your venture, you have won the idea battle.
What I don't recommend is submitting a finished product if you think you have a bad (or just not special) idea and no one else cared either. This is going to make you spend a lot on the production in either capital or your time (probably both), and then you will have no chance at winning or getting the brand purchase. What you can do is try to think up something new, or just cut your losses (which shouldn't be too much at this juncture) and move on to the next big thing.
As with any type of art, getting the idea can be really hard when you are put under pressure to have it done. The best films come from a very organic process of thinking, something that can prove difficult when set under specific guidelines.
That's about all I got, come back next week if you want more movie madness :D