We spend a lot of time in the Stareable Film School talking about how to make your script or idea a reality. But what if you don’t have a script or idea? How do you capitalize on all this great advice?
Presenting the Ultimate Stareable Guide To Brainstorming, aimed to make it as easy as possible to come up with the next great web series idea.
What you freewrite
Freewriting is a brainstorming technique where you sit down (or stand at your fancy standing desk) with a blank document, piece of paper, or journal page, set a timer, and write nonstop until the timer goes off. Even if halfway through you start writing things like “I don’t know what to write I’m out of ideas,” keep going. It’s amazing what tumbles out when you have no choice but to put words, any words, to paper. According to Psychology Today, “it’s about forcing your internal editor to stay away while you splash your most raw and unusual thoughts onto the page.”
This tactic, under a variety of names, is used by basically everyone who I asked about their favorite brainstorming technique.
What you can shoot
Particularly if you’re brainstorming with the intention of producing your idea, being realistic with what you have access to is a good way to start. Make lists of:
- Actors you know/like working with
- Skillsets of your friends/collaborators (ex. Do you know someone who can do special effects makeup? Or someone who’s a trained sword-fighter?)
- Locations you can get for free and spend tons of time at
- Locations you can get for free for a little while
- Locations you might be able to get for free if you’re really organized and charming
- Unique props and costumes can get your hands on
- Equipment you or your collaborators own
- Unique events or activities in your area
Matching ideas to your existing resources is like doing a puzzle- you never know what unique things will fit together to make something awesome.
What you know
It’s a cliche for a reason. Again, let’s start with some lists:
- Your best stories (that time your car broke down in a snowstorm, that crazy blind date you went on, etc)
- Your interests and hobbies (D&D, acting, mountain biking, etc)
- All the jobs you’ve ever held
- All the jobs your friends/family have had
Big important warning: if you’re going to make a show or film about living with multiple roommates or being a struggling actor/filmmaker/artist, make sure it’s the best version of that shows possible. Many of us share those stories and thus they’re incredibly common, especially in web series. I’m not trying to dissuade you from making a show about being a struggling actor or being bad at “adulting,” because those are valid stories that are likely incredibly personal to you, but I am saying that it’s no longer enough to define your series like that, because those shows have been made a billion times. Check out the “adulting” or “actress” searches on Stareable for example, and please don’t misinterpret those search links as shade- it’s simply to showcase your competition.
So what’s your niche? What’s different and unique about your take on the struggling actor in LA or NY? And how is your version going to be the best version of all the others? If you can’t answer those questions, dig deeper or move on.
What you love to watch
Obviously, not all stories can be about what you have personally experienced, because then we wouldn’t have sci-fi or fantasy or horror. That in mind, what are some genres or types of stories you’ve never personally lived through but love to watch? How can you add your own spin to tired tropes and beloved genres? List prompts"
- Favorite genres (comedy, sci-fi, etc)
- Favorite formats of shows (procedurals, nonlinear, etc)
- Favorite types of characters (hypersmart sociopath, femme fatale, etc)
- Favorite monsters (zombies, vampires, etc)
- Favorite story tropes (nerdy school clubs who rise above expectations, love triangles, etc)
What you believe
Sometimes the best place to start is what you want to leave your audience with. Is there a particular issue or social justice theme you’re particularly partial to? Is representation something you’re hoping to increase and encourage? Make some more lists and see what stories arise!
- Social causes you believe in
- Kinds of representation you don’t see often enough
- Political stances that need more attention
- Opinions you wish more people shared with you
What you and your friends come up with
Two (or more) heads are better than one, right? Filmmaking is collaborative, and sometimes the best brainstorming sessions are the same! Spend a few hours with your trusted friends, filmmakers or not, and make some of the above lists together. You’d be amazed how often a second or third spitballing voice will reveal something you never considered.
This post inspired by our former intern @MrDee