I have just finished the one-week structure seminar here at Rockport College, and may I say: wow.
Great writers. Strangers to each other when they met, and who by using the Cat! method of solid logline, solid structure and solid presentation came up with brilliant, wonderful stories.
And what fun!
By getting on the same page early in the week, identifying the sections of the script as outlined in Save The Cat! and understanding their true purpose, it made for easy identification of what part or the script we were talking about — and what was good and bad about each. Suddenly everyone was pitching ideas for the “Fun and Games” section of the story under discussion. “Is that really a true All Is Lost?” someone would shout out. And we all knew what that meant — and why the point was valid.
Add to this some truly brilliant creativity and you have the makings of an amazing week. We parted this morning, this particular seminar vowing to form a screenwriter’s group on the web, to help continue their creativity beyond the class, and band together to help each other network and build contacts.
But one of the better parts of the week was the initial day’s work of coming up with movie ideas. Many in the seminar had only a semblence of a movie notion they wanted to work on coming in to class, and all left with a fully formed, primal story that hit all 4 points of what makes a good logline — not to mention a fully formed 40 beat outline.
But what of those with no idea, how did we generate great loglines in that case? We tried several methods outlined in Save The Cat! — and they worked really well:
1. We took old fairy tales, public domain stories and historic events and re-set them in other times, places and situations.
2. We went through the logline section at the back of this week’s TV Guide and gave the settings, sexes and time periods of each classic movie a unique twist that made it entirely new.
3. Best of all, we used true experiences, and went beyond the “facts” to create fresh movie ideas that really popped.
And mostly, we pitched.
We got feedback from others fast about what ideas worked — and what ones didn’t.
I can go on and on with all this. It’s magic, this process! We all hated to have to stop. I look forward to hearing more from this group, as I do with all the seminar students I meet with. This Cat! thing works. And we are creatively unleashing some very exciting new ideas — and exciting new writers!
What are your methods for coming up with movie ideas? I’d like to hear more, and perhaps use your method in an upcoming class.
I think of a situation that’s ordinary. A boy and girl are in love but can’t be together. Then I start listing ideas as to why from the silly to the perverse.
A boy and girl are in love but can’t be together because they’re from different planets.
A boy and girl are in love but can’t be together because their fathers are business rivals.
A boy and girl are in love but can’t be together because she’s about to marry his best friend.
As I begin to think of the components that go in to make the premise true, I usually stumble on to the hook.
Why is the girl marrying the best friend if she’s in love with the boy? (Personally, I’d tell both the guys to run away — but there’s got to be a reason they don’t.)
Either there’s a simple but intriguing piece of logic that makes it all hang together or it’s junk.
There are extraordinary stories in everyday life. We’ve just been conditioned not to notice. Take something ordinary and give it a twist.
- Jacqueline Lichtenberg
On IMBD.COM you can find reviews by viewers of films, and star ratings, and loglines and summaries. Spend an hour there and go to sleep — wake up in the morning with more ideas than you can possibly use in a lifetime.
And the suggestion about the skeleton story of a boy and girl in love — but kept apart by “something” — that’s absolutely the best starting point.
It nails a very specific conflict.
There is the urgent and necessary “must” inextricably bound to the absolute “cannot.”
Two people in love — everyone understands. Then you look for an obstacle that’s unique, and you have a viable concept.
Finding ideas is easy — generating ideas is easy — but sorting through them to find one worth putting months of your life into, that’s not at all easy.
After you get the idea, how do you test it to see if it will be a boxoffice hit?
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Try taking all the stories on a single page of a newspaper (try using a variety of newspapers) and weave a story between them. Then apply the different time/setting/genre . . . thing.