Outlines as a Creative Exercise

It’s not always easy to get your brain into a creative state.

Life during lockdown seems to have a lot of unpredictable side effects when it comes to creativity. Personally, I often fall victim to endless mental circling. My mind will get preoccupied with one idea and refuse to budge from it, just circling away rather than exploring other things to think about. These kinds of mental circles can be the enemy of positive creativity so I’m always looking for new ways to break my mind out of unhealthy habits.

This morning I opted for creating a short film outline (or pitch document) for a brand new movie idea. I gave myself a limit of 30 minutes to get it produced, just to make sure that I didn’t just end up spending my entire day doing it. I grabbed two blockbuster movies and took them as inspirational jumping-off points, mashing concepts together until I got something I kinda liked. In this case, I grabbed the biggest grossing movies of 1989 and 1990. Ghost and Terminator 2.

The result of my 30 minutes of labour is below.

Now, this obviously isn’t representative of my best work. It leans heavily on very obvious tropes and shows my inability to make a decision as to whether I prefer to spell it ‘grandad’ or ‘granddad’. For 30 minute exercise, though, it’s actually not too bad. It’s the sort of thing might be worth keeping in a back pocket, just in case I have another one of those meetings with a producer that includes the words “So, what else you got?”

In my experience, those meetings tend to crop up when the producer likes something about you but isn’t hugely interested in the project you’re touting at that point. If you walk into one of them without a scrap of a back-up idea, it can sometimes end up with you both looking a little bit blankly at each other and trying to remember exactly why you’re having a meeting in the first place.

In the grand scheme of things, 30 minutes of my time is nothing. When you consider how many hours I sacrifice to the great God of Twitter, frantically scrolling my endless pointless tribute, the idea of spending 30 minutes and actually getting something out of it seems like a massive bargain. After all, every screenplay on my hard drive (not to mention the ones that made it out into the real world and are now Blu-rays on my shelf) started out as a tiny scrap of an idea. So, I think I’m gonna do another one of these tomorrow morning. And maybe the morning after that. And the one after that.

Oh, I forgot to mention the London Screenwriters Festival 365, which I’m very proud to be a part of. Starting at the weekend, it’s an online festival of sessions for screenwriters. I’ll be bringing three online sessions to the programme over the next couple of weeks from the comfort of my front room, and I very much hope to see some of you there!*

* ‘there’ being online, not in my front room. That would be weird for all kinds of reasons, and would definitely break social distancing guidelines.

 

So You Want to Write a Screenplay?

My webinar from last week was a checklist of things to think about when starting to write a screenplay. It’s packed full of useful advice about everything from software choices to character development.

Check out the archived version on YouTube at the link below.

Webinar Title