Story -or-

June 22, 2009 - by Jeff Freeman

The first thing to consider when coming up with an idea for your flick: What do you like? And you'd better really like it because once you write and rewrite it, get all the people together to shoot it, and sit down with all of your footage to edit and add sound effects & music, you're going to be living with this puppy for a while. Don't sit around thinking of ideas for too long, though. Make a list of about five. Each idea shouldn't be more than about one or two sentences. In fact, if you can put it all into one line (called a logline) you have a good strong basis for your story. Basically, in your one-sentence description of the plot, a CHARACTER works toward a GOAL while struggling against a CONFLICT.


You get the idea.

If you sent a finished screenplay to a producer, this is the first thing that would happen to it. A script reader would prepare a report of the script, starting with this one line. I think it's a good way to work with ideas from their conception. It makes you come up with one clear idea. Naturally a finished script, even a short one, will have a lot more than that to the story, but in a good script, everything will revolve around and support that one main storyline.

Every script has ONE main character. Only one. In the case of Thelma & Louise, it was about both of them as one ‘character' (the one on the run from the law). The main character does not have to be a person. In Robert Altman's
"Nashville," the city of Nashville is the main character.

Every script has ONE main action. Only one. Of course, lots of things happen in a story, but they all revolve around the one goal of the main character. Save the Galaxy; Get home; Get across the border. Notice how none of these characters started out the story working toward these goals - but that's the topic of another discussion.

Once you have five story ideas - loglines. Make a list of all the things (and people) you have to work with. If you live in Alaska, scenes on a tropical beach might not be in the budget, but the glacier would make a beautiful setting. Who is available to work on/be in your movie? We wrote a fight scene in our flick because Mukhya knew a Karate master in town, and he was willing to come with another black-belt and work with us on some kick-ass (literally) moves. We did a shot on a boat because we had one available to us. I would have rewritten the restaurant scene if we hadn't gotten the Thai place to let us in when they were closed. If your logline is really strong, you'll be able to plug any locations, characters, and situations you want into it. Thelma and Louise could be on the run to Canada from Anchorage with the roads blocked by snowstorms. Anything's possible.

Ok, you have 15 minutes to brainstorm five loglines. Ready. Set. Go!

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Any good ideas?

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