A lot of my previous posts have been about the projects I’ve been working on, stuff I’ve been filming and how busy I’ve been. So now I want to take a breath, regroup and focus on something related to writing – the ‘IDEA’ (lightbulb going off in head). The idea is where it all starts. Where what all starts you ask? Well ‘creation’ maybe? Sorry people – I’m no philosopher! So where do ideas come from? How do we get them? Well obviously ideas come from your imagination – I think? And that’s from the left part of your brain – I think? And you get them through some sort of stimulation – maybe? OK, I don’t have a clue where ideas actually come from either, but I think it’s fair to say that you’re not going to be a particularly successful writer unless you have a secret stash and a special little machine that can produce new ones every once in a while.
Some people are lucky enough to have cupboards full of them all neatly packed away. Other people (like me) have a machine that’s been turbo-charged and could last longer than any poxy Duracel bunny. If that’s you, you’re lucky. Personally, I don’t always class myself as lucky. Sometimes I wish I could switch the machine off for an afternoon and just chill and stare at a wall without having a hundred and one things buzzing around my head. It’d also be nice to lay your head on a pillow and slowly drift off to sleep without having to blast music into your ears to help shut your brain down. I shouldn’t really complain, but sometimes I do think that creative people are slightly cursed. So if you’re not one of these people with a vault of ideas or an idea machine working overtime – what do you do? You need to utilise your imagination. I refuse to believe that there are people who don’t have an imagination. Some people may not use theirs, but they definitely have them. And once you unchain your imagination, ideas can come from anywhere…literally! From your past, your present, things you read/hear/watch, a taste/smell/emotion…ANYTHING. Another way you can generate ideas is by looking at what’s going on in the world – watch the news, read a paper, take a walk through the high street.
We did this exercise during the screenwriting course I attended in Oxford – we were each given a newspaper and had to come up with a premise for a film, which had been inspired by something in the paper. During this exercise, something weird happened to me. I think it was one of the earlier sessions where the group hardly knew each other, and I thought I better come up with an awesome idea or I’d look like a right donut. So I was looking through this paper thinking ‘come on, speak to me you stupid shit paper, give me an idea!!! Hold on…what’s the paper? THE SUN? Oh shit! Now I’m done for – the whole group already think I’m some crazy bald tattooed nut-job that wants to write the next ‘Scum’ or ‘This is England’ without any social commentary and just a load of head butts and racism!!!’ I should say; the course was actually filled with a load of really great guys who weren’t ignorant and judgemental like this at all…that was just my paranoia caused by years of ignorant comments from judgmental people. Anyway, back to the paper – I was frantically flicking though the pages when a word jumped out at me – ‘Twins’. It wasn’t the article; it wasn’t the headline…just the word. I don’t know why, but I just latched onto it straight away. Then, in a matter of minutes, I had images, characters, a title…all these ideas just popped out of nowhere. It was crazy! I guess subconsciously the word twin must have struck a chord in me somewhere. Maybe it was something to do with the fact that two of my good friends at school were identical twins? Maybe it was because I went out with a girl who was a twin? Or maybe it was because I love the film ‘Twins’ (some classic Arnie lines in that – ‘Do I look cool now?’… ‘Cookies?’)
I don’t know what it was, but the basic premise for the film was based around the idea that twins can sense the same things and experience each other’s feelings (emotional and physical). This is how the idea played out in my head – a girl is born, but her mother dies at birth. Growing up she is placed into care, but is traumatised by violent visions and the sense of being trapped. Doctors put it down to her troubled childhood and prescribe her medication. The narrative then jumps to her adolescence where she is an art student at university. It seems she is leading a fairly normal life until she becomes involved with a boy and begins to experience a physical relationship for the first time. Suddenly the traumatic visions return and she becomes extremely disturbed. Her emotions come out through her artwork and her tutors are worried about her sudden change in persona. After convincing her to see a councillor, she opens up about her past and the councillor becomes involved in an emotionally driven investigation. Going right back to her birth, the councillor discovers inconsistencies and discrepancies with paperwork and birth certificates at the hospital. Can you see where this is going? The councillor asks the girl to draw the images she sees, and realises that these are real places and that someone could be communicating with her. The more they delve into her mind, the more detailed the visions become, until she finally draws something the councillor recognises. When they go to the location, they find a girl trapped in a dungeon – it’s her TWIN!!! She was a twin? So what happened to the other child? The other child was taken at birth by a hospital worker (amidst the confusion of her mother’s death) and locked away in a whole ‘Josef Fritzl’ style scenario. All the visions and emotions she was experiencing were that of her sister. So finally the guy is arrested etc and the story ends. You see how messed up this is? And this literally came from the word ‘Twins’ – I know what you’re thinking, and I worry about myself sometimes! OK, so it obviously needs a lot of work, but you have to remember all of this literally came to me in minutes – no bullshit! The title I gave it was ‘Wandering in the Wilderness’ and it’s been stuffed away in my ideas pot until I decided to use it for this blog to make a point. So what is the point? The point is you can get an idea from anywhere…you just have to let your imagination loose – don’t hold back. I know it’s a very personal thing, and you can’t teach people to have ideas, but there are ways of feeding your imagination. The alternative is a bottle of whiskey, but that’s not always great for your health – the good things in life never are!
So what if you still can’t think of anything to write about? Write about yourself? I’ve heard many people say ‘don’t ever write about yourself, biggest mistake you can make!’ Whilst I agree with this advice, I think it’s important not to misinterpret that to mean you can’t take ideas from your own life experiences. I do it all the time! I think I’ve seen and done a lot for someone my age – my ex calls me Forest Gump. Whether that’s because I’ve seen and done a lot, or because she thinks I’m a bit of an idiot, the point is it’s really helped my writing. Not all of the experiences I’ve had are good ones, but they all add to that pool of knowledge and emotion you can draw upon and relate to when you’re developing scenarios or generating ideas. The key is, open your mind and use everything you have at your disposal.
And finally, don’t be too precious! If you’ve pinned all your hopes on one idea that you have locked away, the ‘big’ idea that’s going to bring you fame and fortune, the ‘big daddy’ of all ideas…if you’ve posted that idea to yourself and not opened the envelope because you think that’s the idea that will change your life…sorry to say this, but you’re an idiot! I have ideas that I’d be gutted if someone ripped-off, or would be upset if I saw something similar (we all have our babies) but if that one idea is ALL you have, you might as well give up now! I’m not saying there aren’t writers/filmmakers who have made a career off the back of one idea, but just don’t let that be you! I’m always trying to push myself in terms of my writing. I’ll jump from writing a comedy to writing a hard-hitting drama, from a feature to a short, from a sit-com idea to a sci-fi series. I think it’s important not to constrain yourself – obviously you’ll have things you prefer to write or feel more comfortable developing, but even just as practice – try something different!
Well I’d like to finish by saying thank you to everyone who’s been following the blog, and that I hope those who aren’t screenwriters or filmmakers are still getting something out of it. I have a few new vids that I’m uploading to my youtube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/DomBeno), the latest is a music video that I uploaded yesterday – so please check them out, and watch out for my next post where I may have a proposition for you…yes…ALL OF YOU!!! And before I go, let me remind you about the Southern Screenwriting Festival taking place at Bournemouth Uni on the 26th and 27th of March – I’ll be there all weekend helping out, and it should be a great event…see the website here: http://www.southernscriptfest.co.uk/
Until next time…ciao!