You're talking to someone, or you're watching a news item on TV, or reading a magazine article and suddenly you think, "That could be a movie!"
They can pop into your mind from anywhere. For instance, here are some of the random sources that have inspired me (for good or bad!):
- A tear-off calendar item (from the "How to Survive..." calendar!)
- A news article in The Metro
- A real-life life story in the London Independent
- A very old novel
- A magazine interview with Britney Spears (yes!)
- Many, many anecdotes from friends, family, work colleagues, neighbours and acquaintances.
- So what do you do when a movie concept presents itself out of the blue?
Ideally, carry a notepad and write down the gist straight away.Then look over it in the cold light of day and ask yourself why you like the idea. Write that down. This is the "gem" in the story - the thing that caught your attention in the first place.
Then you can do one of two things. If the concept is all you have, file the news article, scrawled piece of paper or whatever. I'll come to where to file it in a minute.
Or if you can, come up with an idea of how the story could run and write up an outline. For example, maybe you've got an idea for a film about a bank robbery where the bank manager's family have been kidnapped. Decide whose perspective you're going to use - perhaps the story will be told from the viewpoint of the bank manager's wife - and do some notes based on this. Write up what could happen.
It might seem pointless as this may or may not be the outline that gets used. But by creating a possible story, you've done three things. One, you've proven whether or not there's a story in there. Two, you now have an idea of whether it's a story you want to tell. You might have a great concept for a film but find that it's not a script you'd ever want to write yourself. Better to find this out now!
And thirdly, you now have a few pages to drop into your "story ideas" file. I have one of these containing various random pieces of paper, half-written notes and some fully typed-up outlines. I go through it every now and again to see if there's something I want to use.
Some of the contents will become the basis for my next script, while other ideas will just sit there, unused. I've often thought someone should set up a website for "story concepts I don't want to use but am happy to pass on to others". (Anyone? Anyone?)
In the meantime, make sure to collect your ideas before they disappear!