That went by a little quick…Back up bro!
You made it sound so simple man, back up and hit me with the idea section again. How did I get a story out of it?
Idea to story… The first step!
It is three AM or maybe you are in the shower and the idea fairy sprinkles you with some of that good lovin’. The next blockbuster is now running around in your brain like the ‘Road Runner’ on crack, and you are excited! This is going to be big!
Take a breath, force yourself to sit down and pick up a pen or hit a keyboard.
Write down the idea in its purest form.
‘Man in black on a black horse, stands on a cliff overlooking a city.
Woman runs through a shopping mall with her friends and she sees something out of the corner of her eye, that isn’t really there.
Man in black proclaims the end is here… Demons burst into existence.
Woman sees the demons, no one else can. Chaos erupts and stuff happens.
Woman turns out to be part angel, kick-ass demon slayer but didn’t know it.’
I’m with you so far…
Awesome sauce! You have your idea, you see it in your head and now you have it written down. It seems like the simplest thing, but this is actually a huge step.
The second step!
Take that idea and iron it out, stretch it. Cut it up and play with it, ask yourself some basic questions… Firstly, what is the goal? How does it end, where will this journey take my characters?
Using the example above, let’s break it down. Man in Black and random woman. By the end of the journey I want the woman to gather a group of unlikely heroes, and then go beat down the man in black and his demons. Film ends in victory for the good guys and new friends were made along the way.
So now we have an ending… but where did it all start?
With the man in black, it is written down. That is where the idea started but not where our story starts, who is he? How did he get to the cliff? Why is the next part some random woman? Oh no… It doesn’t make sense!
Fear not my friend, for the answer is right in front of you.
The ending is the random woman gathers people and beats the man in black, but who is she? Why is she the one to defeat him? “Because she is part angel.” Exactly!
So we start by telling our audience who the woman is! I don’t mean her name or measurements (36 – 24 – 36.) I mean we give the audience a look into her everyday life, where does she work? Is she a teenager starting at a new school? How often does she go to the mall and what brought her there today?
We save the reveal that she is part angel for later.
O.K. I am with you, got an ending, and got a beginning!
Now, how do we get from the beginning to the ending? The middle, yep you guessed it. The journey itself, exposition and dialogue ensue.
Wait a minute… We left a lot out of our original idea.
Of course we did, if we used the entire idea to make the ending and the beginning we would have no middle. Now you go back to your idea and play with it!
We know who the woman is now, we can relate to her everyday life and she seems normal except for the odd time she sees things. She is enjoying her day as she always does, her vain friends talking rubbish about nonsense.
‘A man in black appears atop a cliff overlooking the city, he rides a black stallion and has a menacing air about him.’
Oh, snap!!! We just used the beginning of our idea in the early part of our story, we now have a bad guy and we know he is the bad guy because he is wearing black. Now we can introduce this happy fellow to our audience, we don’t need to delve deeply into who he is yet. Just make sure our audience knows he is super bad.
How do I do that?
You have already established that something odd happens to our main girl, she sees stuff no one else does. So when big man announces the end of the world and only our girl can see it…
You guessed it; the audience just got invested in this guy and wants to know about his connection to her. Now we introduce the exposition guy!
The who, for the what now?
The exposition guy, the ‘Giles’ from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The ‘Ramirez from Highlander,’ the guy whose whole job is to fill in the blanks.
This guy tells our girl she is part angel, not only is she part angel but she is part ARCH angel. That’s right, we gave her an upgrade! This guy tells her about the big man in black who controls demons and why he is doing it. He tells her to find other angels and fight back; he implies she has a super power that no one else does. Then he dies!
Whoa!!! Hold up kemosabe, Giles didn’t die!
Ever watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie? The Giles dies. That is why in the first episode of the series, Buffy knows what he wants and fights against it.
The exposition guy dies, the audience falls in love with this guy. They know he is going to guide her and give her more excuse to fight, they know his fate was sealed the moment he said, “It’s you.” Give them what they want!
Fine… He is dead, now what?
Now we gather the troops. Our journey involves dodging demons, discovering our powers, and finding the angels we need to get to the big battle at the end. After you gather your troops, create some tension. Have personality clashes, have one of them expire unexpectedly to solidify the group as a whole. Once they are a ragtag gang of butt kickers, go to the end and have a fight.
Now you have the story all thought out and in a row. Does this mean your story is finished? Heck no! You still have to write the screenplay, you have to come up with dialogue and places, action and worlds. As you write, the story will develop; you will add things you didn’t consider because it makes sense for the character.
Enjoy your work.
Jonathan Thompson – Devil May Care Productions
Book your discovery call today at JonathanThompson.org and see how I can help you make your first film.