How to find winning short film ideas

The idea that begets all other ideas

In academia they call it cheating. In the professional world, it’s called collaboration.

I’m referring specifically to the process of venturing beyond one’s own resources and borrowing or buying ideas, assistance, and products from others in order to accomplish a goal.

In school, you’re punished for asking someone across the room for the answers when in the middle of a test. Pride and intelligence are measured by your ability to come up with the answer, solution, or creative result by yourself.

Our idol based/pop star culture reinforces the lone ranger notion by presenting success stories as if they were primarily a matter of one person pulling himself up by his bootstraps.

In the professional world, at large, and in the filmmaking community, in particular, it is understood that teams are the entities that get things done; small armies of passionate individuals, each of whom contribute a specialized form of knowledge or skill, united by a common desire to move a project from concept to completion.

Getting rid of an outdated and overused idea:

In finding short film ideas, one of the most commonly made mistakes is that of unnecessarily re-inventing the wheel because of a felt need to be independent.

If you are not a writer or have never written a script before, why start now? Unless the primary goal of your short film is to work on your writing skills, and I submit that there are more efficient and less exhausting ways to do that, it’s best to stick with what you already know and are good at. To put it bluntly, hire or collaborate with an existing writer who already has scripts written or who would be eager to write for someone that will actually get his script on lens.

This will not only allow you to focus on coming up with new short film ideas, but it also ensures the integrity of your project. If your short film is going to have your name on it and be used to position your future career, now is a great time to show others that you know how to choose a good story.

Creating through networking

The sad news about the film industry is that there are far more workers than there is work. The upside to this for the independent filmmaker, however, is that this industry has an atypical amount of unemployed talent willing to work in a cost efficient manner. Why reinvent the wheel and fry your brain trying to come up with a script idea when you can invest that same time and energy into reaching out to the community of freelance writers?

Professional networking can sometimes feel annoying, awkward, and labor intensive. This is precisely why it’s easier to just sit alone in an editing room trying to write a script when that’s not what you’re good at. It’s why many independent filmmakers just cast their non-actor friends in supporting roles instead of enduring the discomfort of things like visiting a local playhouse and getting to know the actors in the community.

Successful filmmakers understand that connections, not ideas or money, are the currency that move projects forward in the film community. No matter how much you lack in financial resources and creative ideas, you have the power to take control of your project’s destiny by making use of the ever expanding gamut of social tools designed for this very purpose.

To be clear, I don’t endorse plagiarism or copyright theft of any kind. This isn’t an article about stealing. This is an article on getting things done and getting things done requires one to ruthlessly abandon the lone ranger mentality and the subpar results it yields. Successful filmmakers are the ones who not only know how to use a camera, but who also know how to make use of the resources around them. Sometimes genius is simply a matter of knowing which genius to ask. At least that’s the kind of genius that get’s it done.