Here Now

Recipe for a great short film idea

Original ideas for short films do not grow on trees. Coming up with your great idea requires two ingredients: creativity and research.

Start with research. You won’t know if your idea is good unless you’ve seen what’s out there. So watch as many short films as possible. Here are some places you can watch shorts online for free:

Once you’ve binged on great short films, your head may be so full of other people’s ideas that you feel a little overwhelmed. Take some time to relax and let it cook in your subconscious.

Now you need stimulation! When do you usually have your best ideas? On a long walk? In the shower? While drinking wine with friends? Do that. Stimulate your creativity and see what ideas shake out.

Honk If You're Horny

Honk If You’re Horny from the 2013 festival

According to Joe Lonie (Show Me Shorts 2013 Best Film winner for Honk If You’re Horny), Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland (Show Me Shorts 2010 Best Director winners for The Six Dollar Fifty Man), their best ideas have come from retelling stories from their own lives. The kind of anecdotes you are always asked to retell at dinner parties. Those stories are the gems that can be polished to create a short film you’d watch many times over, too.

If you’re still struggling for ideas, consider exploiting the experiences of people you know or have read about. Older relatives are goldmines!

Your idea may be a story or a process, but must be both entertaining and unique.

If your idea isn’t completely original, do not fret. It’s possible to create something fresh by looking at a subject from a new angle or using a different style or technique. Some filmmakers create stories that evolve organically from their working process. Chelsie Preston Crayford’s film Here Now (Show Me Shorts 2013) was devised with non-actors around real-life experiences. The film is grounded in the reality of urban dating culture for young adults, keenly observed with warmth and affection. The story of Abiogenesis (Show Me Shorts Special Jury Prize Award winner 2012) evolved as the filmmaker Richard Mans animated a strange machine, then landed it on a desolate world, before transforming it into something startling and wonderful.

Here Now from the 2013 festival

Here Now from the 2013 festival

Your idea may be a story or a process, but must be both entertaining and unique.

Once you find your key idea, do more research. Watch short films that have a similar style and genre. Talk to other people to make sure they get your concept and ask them what they like about it. That’s where the gold is. Expand the world of your story and think about theme, genre and possible structures. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, so sooner or later you are going to have to bring other people into the mix. Don’t be afraid. You have a great idea.