Awaken the Dreamer

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The artist’s brain is often in a state of maelstrom, constantly swirling and exploding with shapes, images, sounds, words. The challenge for any creator is often to plunge willingly into this chaos and to extract the materials that will serve as building blocks for a concept or an idea.

This “extraction” is a mysterious and elusive exercise that some will refer to as their “method”. It is a curious and sometimes maddening thing that many artists are afraid to confront or explore for fear of breaking a kind of magic spell that enables them to create.

The truth is that there is much that can be learned by understanding exactly how it is that you, as an individual, form ideas, particularly during your creative moments. There is no danger in damaging the “magic” as long as you seek to understand your process rather than reduce it to a formula.

Filmmakers feel the burn of the creative impulse like most artists, but with a specific twist that some would consider especially challenging; we cannot create with the immediacy of a musician or painter. a filmmaker has no real way of “jamming” or sketching apart from shooting a little footage here-and-there, writing a little, and spending countless hours imagining what their ideas could be (if they could just get 30-100 people together, a budget, etc.).

If we must then, as filmmakers, dwell primarily in the theoretical and imaginary, then must develop mental/physical exercises to stay on our game between those all-too rare opportunities to operate at full capacity. The Reverse Angle has a few ideas to get you started.

Gather Your Forces

This week’s challenge is to seize your creative materials and set them down on a piece of paper. You can do it on your computer but the first method may work better because of the primal, tactile contact.

1. Write down the beginning or core idea of the film you want to make. If it’s an image or scene, describe it to the last detail. Is this just a moment or a potential story?

2. Identify the precise element that caught your imagination. Was it an emotion? A dramatic exchange between characters? Piece of music that you matched to a scene? A sequence of actions? Write down every last detail that you can see in your mind.

3. You now have a potrait. Time to see if your core idea has enough substance to be stretched into a short or feature. Short films should really be about one idea, features give you time to contemplate, explore, and even run paralell storylines.

5. Use cue cards or sticky notes to decide who will lead this story, who/what will get in the way. What is the problem you are considering and what are possible outcomes?

Next time we’ll talk about pouring your foundations and starting to build your story.

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