A lot of my students come up to me to discuss their story ideas. While some of the ideas are just not enough to take off while some others are out of this world. I tell them not to do any hard work while thinking about the ideas, but just be smart enough to work on simple yet appealing ideas. That is the power of film making and visual media. It is like pushing against a wall and saying- “I did a lot of hard work” when the wall doesn’t even move an inch. I always ask them to follow Iranian cinema where the great filmmakers like Kiarostami or Majidi or Panahi beautifully showcase the intricacies of normal life. Their concepts are not out-of-this-world but they explore and understand life better than other filmmakers.
This exercise not only helps you to give some rest to your meandering* thoughts but allows you to be a better thinker, better writer and an even better filmmaker. In this exercise you just have to think about the normal day-to-day activities that happen around you, like:
- Going out to buy groceries
- Planning a movie with friends
- Making your favorite dish
- Going out to jog in the morning
- Situation before a meeting at office
- Planning to buy a bicycle
- Organizing a birthday party, etc
Now when we think of these situations, all of them happen with almost each one of us at some point of life. How can we create ideas from such situations. Well we can dramatize them. But how? By developing conflicts.
I have a P-C-R theory (full form: Problem-Complication-Resolution theory) which, when applied to any of the above situations, can result in different outcomes. For eg,
Going out to buy groceries– Problem can be:
I don’t have money OR
it’s raining outside OR
there is this dangerous dog standing outside my main door OR
the shops are closed today..
There are so many more you can create. Now suppose if it is raining outside and I still go out, how can I complicate things. May be:
I get completely wet under the rain OR
a car splashes water on my face OR
may be I forgot the money at home OR
my ATM card falls inside a drain.
I can still see my card inside a drain but my hand is unable to reach the card.
So, how can I retrieve my card? Or will I leave the card there and come back home?
Well.. Well.. the possibilities are endless but one thing is consistent and that is DRAMA.. lots of DRAMA and that is what keeps you glued to the screen as an audience. We can introduce another character who is returning home after buying grocery and finds me searching for my card. Will he help me out? Or will he not even bother to look at me as I hurt his ego a few days back and so it is the sweet revenge time.
We can apply this PCR theory at any point in our story and figure out the innumerable opportunities. Now what does it do is that it has given us a blue-print where we can work on finer nuances of writing such as characterization, visual writing, metaphors, scene construction, etc without troubling our most complex part of the body, the brain. It also helps us to shape our narrative the way we want. We can work on the character’s back story as well. We can work on our visual language, something that will help our writing skills. Thinking out-of-box is good but not at the expense of our precious time and by the time you think of one GREAT idea, somebody on the other side of the planet has already made 4-5 short films.
*meandering- means to move aimlessly and idly without fixed direction