We get phone calls to develop stories and ideas into narrative films and commercials all the time here and every one of our clients have at some point or another asked us;
What is our process for developing an idea and turning it into a interesting piece of content that engages and moves people.
There are so many ways to approach developing a story or an idea. Today I am going to start with the supposition that you already have an idea and just want to know how to breakdown that idea into manageable tasks. So here is a brief rundown on our process.
The first thing you need to ask when you have an idea is:
Does it have an audience, and who are they?
We make films so we can share ideas with other people; so they can understand what we love and share that love with each other. If you are making a film in a vacuum and you don’t get feedback on your idea you will have a hard time sharing that idea. Which means your project will probably not reach the people you want to reach and share the feeling you want them to feel. You have to know what you want and what your audience likes before you can begin to move forward with an idea. This does not mean you need to spoon feed your audience whenever they demand something from you, this just means that you know who they are and what they value so you can in turn provide value to them.
Now that you have an idea and an audience let’s develop some story mechanics.
There is an initial meeting to talk about the hard rules for the story. These are the things we have to have no matter what. like: what is the message you are trying to tell and what are the story mechanics we are going to use to tell that story. Here’s an example, if you are trying to tell a story about dedication, family and how it relates to who you are: you could begin by showing a son who abandons his family to live a life apart from them only to find his way back home when he finds that his father is sick. The message is that family is important, the story mechanic we use to show that is the initial desertion of the son from the family and the return to the family. We can always tweak why he leaves and why he comes back but in general we need some sort of a catalyst for the story, an inciting incident. Now that we know the important parts of the story we want to make sure we hit it; so we will start building a beat sheet.
having an interesting story is the most important part of your video.
A beat sheet can be as simple as a list of important parts of the story you want to hit. You just need to make a list so that when you develop each act you can make sure to build scenes that emphasizes the beat you want to hit. This will help guide you as you write. Here is an example of how we structure story beats in a 3 act film.
The Set Up:
Break into II:
Fun and Games:
The Bad Guys Close In:
All is Lost:
Dark Night of the Soul:
Break Into Act III:
Try filling each of these beats with story elements. What you want to tell your audience and where you want the story to go. That way when you start writing your script it will be easier to write scenes that interconnect with each other and develop a story that feels cohesive and tells a clear message.
How to Break Down a Script for Budgeting
Breaking down a script is one of the most important parts of making a film. It helps you determine what pieces you need for each scene and lets your schedule how long you need equipment for. Here’s how we do it:
We sit down with a script divide each page into 8th’s and go through each scene to determine what props, wardrobe, lighting and equipment we need for each scene. Here are some things we look out for when we breakdown a script.
Locations: Where is this being shot? do we need a permit?
Characters: Who needs to be there?
Wardrobe: What are they wearing?
Props: What are they holding or doing?
Set Design: What sort of set pieces do we need?
Camera: What sort of camera do we need?
Lenses: what focal length do we need to shoot this?
Lights: What sort of lights do we need to light this scene?
Once you’ve broken down each scene and created a shooting schedule based on each location and set up we can now go into budgeting. Each time I start a budget I break it down into elements. Here are the key elements I start every budget with:
Locations and Permitting:
Grip and Electric:
Hair and Makeup:
You may not need all of these departments for your project or idea but this is always a good starting point.
You need to build a schedule before you create a budget.
I don’t have very many hard and fast rules when it comes to film making but this is the one thing I’ve found is the most important part of developing a film. You need to make sure you have a schedule before you create a budget because then you can determine what is a reasonable amount of time to shoot the project and then allocate your resources based on that assumption. If you do not build a schedule and tell your crew to shoot a car chase scene in 4 hours because of budgetary reasons you’ll more than likely shoot something unwatchable or worse; hurt people.
And that’s it, this is our initial process to developing a commercial or narrative film. There are so many different ways for you to be creative while shooting both because of budget and look but that is different for each film. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to us for help!