Creating a Short Film: The Idea

Where do ideas come from? Anywhere really, and contrary to popular belief, ideas are a dime a dozen. The internet is a treasure trove of potential ideas that can be absorbed, disseminated, studied, or ultimately rolled into something entirely new. The idea is the nexus of any creative project and without it, there’s nothing from which to build upon. So what goes into an idea? What’s involved with finding the right one and putting it to work like Mount Lowe?

Idea lightbulb

What is an Idea?

Just what exactly is an idea anyway? ‘Superman fights the Nazis’ is an idea, so is ‘a teenage boy learns he is adopted’. Both are conceptual statements or summations about a story. Ideas convey the gist of something in as few a words as possible. Even Lord of Rings, the epic volume of books and trilogy of films can be boiled down into a single statement: A hobbit called Frodo is tasked with finding and destroying a mystical ring. When creating a film (short or long,) the idea is the guiding statement that begins the process, and hopefully remains visible in the final film.

Using the term ‘idea’ can lead to a bit of confusion. Ideas can be all-encompassing, but they can also be extremely narrow and focused. Finding the right idea for a creative endeavor requires striking a balance between the two. Too broad and it will lack direction; too narrow and it risks being too niche to attract an audience.

The Hunt for a Good Idea

Good ideas come from many places. They can be original, or adapted from an existing property. I know my limitations so when I was looking to produce my first cartoon, the decision was obvious: it had to be an adaptation. That won’t hold true for everybody though! Good ideas aren’t exclusive to certain people or talents. J. K. Rowling famously says that Harry Potter appeared in her head fully formed one day as she sat in a cafe.

My previous short (Space Base 8) was based on the webcomic of the same name by David S. Smith. There were many reasons why it fit the bill for an animated short, and most of those are discussed below. The end result is remarkably faithful to the original comic despite its short length, which was the spirit and intent of adapting it in the first place.

The Idea of Mount Lowe

Mount Lowe managed to be the perfect idea. Kyle had created a comic that although unfinished (at the time) had more than enough detail and story to convey the essence of the concept, and the various themes that underpin it all. With this to work from, it wasn’t an enormous effort to extrapolate how the comic could be transformed into an animated short.

The Key Aspects of Mount Lowe as an Idea

All the aspects listed below will be discussed in detail in forthcoming posts, but for now, some of the key aspects that made Mount Lowe stand out as an exceptional idea include:

The Story

Like any good story Mount Lowe has a solid three-part structure. Its beginning introduces the characters, its middle grows and develops them, and the ending brings a degree of closure. It’s also contains unique aspects that make it stand out from the crowd while remaining familiar enough that viewers won’t be turned off by it.

The Characters

Another aspect of Mount Lowe that inspired the adaptation is the characters. Teenagers are always fertile ground for storytelling because of the transformation they undergo during adolescence.  They also allow for stories that are full of conflict. As ever, school plays an important role as a catalyst for events that force the characters to grow.

The characters themselves are a relatively diverse group from a personality standpoint. This is a common trait in many cartoons but is a superbly efficient mechanism for balancing casts and ensuring that a broad range of viewers have a character that they can more strongly relate to.

The Design

Lastly, Kyle’s style is very suitable for an animated short. It’s simple yet retails detail and places an emphasis on the characters. Naturally the simple style has benefits that will be discussed in a later post, but as you can see from the header image, it lends itself well to a diverse cast of characters.

In the Next Post…

We’ll discuss the development stage and what goes into taking a simple idea and broadening it to make it usable for production.

Have a question about ideas? Submit it in a comment or through the form on the right!