These days even full-length thrillers in high definition can be played in the middle of nowhere on prepaid phones. That kind of exposure to movies makes even the most uncreative of us ponder up plots of our own for the silver screen. While movie ideas aren’t out of the ordinary, good movie ideas are hard to come by. If you ever find yourself in a situation where a self-conceived cinematic storyline sounds like more than just a pipe dream, it’s important to keep in mind that a good movie idea has to include certain absolutes.
Before you sit down to write your award-winning screenplay, make sure your idea passes the following examination
1 Does it have a title?
Many a greenhorn movie-maker thinks the title is an afterthought that the studio throws onto a movie in the marketing stages, but the truth is that without a solid title, no one is ever going to green light your story. From a creative standpoint, much more goes into the title than just the raw marketing. The title must sum up the theme of your story, whether obviously or subtly. At the same time, it must sound alluring and pack the promise of an exciting series of events. Take the title seriously: everyone else does.
2 Does it have a logline?
The logline is your movie idea condensed into one sentence. According to the science of studio deals, a good idea isn’t that good if you can’t get it all out in one sentence. Before you sit down to start writing a script, make sure your movie idea can be summed up in just a few words. If it can’t, then it’s probably too complex or not as solid as you originally thought.
3 Is the first act informative?
Every feature-length film can be broken up into three acts. The first act is where all the information that matters in the movie is introduced. That means everything! Think of the first act as when you’re allowed to bring in the tools you want to use to keep the story exciting and to solve the conflict effectively. Once the first act ends, you cannot rely on added information later on to finish your story, or else the audience feels cheated. Make sure you setup the universe of your story in act one.
4 Is the second act entertaining?
This is the heart of your story – where the information of the first act converts into action, suspense, drama, but above all entertainment. Characters must be working towards something, the bad guys must be worthy opponents and reveal that by hindering the plans of the heroes at every turn possible. The audience must remain engaged, which will only happen if you have scenes that are leading to a showdown.
5 Is the third act unforgettable?
The third act is where the conflict finally comes to a head and where all the information and excitement revealed in the previous hour and ten minutes has been steamrolling towards this whole time. Thus, the third act better be the most memorable part of your story. An ending that falls flat after an otherwise interesting series of ups and downs throws any substance contained in the story up to that point out of the window. By the end of your third act, the audience should be right back where it started, but with a whole new outlook and perspective than what was present when the story began.
6 Does your hero have a heart?
This one takes us back to the beginning: your hero must demonstrate that he or she is willing to do something nice for someone else. Now, I know what you’re thinking: not every great movie has had a good guy main character. To that I shall respond by bringing up the proverbial example of a despicable movie protagonist: Alex from the 1971 classic A Clockwork Orange. For the majority of the movie he’s a thieving, raping, merciless monster. But early on the filmmakers feature a moment where Alex, a lover of classical music, abruptly punishes a fellow gang member after the latter rudely interrupts a woman singing the vocals of a Beethoven masterpiece.
At some point, no matter what, your main character has to do something nice for someone else, or else viewers will find nothing to identify with; which is an essential component of captivating your audience.
The complexity that is essential for even your most simple of movie ideas is enough for plenty of aspiring filmmakers to quit before they even begin. But these rules and regulations regarding good cinema become easy to conceive once you start seeing them play out in the movies you’ve been watching your entire life. That’s whether or not you’re watching them on an iPhone or in the movie theater.