Don’t wait for inspiration

I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to use our story ideas, or lack of them, as an excuse to avoid making films.

We wait for inspiration.

We get stuck on finding the one perfect idea.

We refine, hone and fix an idea to get it right before we show anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, ideas are super important…but not without execution.
And guess what, the more ideas we have, even if we throw them out, the better it is for the creative process.

Here’s a parable from Art and Fear:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality.
His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot “albeit a perfect one” to get an “A”.
Well, it came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work, and learning from their mistakes, the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

Here’s a quote from The Artist Way:

The ego doesn’t like the proposition that artwork is like any other work. The ego likes mysterious and self-serving hokum like, “Artwork requires inspiration”. Hooey. As any honest artist will tell you, inspiration is far more often a by-product of work than it’s cause.

Finally here’s a quote from some old geezer Thomas Edison:

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.

At Lean Filmmaking we’re done with waiting for inspiration to strike us down with a bolt of lightning.

We want to create our own electricity!

Behold the “Idea Generation Game”. (It’s a working title. We don’t want to hold off running this event just because we haven’t thought of the perfect name. I’m sure it will come to us after several iterations.)

Here’s how it works. People form teams of four then using a structured process we come up with as many film ideas as possible. Everyone has 30 seconds to pitch their concept, get feedback, improve, pitch again, iterate and pitch again. There are three rounds because we value quantity over quality.

Everyone pitches.

Everyone give feedback.

Idea generation isn’t a spectator sport.

No need to already have a film idea. We just develop ideas together on the night. After all, it’s only a 30 second pitch!

You can also leave your best ideas at home. This means we don’t have to worry about anyone stealing them. In fact “stealing” is built into the way this process works. Anyone can “steal” another persons idea from the last round to incorporate into their own story. You can also choose to toss the whole thing for something new or just improve the initial pitch based on the feedback.

It’s barely even pitching when you think about it like that…that’s why we’re calling it micro-pitching.

This game is suitable for all skill levels and no experience is required. Just bring an open mind, enthusiasm and generous spirit.

And here’s the kicker.

All the ideas we create at the event are free for anyone in the room to use.

Not only that but when we run these event we also tweet out the pitches using hashtags #IndieFilm #FreeIdeas. Now anyone on twitter can also execute the ideas we generate.

Does the sound of this scare the pants off you?

Me too!

But let’s practice not being so damn precious about our ideas. Like some people say, “Ideas are like assholes, everyone has one”.

Lack of ideas is no longer an excuse you can use. Ideas are just the beginning. Now go make something.

Originally published at on June 20, 2015.