Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Beachcombing: Getting creative ideas and making them work...

Over the next few weeks I will be posting blogs about practical production, designed to help you get the most out of your work. These will be specific to popular projects like the music magazine and film opening which lots of students do at AS level, and the music video, short film and trailer which are popular at A2. This week’s post is about some techniques and ideas which can help you generate creative work of your own.

At the weekend, I was lucky enough to be at a talk given by Tim Clague, a BAFTA nominated screenwriter and film-maker who describes himself as “a storyteller for the google generation”. I have heard Tim speak before and if you ever get the chance to see him in action, you should take it, as he is extremely entertaining and has lots of good tips for ‘thawing’ what he calls the ‘creative freeze’ that often happens when people are trying to come up with ideas and be creative.

In this video which introduces his work, Tim talks about how he uses story charts and visual tools to help him to put stories together.

Tim's blog at Projector Films is packed with useful resources and ideas. In the post called beachcombing, Tim discusses how gathering together fragments of ideas from which you might eventually make something is a process that doesn't happen instantly and needs to be worked through.

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Tim's ideas are aimed at helping people get the most out of their jobs, notably media creatives, but they could apply equally to media students. In future weeks we will look more closely at the precise needs of particular assignments, but you should have a look at Tim's videos and other resources to get thinking about ideas and planning for your work.

A useful resource on his blog is his storyboard template for word which you can find here.

Tim likes to gather stuff together and store up ideas which eventually come together in his projects; this is a technique which is not unique to him. His storycards, where he literally pins up little cards with fragments of ideas on and then re-organises them into the shape of his overall project, is a good way of working.

He notes that this collecting of ideas was the way H.G. Wells worked. In his case, he used to write things on scraps of paper, screw them up and pop them in a jamjar. When the jar was full, he would empty them out and start to put together his stories. imagine, this may have been how 'The Time Machine' and 'War of the Worlds' were written. Tim recommends that you collect ideas from everywhere- the world around you is a good place to start. Snap pictures on your phone of anything interesting that you see; keep fragments of text messages or facebook updates- you never know when they might come in handy. A good source of powerful ideas that Tim mentioned is post secret.com which describes itself as " an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard". Imagine these tiny secrets becoming the starting point for a story.

Some years ago, director Mark Adcock whose showreel can be found here, did a talk for my students where he told us that he used to put together a 'steal-o-matic' before making a music video, which consisted of ideas from films that he wanted to use. In his case, the one he showed us was a VHS tape with clips from old silent movies and surrealist films, for a music video he made for an artist called White Town. These days, with so much stuff on the web, it is much easier to get these ideas together and make your blog your 'steal-o-matic'. the key for Mark, as for Tim, was not to steal just from one place but to get ideas from everywhere.

So start beachcombing!


  1. Great summary of my thoughts, far better than I could do them rather annoyingly! Which goes to show the power and strength in collaborating and moving ideas around - they become more refined.

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