Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tuesday Talkback: Idea file and abandoned premises

Monday night I pitched three premises to my writing group. None of them were full treatments. One had a rough beat sheet, one was basically a premise and a skeletal outline of structure and one was an Act One outline with only a vague idea of where the story would go from there. I'd guess at best, one of them might get developed further based on the feedback tonight, and the rest will join about 20 of his brothers and sisters in the "Idea File," where my pitches, concepts, and outlines go to die.

Just so we're clear, I have eight completed spec scripts to my name (three of which are collaborations). Three - MAYBE four - of those are ones that I consider solid enough to show to people, with another one currently in active rewrites.

This means that I actually follow through on about a third of the premises I come up with. I look down the list of abandoned premises, and about a third of those seem like ones I might be able to wring a marketable script out of if I invest enough time and get blessed enough by the Muses. And about a third of the ideas out there range from embarrassing to utterly, utterly stupid.

My dumbest idea: a drama-indie that revolved around a three-way love triangle between a Priest, a Nun and an Altar Boy. I won't say more than that because there's always a chance I can salvage it, but it's also one I know I could never seriously pitch unless I was down to my last idea.

So tell me, what's your ratio of "ideas gotten" to "scripts developed?" And if you feel like sharing, what's your dumbest idea in the idea file?


  1. My ratio is roughly 20 to 1. I think my worst was "Turbo Lover" about a dystopic futuristic society where a gay biker struggles to break his lover out of Jesus jail. I was sure for about three days it was brilliant until I got sick of that song.

  2. Zuul, I like your methods, good ratio.

    Kgm, not a bad idea, there's been a recent call from prodcos looking for gay material, if you can get Rob Halford tagged as an element you might pull this off!

    I'm three for three, just started this summer, so I had to go with every idea.

  3. First off, Bitter Script Reader, congrats on EIGHT completed spec scripts. WOW, that's a great accomplishment that you should be VERY PROUD of.
    And this is from a reknown reader to boot, which makes your accomplishment even that more impressive. (I give professional readers more street cred. for finishing scripts then the Average Joe, because when your job is to evaluate scripts for others that takes a lot of time, and CAN lead to script burn-out which makes it harder to write your own creative stories)

    Didn't like reading that you said your file was a place that your pitches, concepts and outlines "go to die." So you can't get to you ideas RIGHT NOW. Doesn't mean they're DEAD. A dead idea is one that you have no intetion of ever pursueing, and IF that's the case they no longer belong in your file, nor should they be mentioned.

    Every creative has stupid ideas for movies at some point or another. I've had LOTS of LARK ideas for movies. They're more-less jokes like the kind the Hollwood Roaster puts out 2-3 times a week. Not to be judgemental, but your priest, altar boy and nun idea sounds like one of those.

    In a file cabinet I have what I call a "docket" file. When I get excited about an idea, or mentatlly work out a character or plot thread, my ideas go there. THEN when I've finished a script I re-visit the docket file, and pick-up my next project.

    13 specs ready to sell -- RIGHT NOW!
    1 -- drafted, but on hold.
    1 -- currently WIP (work-in-progress)
    16 -- "idea": some have semi-worked plots, some are idea raw. Several of these came by dreams, which I THOUGHT might make good movies.

    One of the stranger spec "ideas" I had from a dream was a movie entittled, "Dinosaurs, Superheros and You!" Logline: A caretaker at a theme park in America where dinosaurs roam must develope his superpowers to ward off theives.

    Several ideas I'm very jacked about lay in waiting in my docket file. Including the adaptation of a "Lord of the Rings-esque" fantasy novel which I wrote 1995-2002. My dream for the past 6 years was to break-in as a screenwriter, get some bank built up, then find a girlfriend and go hideaway and finish that fantasy novel and its corresponding 2 part movie adapatation.
    But now at age 40, I'm starting to think no matter how hard I try to break in OR find a girlfriend neither may ever happen SO I'm leaning towards just doing the adaptation on my own. My family LOVES that story and keeps telling me to go back to it. Plus I already have at least one more spin-off idea for a second novel/movie off it... (that's NOT on the docket yet)

  4. I've got over a hundred index cards with brief ideas or even titles. And that's not counting the 'idea' cards, just cool stuff for a fight or whatever.

    Maybe twenty one-to-three pagers.

    Ten completed scripts.

    Hm... the bad ones.

    One index card just says "Chinese Babies are Spies."

    I contemplated turning a real-life news story about a guy who crank called Wendy's and got the manager to strip-search people into some sort of folk-hero story, ala Turk 182.

    "Little Wayne's Last Day" - In the last 24 hours before Little Wayne serves a year long jail sentence, he must take care of his baby mamas, kill four rival rappers, save the orphanage, and record 52 songs so the fans can get still a new jam each week he's behind bars.

    Although I've spent plenty of time debating if that last idea is just plain ridiculous... or ridiculously AWESOME.

  5. Don't know my ratio ... I've got about 15 to 17 completed scripts (some for hire) and maybe 30 or so ideas sketched out in the idea file ... I have what's known as a "dead" file, which is where I move an idea when I realize it's time has passed or, perhaps, never was.

    Looking through it, I see something called CONFESSIONS OF A REPUBLICAN PORN STAR ... so that may qualify as the dumbest ... but it's early, yet - LOL!