Everyone’s got ideas. The especially cursed among us have got too many ideas.
It’s too easy to let ideas come flowing one after another in a torrent that cannot be stopped – ideas are like that; they never stop. You have to let the torrent flow over you, and to get those ideas written down and saved somewhere, whether it’s in a notebook, your computer, your blog, Evernote, etc. If they’re good ideas, then they will continue to resonate for months or even years after the idea has struck.
Instead, the challenge of creating anything is defining the scope of the project. The idea has to fit within a certain box, be it feature film, ongoing serial, short animation, novel, short story, and so forth and then bringing this grand idea that you had down to the point where it fits into the box. You have to go at it with machete and chainsaw, cutting the idea down to the point where you can actually do something with it.
“But I’ve got a great idea for an epic fantasy story that will need no less than five feature films to tell.”
Well, that’s great, but what can you really do with it? If you’re not able to bring the idea down to the point where you can actually start creating something tangible – something that you can show off to the rest of the world, then you are essentially procrastinating. You have to be able to produce something, or the idea is worthless. It doesn’t matter how great the idea is, or how much it haunts your waking hours, if you don’t produce something with that idea, then you have wasted your time.
It’s not easy paring ideas down, making them fit the container. There’s just too many resonances, too many tangents that we could include. And each tweak of the idea is like your own newborn. But we have to kill those newborn if they don’t fit. By all means, write down the tweaks and the cool little bits, but you have to get the idea down to size.
Don’t worry, the ideas will still be there. They can still come to life later on–after all there are a lot of incarnations that an idea can undergo. After all, how many Star Wars re-edits have there been? How many times have we fought about “Han shot first?”
So, trim that idea down. Focus on what you can get done and produced. Don’t say that there will be more, or other stuff forthcoming, just get the project done and out so that you and the public can look at it. That way, once you’ve gotten it done, you can start examining what you learned from the process and you can keep building on it.
You want to do a web series? Fine. But you have to work up to it. Create a still image first, or a trailer. Create something that is a clip from that movie that takes no more than sixty seconds of film time. Sixty seconds, at 30 minutes per frame of render time will take 60 seconds * 30 frames per second * 30 minutes per frame equal 54,000 minutes of render time, or 15 computer-hours of the render nodes in your render network chugging away, let alone the assembly time or compositing time. And 60 seconds of film time is next to nothing.
So, start with the still, or the trailer. Learn the lessons from that as you analyze your workflow. What can be improved? What can be changed? What worked best? The number of lessons you can learn from a short 5-shot animation will be able to be scaled up to much larger productions.
The other advantage of getting something done is that it also breaks through the perpetual planning stage that the torrent of ideas imposes. Since you are chasing so many ideas, it becomes too easy to just keep on planning – you become really good at planning, but not so good at execution. Cheat, use off the shelf assets, voice act yourself or use a voice synth if you have to, but get the project out there so that the public can see it.
And do it so that you can see it too. You have to see finished work in order to get something really started. There are no other ways that you can do this than to keep on getting finished work out there.
Also, never do anything as a Work in Progress. Everything is finished work. Period. Show off your work, and let people comment, but make it clear that this is finished work and that you are committed to working on the next project.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below: