Think screenplay ideas come perfectly wrapped for professional screenwriters? In this presentation we share how nine professional film scribes found their script ideas – and the strategies that you can use to find your next story idea.

Transcript of “How 9 Pro Screenwriters Got Their Screenplay Ideas”

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #1: Start with a strong title and go from there
Description: Woody Allen loved the title Midnight in Paris but he couldn’t decide what would happen to his character at midnight. Once he figured that out, the rest came easily. You have to lay the groundwork first, and then the fun begins.

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #2: Come up with one compelling scene and see where it takes you
Description: When Diablo Cody set out to write Juno, she had just one scene in mind–one where a pregnant teenager interviews parents who might adopt her baby. She took that one scene and created a whole story around it.

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #3: Take a great “What if” question and explore answers to it
Description: Lloyd Braun, the chairman of ABC, was on vacation watching Cast Away when he came up with an idea for Lost. It started with a series of questions: What if a group of strangers survived a plane crash? How would you reinvent yourself in a world where your past didn’t matter? How do you get home? He got JJ Abrams to write a pilot and the process took off from there.

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story#4: Write what you know
Description: Cameron Crowe penned two screenplays by writing about his real life experiences. His tales of the rock world while working for Rolling Stone would inspire Almost Famous and his social-experiment posing as a high school student for a second senior year would become Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #5: Borrow and be inspired by other’s work
Description: Quentin Tarantino is known for referencing and playing homage to the films that inspire his later work. Tarantino gives credit to approximately 80 different films that inspired his classic film, Kill Bill.

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #6: Write everything down– every thought, every feeling– and see what you get
Description: Spike Jonze was inspired by Charlie Kaufman’s approach to writing Synecdoche, New York: “On Synecdoche, New York, which I was originally going to direct, [Kaufman] said he wanted to try to write everything he was thinking about in that moment – all the ideas and feelings at that time – and put it into the script. I was very inspired by that, and tried to do that in [Her].”

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #7: Be inspired by news stories
Description: Spike Jonze got the idea for Her when he read an article about a website that allowed users to chat-online with an A.I. He bounced the idea around for many years and eventually came up with the story that would become Her.

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #8: Wing it and see what you come up with under pressure
Description: Aaron Sorkin thought he was just having lunch with a TV producer but when he got there, realized the group of producers and agents were expecting a full-fledged show pitch. Borrowing from ideas he’d explored in The American President, he blurted out an idea that would become The West Wing.

Screenplay Ideas Origin Story #9: Be a doer, not a dreamer. Don’t procrastinate, write!
Description: Don’t waste time dreaming and act. Shonda Rhimes summed it up best in her Dartmouth Commencement Address, “Perfect is boring and dreams are not real. So you think, ‘I wish I could travel.’ Great. Sell your crappy car, buy a ticket to Bangkok, and go. Right now. I’m serious. You want to be a writer? A writer is someone who writes every day, so start writing.”


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