50 Effective Ways to Brainstorm Short Film Ideas

Way before they have the funding and experience to create a feature, many new filmmakers burst onto the scene with a skillfully produced short film. Since technology allows you to shoot without a professional camera (even on your iPhone) and entech platforms enable you to find all of your crew members regardless of the current size of your network, the resources to produce a film are more accessible than ever. That means that brainstorming might just be the hardest part.

Outlined below are 50 ways you can get started brainstorming short film ideas. From coming up with a concept to keeping it fresh, here’s your go-to guide.

Get in the Habit of Brainstorming

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.28.51 PM.png

1.    Always be prepared to make a note on a device or notebook. An idea can pop up while you are in the middle of an activity. To ensure that it’s not lost, carry a diary where you can jot down these random thoughts. They might just become your next short film idea.

2.  Talk a walk in the wilderness. here, you’re bound to find bizarre objects which can trigger inspiration.

3.    Have a routine. Create a daily schedule allowing time for you to write down all of your ideas. For instance, you can devote 20-30 minutes daily after your day job to simply ideate.

4.    Create a mind-mapping method to generate new ideas. Instead of writing them down, drawing characters and settings or mapping plots can help create a story.

5.    Take photos. By constantly thinking about the world visually, you can transform stills into moving images.

6.    Work while your mind is still fresh. Therefore, consider working during the early mornings because creativity is normally at its peak.

Consider Budget and Assets

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.30.35 PM.png

7.    Do you have a budget? How much are you planning to spend?

8.    Take stock of the required equipment, props, and other purchases or rentals. This will help to establish if you are within or outside the budget range. 

9.    Consider reverse budgeting; this includes finding cheaper equipment and free locations. If you’re making a short film for school, borrow from the Film Department, and if you’re an independent director, consider renting for cheaper or borrowing from a friend. A friend’s backyard or house is a great place to shoot for free and without a permit.

10.    Begin by creating the props. Create a list of props to create producible and authentic scenes.


Related: Pre-Production Checklist - Everything You Need to Know

Draw Inspiration from Setting

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.31.52 PM.png

11.    Be observant. Look within your surroundings and the people you interact with for short film ideas. What is happening? What are people doing? How are they doing it?

12.    Use an unexpected place to shoot, like an abandoned building or an empty landscape that can be easily transformed into an ambient space. The new environment can help to add twists and unpredictability.

13.    Confinement stories are great for a low-budget film. You can put characters in fixed locations to create suspense.

14.    The college campus setting can be affordable and adaptable. Apart from the attractive architectural design, the budget is also friendly. Shooting on campus might be the only option for some students, but seeing a frequented space from a different perspective can help you make it look unrecognizable.

15.    Think about creepy places. Paranormal stories about ghosts in cemeteries, hospitals, or abandoned homes follow the rise of the horror genre.

16.    Consider a unique and familiar location, such as the backyard or your favorite beach. These can be used as such, or transformed into a secret garden or sandy desert.

Think about the Big Picture

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.32.38 PM.png

17.    Use a list builder to help you create an outline.

18.    Focus on what you like. Your passion will drive your ideas further.

19.    Film genre. You can use established genre motifs, or riff off of multiple genres.

20.    The storyboard is crucial. For you to produce an incredible film, you must have an imaginary vision.

21.    Think inside the box: sometimes thinking outside the box takes away the attention from your beautiful cinematography.

22.    Flip an existing idea. Are you out of ideas? Then you should consider flipping an existing idea. For example, give an opposite outlook to an already existing data.

23.    A captivating short film idea should be limited in terms of the region and the subject. By taking on too much, you will lose the ability to add details.

24. Have a mood board: this is a visual reference that consists of texts, samples, and images. It helps to enhance the creative process of film production. Your mood board should consist of film stills, dialogue, and other media that will help you construct the mood of your short film.

Innovate with Plot

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.33.26 PM.png

25.    Writing a great logline (a single-sentence summary) is crucial in providing the introductory hook and the synopsis of the plot.

26.    The first few scenes need to be simple yet somehow captivating.

27.    Plot twists. A short film, just like a feature film, should have a plot twist that stands out but follows the logic of character motivation.

28.    Predictability is boring. Consider adding a few unpredictable moments in your short film script that will take you audience by surprise.

29.    Be aware of the ending. Most people usually worry about the starting of the plot. However, the ending is also crucial. Starting a short film script from the end can help determining the sequence of the scenes.

30.    The story and plot of your short film idea should be simple and still engaging. You can use a short story idea with a twist.

Start with Characters

31.    Build your character to start off your short film idea. Think about their motivation, history, and relationships. While not every aspect will make its way into the film, these qualities will help you make important plot decisions. 

32.    Consider character flaws. By thinking about what makes your character vulnerable, you can create a conflict that makes sense.


Related: 10 Best Screenwriting Software Programs

Don’t Start from Scratch

33.    Look for an old family story for a movie topic; this one of the easiest film ideas that you can produce. For instance, look at your family tree and consider the history of your grandparents.

34.    Consider classic films to help think of new short film ideas. Some say there’s no such thing as a new story. Look to classic films for general plot idea or filmic motifs that you can build a new story around.

35.    Build a story and plot idea around real-life events such as weddings, graduation, or falling in love. The most mundane events can be beautiful on the silver screen.

36.    Use local folk legends to create a movie topic.

37.    Draw inspiration from current events. Apart from yourself, family, and surroundings, there are still several areas of life you can use as a source of inspiration. They include the political state, both current and old songs, and books.

38. A day in the life can be good. You definitely know what a typical day in your life involves. Writing a short film about a day in your life is easy and economical, and cinéma vérité is a French film mainstay.

...Or Start from Scratch

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.35.00 PM.png

39.    Stay updated in order to generate new short film ideas. Staying up to date with broader cultural trends will kick up your intuition for a good story.

40.    Make up your own story and plot. It’s sometimes good to come up with fresh content. So consider using imaginary characters for your storyline.

41. Don’t think about limiting yourself. Be as free and expressive as you can.

Do Your Homework

42.    Do your research. Being well-versed in genre, motifs, and notable filmmakers will come across in your visual work.

43.    Consider the medium for your short film idea. Think about the aspect ratio of your film and the kind of camera you will use. While shooting on digital is the most common choice, some filmmakers shoot on 125mm and Super8 is trending yet again.

44.    Transcribe the audio of your favorite movies. This can help you to improve your own dialogue writing.

45.    Consistency: writing is not easy. But the more you do it, the better you become.

Generate Feedback

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.36.11 PM.png

46.    Connect with others about your short film ideas. Seeking the opinion of people in the film industry in order to understand what’s happening in the market currently.

47.    Participate in film-making forums: these platforms can be great sources of inspiration.

48.    Consider collaboration and connection. The only way you can grow and producing outstanding content is by building connections and collaborating with like-minded people. With our entech capabilities at We the Project, you can easily expand your film network by creating a profile and viewing other creatives’ portfolios.

49.    Tell your story. Turn your idea into a storytelling session in order to have a glimpse of the expected reaction of your audience.

And Finally...

50. Don’t overthink anything: what’s the worst that could happen? Simply do your best.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 1.37.04 PM.png

With these 50 short film ideas, you’ll be on your way to produce an exciting work that intrigues and compels. Once you produce your short film, know that there are many channels you can use in order to attract audiences. You can submit your short film to festivals, host viewing parties with friends and families, and add it to your portfolio or reel.

After you’ve completed the film, add it to your profile on We the Project with an attractive synopsis and relevant updates. By building a thorough profile within our entech staffing solutions platform, you can expand your creative network and establish a presence for your cinematic work. The next great short lies at your fingertips.


Related: 30 Best Film Festivals You Need to Go To

Matt SearsComment