It starts with a SPARK.
Sometimes they come out of nowhere.
Sometimes they come because there is an important pitch meeting…. TOMORROW.
Sometimes they come because you have sold a project that has to meet a deadline.
Sometimes they come because you have been told you have to deliver a script, a story, a piece, an article, a show that must be produced at a demanded time.
They are the fuel of the creative process.
Occasionally… there is an ORIGINAL idea.
But frankly… there is some truth to the Hollywood saying: “There are no new ideas”
How far is a CRICKET from a BEATLE? (Ask Paul McCartney)
The STAR WARS, SPIDERMANS, and PIRATES of the world compete against their sequels for top box office honors.
AMERICAN IDOL begats SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE; CHEERS begats FRAISER; FRIENDS begats JOEY; HAPPY DAYS begats LAVERNE & SHIRLEY; ALL IN THE FAMILY begats ARCHIE BUNKER’S PLACE, GLORIA, THE JEFFERSONS, and MAUDE which begats GOOD TIMES.
WILSON PHILLIPS inspires POINT OF GRACE; BACKSTREET BOYS & NSYNC inspire PLUS ONE
STEVE ALLEN transitions to JACK PAAR who transitions to JOHNNY CARSON who transitions to JAY LENO who will transition to CONAN O’BRIAN.
LES PAUL & MARY FORD directly inspire the vocal & recording styles of THE CARPENTERS.
MOVIES used to jump to the SMALL SCREEN. Now TV shows jump to the SILVER SCREEN.
And you know what…. I AM TOTALLY OK WITH ALL OF THIS!
Hey… forget what I think. Here’s what the Bible says:
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” — Ecclesiastes 1:9
I have enjoyed a lot of what is listed above (OK… JOEY was not DYN-O-MITE, and I still call them N-STINK).
I like good stories.
I like being moved.
I like being provoked to thought (Hotel Rwanda) and…
I like being entertained (Iron Man).
When they both happen at one time… WOW! (THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS)
I like it all!!
I am a story participant, and I am a story teller.
So what of this process of developing an idea into the story?
Is it magical?
Is it organic?
Is it divine?
Maybe… but just like “over-night sensations” are usually anything but… the development of an idea goes through a process. It is honed, pounded, whittled, and crafted. The process may be inspired or even divinely inspired… but it is none-the-less a process.
In my experience the idea lives or dies depending on the hands that it is in.
On every project I have ever been involved with it has been my responsibility to be the best producer/director possible… part of this is to gather the strongest team of professionals I can. The strongest in every area of the production. The best DP, the best writers, the best 3D guys, the best composers… THE BEST. It is in the hands of this team of STORYTELLERS that the STORY comes to life.
A good idea in the hands of mediocre talent/skill will suffer.
A bad idea in the hands of truly gifted talent/skill has a chance to thrive. (It might still suck… by it has a chance of making it.)
An IDEA goes down roads and intersections.
It winds through people, places and things.
But… the IDEA starts out simple enough.
It might be great when it starts… but often it is NOT great. It might only be good or God-forbid… REQUIRED. It becomes great as it rides down the highway driven by the STORYTELLERS.
(Don’t forget… TOP GUN started as a cover on California Magazine… there was no story in the beginning. Only a picture. Simpson & Bruckheimer sold the movie first, then had to develop the idea. Enter Tony Scott, Tom Cruise and the rest of the storytellers)
STORYTELLERS: You can’t sit FROZEN because you’re worried you don’t have the best idea. You have to develop it. (This can be done quickly or “under the gun.” Or, it can be done over available time. Sometimes PRESSURE causes a good story to erupt from idea. Other times, ideas have to be finessed.)
On the other hand… GREAT ideas can be missed.
Some Green-Lighters (decision makers) have PASSED on the stupendous idea.
Dick Rowe at Decca Records passed on signing the Beatles in the early 60’s saying, “Groups with guitars are on their way out.”
A retired motel and restaurant owner in his 70s spent two years driving the country pitching his secret recipe for fried chicken to restaurant owners. The story goes that (Colonel) Harland Sanders heard “no” over 1000 times before someone finally said, “yes”.
Most all of the top decision-makers in Hollywood passed on George Lucas and his vision for Star Wars before it became a hit.
In the end… in the right hands, each of these IDEAS (and countless others not mentioned here) were cared for, nurtured, and formed into innovative giant successes.
When you have a GREAT TEAM in place… the law of averages is in your favor.
As part of the Behind the Music team at VH-1… I watched us make GREAT shows. Cat Stevens… Biggie… Journey… Shania Twain… Metallica… Motley Crue… and of course Leif Garrett.
Then again we also made the year-ending shows (1999 & 2000) and the Anthrax episode.
STORYTELLERS won’t always hit a home-run. BUT… if you have assembled the right team… a GREAT TEAM… you increase your batting average of turning an IDEA into a FANTASTIC end result. (Story, Song, Program, whatever….)
Every GREAT STORYTELLER has some whiffs or “not genius” material.
World Series Championship baseball teams win 100 games or so during the regular season. Which means they lose 62 games or so.
Movie Studios, TV Networks and Music Conglomerates know this too.
How many records are made every year? And, how many are certifiable hits?
How many movies are made every year? How many of them are box office smashes?
How many TV series are canceled after just a few airings??
Okay… so no one’s perfect.
But… the STORYTELLERS who are caretakers of an IDEA are part of the commodity.
All things being equal… STORYTELLERS are not interchangeable.
The story will almost always be altered by who the storytellers are. Not necessarily for the worse… sometimes it will just be different.
So…. the point is: IDEAS don’t stand on their own. Some do. But the vast majority of them don’t. They need to be shepherded.
Build a great team.
Gather people around you who are the best in their areas of expertise that you can get. Hire great STORYTELLERS. People who are capable of making an IDEA come alive.
Yes, there will still be RISK.
You have no guarantee that any idea is going to be great – the best you can do is walk it down the path, with the right people beside you, and see where it goes.
I do guarantee this:
You can’t wait until you have the ultimate idea – or you’ll never do anything great.