Safety first!! It’s a saying we have on set that means the cast and crew’s safety and welfare always takes precedence over hurrying to try to stay on schedule. Well yesterday I was in another safe place to work.
I’m working on the second season of a show for the Oprah Network and I got to spend yesterday in the writer’s room as they worked to come up with the episode subjects for the upcoming season. What a treat that is.
They start with a blank white board: on the right side they wrote the subjects of season one’s 10 episodes, and then the fun began.
“What if…” “And then…” “So they could…” “And…”
They brainstormed. There were no bad ideas. Ideas were coming from everyone. We talked about helicopters, lemonade stands, racecars, and kids.
At one point I was throwing out some ideas and at the end I totally lost my train of thought and it petered out into nothing. When I apologized the Creative Producer said, “It’s ok Keith. This room is a safe place.”
A safe place. Perfect!!
That is exactly where you are when you are brainstorming for ideas for your show. THAT is the time to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. You might have 10 ideas that don’t work but by throwing them out there you might just come up with that eleventh idea that is brilliant.
We worked around the room yesterday. Everybody listening to the others, throwing out their ideas, and by the end of the day we had 10 ideas on the board that we thought might just work. And keep in mind, we had three professional television writers, a Creative Producer, and myself working on this, so don’t be too hard on yourself when it takes a long time to come up with story ideas for your show.
Remember what I’ve said before, all these story ideas are born out of truth; putting the characters in the settings and THEN thinking, “Ok, so what would naturally happen in this situation that the viewing audience will find compelling enough to watch?”
Before you pitch your show you need story ideas for your first season so that you can help paint a picture for the Executives about what your show is going to look like, and subsequently, to help them picture what audience it would be good for.
Don’t beat yourself up if it takes you awhile, it takes professional writers a long time to flesh out the story ideas.
So grab yourself a white board, or chalk board, or laptop, or a scrap of paper and a pen, and start throwing down ideas; all of them. Then, go back and see which ones suit the subject and tone of your show.
It’s ok if a lot of the ideas don’t work; by doing this you should be able to find the ones that do. And remember what the Creative Producer from OWN said, “You’re in a safe place.”