Ideas Are Not Stories
When I first got started in this business, I was obsessed with the “idea” of coming up with a “great idea.” I thought that if I was ever to make my own movie, it had to be an “amazing idea," so I spent a good deal of time trying to come up with ideas that were “ground-breaking,” only to learn one very important thing about ideas: “Ideas are small parts of your story; they are not the story itself.” How many bad movies have you seen in your life that were based on really cool plot ideas? And how many great movies have you seen that are based on very plain, very simple ideas? Ideas get integrated into your plot, character, and visual style as you write the script, and they evolve alongside it.
When a person tells me that they have “an amazing idea for a movie,” it basically means that they have “an amazing idea for a plot” – which means absolutely nothing...... You can have the best plot idea in the world, but that doesn’t mean that the movie will be any good, or that it will ever get made. Also, having a “great idea” is of no value if you (the person pitching the idea) are not a capable screenwriter. If you don’t know how to write a great script, you’ll be relegated to hiring writers or trying to sell the idea to movie studios. If you can’t write it yourself, of what worth is your “great idea?” If you want to be an independent filmmaker and make movies in the very near future, you’ll need to sit your ass down and do some writing. The BIG difference here is between a screenwriter (someone who comes up with ideas and puts pen to paper) and an idea person (someone who’s trying to profit from their ideas prematurely without doing any of the work).
“Screenwriting is the most prized of all the cinematic arts. Actually, it isn’t, but it should be.” ~Hugh Laurie