what is your creative process in beginning new project


hi all,

just wondering if some of you could talk about your creative process - how you find your ideas for a new personal project. what is your process in starting project, finding inspiration, if you smoke 5 packets of cigarettes before you find your creative spark.



you know what… I’ve been guilty of staring at a blank page for hours and waiting for inspiration to strike… I’ve learned that it just doesn’t work that way for me. And from what friends and colleagues have told me it doesn’t really seem to work that way for anyone!

For me, the best ideas I’ve come up with happen at weird times.

  1. when I am joking around with friends…
  2. before I go to sleep or when I wake up ( I keep a notebook by my bed )
  3. I’ve actually had a lot of success with this technique: I will put something on tv ( like an animation ), but I turn the volume off. Then I imagine what it’s about as I’m watching it. I’m almost always wrong! but the ideas I imagine often seed my own ideas…

I guess that’s it for me…

is that kinda what you were looking for katekatesmith?


Music gives me lots of ideas… I always try to fill out the stories that are put into my head by a lyric or a mood of a song… also looking at concept art and then making up my own version of a stories based on a still image. I also like to think about things that happen in my life or my friends life, then exaggerate on it or how it could of went if some factors were changed.
Or just thinking about things that I think are kool and would be fun to see.


Hej… good question… I think it is different for a lot of people what to use as inspiration.

And that is how one should approach it I think. Not waiting to be inspired but choosing that what you find interesting or weird enough to actually write about.

My creative ideas usually come from stories I hear or read about and that are not satisfying me in the end. Or parts of my life that went awry or exceptionally good and I try to change them around so they become a good story for someone else.

Other inspirations are for example the news or just ordinary objects. There was a famous british writer (who’s name escapes me at the moment) at the end of the 19’th century who said he could write about anything. So one night noe of his guests named two objects and a week later he had written a very good horror story about those. (try that, it’s harder than it looks but great creative practice)

Another thing I do is always having something ready to put ideas to… computer with email, notepad and usbdongle, palmtop, laptop, pen and paper, pencil and receit. It doesn’t matter what but just give up on being creative at set times and write down ideas that seem good for later use.

Or try to write what you are thinking… while letting your imagination run free… it is hard since you think faster than you write, i do at least, and it is very weird too since your imagination isn’t bound by logic (well mine isn’t) so be prepared to write stupid non controllable rubbish… I have great fun with it and it can spark great ideas because there are links there that aren’t obvious at all.

Thanks for asking and a good day and year to you. Please keep us posted on your quest for inspiration.


Music is very inspirational to me also. When Im driving in my car listening to music I can invision what a video of that song would be like. However, not all songs “hit” me. It seems some songs are more inspiring to me than others.

Im actually in the process of updating my demo reel and Ive started by:

  1. Collecting my works.
  2. Picking the music (even tho potential employers usually turn this off).
  3. Capturing an idea thru sketching a storyboard.
  4. Editing my existing works if need be (which they need to be).

and this is where Im at right now. The editing process of some of my existing and updated works.

After this comes the compositing in After Effects.


I heard of something this one writer did the first thing he did when he woke up before his coffee before his shower before his mind wakes up he writes 2 pages of the first thing that pops in his head.

Some his gibberish some is inscription for later, some just get shoves in the shelf and never seen the light of day but a rather interesting idea.


This topic seems to have wandered off a bit - in beginning a new project, I start with a collection of words that I associate with the theme, and start googling Google Images. I already have some pre-conceptions at this point, but seeing what else is out there, such as artwork or historical resources is a great “originality” test. I want to know if a theme that is fresh to me is already tired out for someone else.


I find that I am extremely visual in how I regard a visual project. I need to “see it,” as soon as possible.

So, I’ll noodle over the project and try to jot down ideas of how I can express important aspects of the project visually. “Show, don’t tell.”

Then… it’s performance time for Mister Cube-Man. :curious: A red cube means one thing, a blue cube is that approaching Confederate soldier, a green cylinder is the cannon that’s about to blow him to kingdom-come. (Poor sot… but he’s only digital.) Drop a ridiculously-simple render of the thing, save the files and the clip. About the only thing I pay attention to at this point is the relative sizes of the various shapes.

I actually try to work the whole thing out … this way. Of course, ideas are churning along in the back of my head the whole time.

Weird thing is … I keep coming back to those early clips. If the proportions are correct, the camera angles and so-forth that I have used in them often find their way into their finished counterparts.

I stick with “Mister Cube-Man” until I actually have a rough-cut edit. By that time, my powers of imagination are pretty well advanced. Or I’m sick of the whole thing. Or both.


Before I begin a new project, I make sure the core idea/concept I want to go with has been fleshed out, and is as original as possible. Also, I try to the best of my ability to ensure that something similar hasn’t already been done or is currently in progress-- there’s nothing worse than spending weeks or months on a project, only to discover that someone else has already done the same thing (and/or usually better, in some cases).

In the initial pre-viz stages, storyboarding is a MUST. Simple sketches are best, as the actual shot composition will change when presented with the actual environment, whether live-action or animated. The one common thread that all directors and DOPs I’ve worked with have is that there is a visible concept/reference (read hard copy) available for the production team (animators, artists, camera operators, etc.) to follow later, even if the material goes unused. Be prepared, as the saying goes.

I don’t do too much pre-planning with CG mockups unless the character blocking is complicated.

Most importantly, you must be passionate 110% about your concept/material.

Bonne chance!


One thing I do sometimes:

I first figure out who the demographic is that I want to write for… children? teens? adults? grandparents?..

Deciding that, I imagine what that person looks like… If a grandparent… is it a man or a woman? The demographics will dictate the disposition of the character enough for you to start developing a personality… that personality will be altered/affected by:

Does he or she have good mobility or a cane, or even a scooter? Are they wearing a wool sweater or a sportcoat? Bow tie, ascot, or necktie… maybe no tie.

Then, with a mental image of my character and a rough personality, I imagine that person’s bedroom. Exploring someone’s bedroom in your mind can be a HUGE help because it’s so personal. Do they have a photo of their children? If so is it on the night stand near the bed (meaning a personal connection to the kids) or is it all dusty on the shelving unit on the opposite side of the room from the bed (meaning a distance in that personal relationship). What does the window look out over? A brick wall and a dumpster or beautiful garden? Was the garden tended by the grandparent or someone else? Does the grandparent live there by choice or not?

As you progress around the room asking and answering questions about what your mind’s eye sees, you’ll gradually become much more familiar with the character… eventually, that character will begin showing you things. Maybe it’s a hole in the sole of his shoe while a brand new pair of shoes sits in his closet… he’s afraid to wear the newer pair? Why? He’ll tell you that the new shoes in the closet were the ones he wore to his wife’s funeral a couple years back and even though his current pair have holes in the soles from miles of walking, he can’t bring himself to wear the good pair. He wants to keep them perfect, as with the suit he wore that day, as with the hat he wore that day… all of it, he wants to keep perfect in memory of her, to one day be buried in that outfit in the plot next to her.

Eventually, for me… my mind just starts ‘feeling’ where the character wants to go and the story evolves.

Perhaps the above example leads to a new love in his twilight years, something that he wrestles with… does he feel like he’s betraying his former wife? Did she tell him to move on, and he simply hasn’t done it because he doesn’t know how to cope with the loss of her?

And so, it goes on…



For my FanVids (editing of footage from shows like BSG) it all starts mostly from the music, a dominant feeling I’m experiencing and a primary thought I want to get across to my viewers.

I usually end up listening to various pieces of music for days and weeks sometimes before I even start on the actual project. Meanwhile I try to figure out what this music means to me, how i interpret it, and what images and subjects would complement it.

After finding the images/scenes, I try to put it together, and honestly, sometimes it’s just luck for me. Sometimes things tend to work out perfectly without me planning for it. This is mostly due to the fact that I’m trying to make the images fit the music, while the composer of that music (I use film scores often) has usually written the music to fit the images, so the exact opposite work flow.

For my CG animation work, it’s mostly in my head. I have very detailed shot designs already in my head, it’s just a matter of putting them into LightWave, though I’m new to it all so I’m trying to find ways to improve my workflow. For example I’m considering writing a script even if there are no actors or words spoken, and I need to learn the concept of storyboarding and just skeching out my ideas I think.



Those are some good techniques. One of the more important things is to simply let yourself be weird and whacky. Don’t supress a single thought because your friend or someone around you is going to say it’s weird. Most of my ideas start with a whacked premise of “I’ve never seen this done before… I want to see this done”. Later I say “how would I do that” and maybe just start thinking about it. If nothing comes I talk about it with a geeky friend. If I can keep their attention I’ve usually got something and their feedback in the conversations opens so many doors that it takes a while to run out of ideas from there until things are quite well developed and need to be tuned in more complete detail.

I create a world… I create unique people/aliens. They have certain personalities and pasts. I have to explain their pasts - their past spawns a faction, that faction interacts with other factions… it spreads from there. I have to then explain dynamics between the factions and why they are the way they are. Some days the motives are clearer and easier to define than others. If the faction is a race similar to any type of creature on the planet and you want more depth to the story - look up that creature in the encyclopedia. Guaranteed one or two of their real life traits will fit great into your story. Friends are great too when you try to explain something and they argue ‘why can’t they just do this’… and you either say “oh yeah” or you sigh and think, the answer is no but I don’t know why yet - typically you can manage to come up with a reason on the spot that spawns more backstory.

And of course as mentioned already, listening to music and watching other shows you like but asking “what’s missing” and “what do I wish they’d have done here” are always inspirational. Along with the phrase “it would have been cooler if…” - so do it. Make it happen.


I read the newspaper, watch the news on Television, and watch Comedy shows. Another good source for me is history books. I write down ideas from that. I try to stay away from getting ideas from other movies and films, because I tend to develop on from when the movie ended. But that’s just me.



I actually get most of my ideas in the shower. My mind just wanders and then something clicks just like THAT. snaps finger I talked about this with Steven Stahlberg before and he thinks it has something to do with the blood circulating better while taking a hot shower.

I also get a fair bit of ideas from dreams I’ve had. Sometimes a certain dream just happens to have a great premise for a story.

I find that trying to come up with an idea through rational thinking can work as well, but this usually works better when you are given a set of limitations to work with. In the past when I had to do re-imagining of classic folktales, I tried to find the elements in them that still resonate with a modern audience, tear out the elements that are too dated and irrelevant, and then injected what I felt were timeless qualities into the folktales that were missing those qualities. Timelessness is a very essential part of a good story IMO, because those are the universal truths for all mankind, and they will ALWAYS work, never going out of style. You’d be surprised how many traditional tales lack those timeless qualities–many are irrelevant and archaic for today’s audience.

These days when I write, I try to think about these elements:

Emotional substance - Does it resonate with me emotionally? If it doesn’t resonate with me, then I don’t believe in it, and neither will the audience. The story must move me before I can tell it to move the audience.

Intellectual substance - If it’s just a tangle of emotions, it becomes a cheap soap opera. There must be more to it than just emotions–it has to be intelligent. Even if the main focus of the story is about emotions, the execution must come from a place of intelligence, not merely simple and transparent sentimentality.

Originality - While nothing under the sun is really original anymore, we can still strive to combine various influences in such a way that feels fresh and new. Not making an effort to stay off the derivative path is a symptom of laziness, and laziness NEVER grants one the ability to be great.

Format - Writing a 5-part feature film project is just unrealistic. Even a trilogy is somewhat unrealistic, seeing how only the absolute biggest names in Hollywood are allowed that luxury, and even they have to fight tooth and nail for it. Think about what format you want to tell the story in. Sometimes a TV series format is more suitable than feature film, and other times a novel will work better than a graphic novel.

Passion - Are you absolutely passionate about the idea? If you’re not, then your audience probably won’t be either.


In some ways, I think that we can all take inspiration from Charles Schulz, who managed to crank out so many episodes of Peanuts over 50 years. Creating decent stuff is hard work.

You have to force yourself to actually do it, every day, even when a day goes by and “you can’t manage to come up with a single good idea.” Knowing(!) that such days will happen, you have to nevertheless “show up for work” at the same time tomorrow morning. More than anything else that I can think of, this is essential.

A very odd thing about our business is that our customers really do not have the faintest inkling about the process that we go through in order to entertain (or in my case, to educate) them. That’s because they only see “the final cut.” They don’t see a single one of the intermediate choices; not a scrap of the “film” that wound up “on the cutting-room floor.” Therefore, to their way of thinking, “it had to be this way. How could it have ever been any other way?” But the team that actually did the creating knows better, because they did go through the entire process … and they know that they carefully selected the “one way” that the viewer finally witnessed.

The creative team knows that they made these selections from the very earliest stages, and at every stage, of the long process. Furthermore, they alone know that they did so, never knowing in advance which one of their choices would “win.” They know that what appears to the audience to be (they hope…) “a fantastic, inevitable finished work” is, in reality, “anything but.”

“The art of making art is … putting it together.”


In the last couple of weeks i put up theJawseffect fan film in the collaboration team projects at the start of our journey.
Id been planning this in my head for years and wanted to work around the “fair Spanish Ladies” that Quint sung,from Jaws.

I knew i wanted visual references such as the 3 barrels,the beeping transmitter from Mr Hooper…etc.The story has to have a hook,so to speak,the emotion that will enhance story that will enhance the Jaws effects.

So, a father has taken his boy out to the spot where Chrissy Watkins was attacked, on a hired rowing boat,without his wife knowing,(as she is pulling an am shift at a bar and grill in Amity.)and is going out for the Kittner bounty,with an old rifle and a few shells.

Hes tired rowing with no luck on the shark,and is having second thoughts about the shark & the money and his life.As hes looking at his sleeping boy in front of him,he shares his thoughts with his son,on his mummy,how he is trying hard with finding work, but keeps getting knocked back.How although he argues with his mummy,he still loves her,and looking at his son now,hes going to try so much harder,and its all going to be alright.Hes feels more confident in his future as as he starts to row back ,he reaches the bell boey that tell him hes nearly home.

Then as he rows past the bell boey and it fades into darkness behind the boat, he hears it starts to ring.

Ok really. its only going to be about minute and a half monalogue ,and have written what happens when Bruce attacks on the end on theJawseffect thread.

So where on earth does ELVIS the king fit into it,well as i kept thinking over the story about the bond between a father and son (my son Jamie is 5) i keep thinking about the song “MY BOY” and the lyrics of the father talking to his sleeping son about his marriage ,and that hes going to stay because of his son.

so music is a help and my inspiration.

It will need a rewrite but im sure it will work.

Im gonna play it right now,and do a little writeing .




I usually end up listening to various pieces of music for days and weeks sometimes before I even start on the actual project. Meanwhile I try to figure out what this music means to me, how i interpret it, and what images and subjects would complement it.


Afternoon Darran,
As promised, am stopping by and reporting for duty. Look forward to starting work on the storyboards.



My process varies with the inspiration/motivation for the project.

Some ideas start with a specific scene that I want to include. So I sit at the keyboard and write the scene. Then I figure out how the characters got into the scene and where they go from there, working forwards and backwards in time until I get stuck. Then I digest what is written so far and either outline the rest of the story, or repeat the exercise with another scene independent of the first. Sort of like solving a jigsaw puzzle.


I took a different approach on a recent effort. I had a very fleshed out theme and tone that I wanted to convey around a classic storyline. Instead of writing scenes, I drew storyboards for each of the major story “beats”, act breaks, and “big scenes”.

This allowed me to 1) see how the story unfolds (nicely); 2) see if the visuals are repetitive(they were, initially); and 3) provided an outline(which has since changed). It also forced me to flesh out each major character visually. As I drew them, I found that, to make the storyboards interesting, I had to craft the story in my head. In a notebook, I wrote down exchanges of dialogue, or longish descriptions of how the characters came to be who they were. (This was a genre drama). It is still a work in progress, but having the storyboard and the notes makes me catch important elements that I don’t think I would have if I’d just sat down and attempted to write a screenplay.

Other writers I know actively keep notebooks of story ideas, dialogue snippets, visual concepts unrelated to any particular projects. Then when they sit down to write, they can use their notebook(s) as reference material for their project.


Steal an idea and make it my own.