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Turning an Idea into a Story | A New Video Series

How to Turn an Idea into a Story

One of the questions that I kept being asked was on turning an idea into a story. My initial reaction was I that can’t teach anyone how to do that! What you do to turn an idea into a script is so specific to that idea, to you as a writer and to the vision of the director. That makes it almost impossible to give you any practical steps that you can follow to turn your idea into a story.

The only way to help you would be to sit down with everyone and help them with their ideas. Which again is impossible for me as one person to do. But then I also want to help. I knew how useful it would have been when when I was starting out. So I left my mind to come up with a solution.

If you want a video or podcast version of the same in Malayalam, check here.


Gaming

There was this one game that I loved to play. It was called SimCity. You are given a plot of land and you turn it into a city. I was quite good at it.

Building a city in the game SimCity
© “The fruit of my labors…” by Fernando Rodriguez-Villa and Electronic Arts, Fair Use education

I once built a city that was so good that no matter what unexpected situations happened the city always recovered. It was self sufficient without any intervention from my part. I got so bored of it that I sent one disaster after another and destroyed the whole city. I was still in school then. That was the last time I played that game.

A couple of months back I felt like playing that game again. I was missing doing something strategic and creative. The goal oriented planning, the step by step execution, changing of the tactics when faced with unexpected situations by creatively solving the challenge and still going forwards, these are some of the reasons why I enjoy filmmaking. And I had not been on set for over a year.

The Game I Once Loved Playing

The current version of SimCity had a lot of criticism. It was not inspiring to me. Then I came to know of another city building game called Cities: Skylines on Steam. At this point I was so out of touch with gaming that I did not even know what Steam was. For others like me, think of it like an app store for computer games.

I created an account, bought a copy of the game. I barely had the ₹ 700 in my account to buy it. So desperate I was for using my strategic mind. I liked the game and got playing. It takes a while to get the hang of all the controls and the gameplay. So I searched for gameplay videos on YouTube.

Watching Gameplay Videos

I came across a channel that had built this well planned and beautifully working gigantic city. So I thought if he can do it, then I can too. I first watched a couple of videos that addressed the specific topics that I needed help with. Then I saw that the channel had tens of videos from the very beginning of that city. He had documented each decision he took, why he took, and how he implemented it, over many months and years.

I started watching his playlist from the beginning. Each video was about half an hour to an hour long. I binged everything for the next two days straight. How the game was played, the history of how it started, how every one of his decisions made the game finally end up where it was. I was quite useful and inspiring. It taught me specific tactics on how he went from an idea to building the gigantic city. I quite liked.

A Gameplay of Art Creation

What that gamer did was unique to his idea of the city he wanted to build, the terrain the game gave him and his way of doing it. I will never be able to copy him. Likewise even if he wanted to, he will never be able to teach me how to turn the idea of the city in my head into reality in the terrain that the game gave me. The only way would be for him to sit down and did it alongside me. I can’t expect him to do that. But I still learned a lot watching what he did and how he did it. But more importantly why he did what he did.

And that’s when I realise there is no such thing in existence for how an idea transformed into a film. We don’t know why JK Rowling decided to Harry Potter a pair of round spectacles. We don’t know what James Cameron was thinking when he first saw the Titanic at the bottom of the ocean. Whatever it was it ended up earning him the Oscars.

Even if they wanted to, they could not. Recording videos and publishing books about what silly thoughts one had was not a feasible thing to do before digital technologies made it this cheap. In the future a lot more people are going to be documenting their journey. We will get to see the intricacies that lead to the final product.

And there was my solution!

Gameplay of Turning an Idea into a Story

I am currently writing the story of what would become my second feature film. Why not use this opportunity to try documenting the journey myself first? Like how the gamer did. Starting from nothing, a blank page. Detailing what I am doing, how I am making decisions and why.

I hope that I do succeed in turning it into a story. Then into a script and finally into a film. What if the film becomes a massive success? What if it doesn’t or if it takes 10 years or never ends up on screen because I decide the story isn’t working? Like everything in life I can never know for certain what will happen tomorrow.

These are the fears and risks that every writer faces when he begins. We don’t get to see it. That is what I hope to do for you by starting this new series of videos. Starting from the very beginning, documenting the journey every other week on how I am going from an idea to a story.

Challenges

One of the primary concerns in sharing my journey is that my story might get stolen. This again is a fear that every artist has. But when I calmly sit down and think about it. The possibility of that happening is very less, because it is not the idea that matters, but the execution.

There have been many who had the idea of starting a burger joint. In fact there were thousands. But it was the execution of McDonalds that made it the massive success it is now. Similarly it will not be easy for somebody to take a story idea and turn it into their own. Copying and implementing successfully needs skill.

What I Stand to Gain by Documenting My Journey

Besides helping you in your journey, and the satisfaction of sharing what I am learning, there are a couple more of things that I stand to gain by documenting my journey from idea to story and finally into a film.

One of my aims in starting my own company Ashik Arts is to not only to help make my own films, but also want to help others tell their stories and make their films. To help others I need to first help myself. I need to be able to first turn my ideas into stories successfully. I then need to be able to tell the detailed steps in that process so that I can then share that with you and train fellow writers to successfully complete their stories.

The process involved in producing my own film is same as that involved in producing somebody else’s film. So if I track down all the things that I do in turning a story of mine into a script and finally into a film, then I can repeat that same process with other’s films. For that I need well documented procedures, processes, systems, steps, checklists and so on. By consciously thinking about these to document my journey in videos, I will be creating those without having to do anything extra.

Another advantage is that by doing these videos I would be building a group of people interested in seeing the final film on screen. And advantage is for people who loved the film can now go back and binge watch my two year journey in creating what they enjoyed. That I believe would be a very interesting playlist to watch. Hence I realised I stand to gain a lot more than lose.

Language I Will be Using

One thing you should be aware of is that my episodes and the final film will be in my mother tongue of Malayalam. But I write in English, because I think in English. My English vocabulary, spellings, grammar, and so on are far better than that in Malayalam.

Hence if you are a Malayali and if you’re not comfortable with reading or listening to English then it might be a little difficult for you to get the parts where I am writing. I will try my best to make it accessible to you.

Expected Timeline

The timeline that I see ahead is as follows

  • Starting with the end, the film would be released about end of next year, that is about November/December 2022
  • The story would have to be completed by end of this year, that is by December 20, 2021
  • The process of turning a story into a script can begin after that, about January 2022, and go on till March 2022
  • The preproduction works of the film would have to start from April 2022 and then on till the release

I want to first turn the idea into a book and then turn it into a script. I can write in both formats well. Moreover I hope the book would help build a fan base who would be interested in watching the film version of it.

Join Me in This Long Journey

As you can see it is not going to be this a short one. Nothing worth accomplishing in life is. Unlike a story that my hands wrote, where I know how it is going to start and end, how enjoyable of an experience you’re going to have, this is life. That story is being written by a hand that is other than mine as well.

And like you I hope that the story that I am about to write will be a successful one, that it will end up in house-full screen where we all will get to enjoy it together. Let’s keep pushing let’s go on this journey together. Even though there are a lot of uncertainties ahead, I hope everything turns out fine. If you are seeing this after I have completed the journey I hope you smile seeing these words. I am happy.

I am excited about this new venture that I am doing. Join me in this journey. Subscribe to my YouTube channel iashik.com/youtube, as I take you in depth into my process of turning an idea into a story.

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