10 Brilliant Brainstorming Techniques for Filmmakers

Come across a production problem you cannot solve? Need new ideas for a movie or tv show?

Brainstorming forces you to think in a different way than the one that is keeping you in a block.

Whether you are a novice filmmaker, fresh out of film school, or a seasoned industry professional, brainstorming is a tool that can help get you out of dead end situations.

Thanks to a some helpful articles and advices from professionals, we gathered a list of 10 brainstorming techniques that will help get you out of any creative block. Voila!

1. Find Somewhere Productive To Work

It is very important to find somewhere where there are no distractions that will interrupt your thought process. If your apartment or house is out of the question, by far the best is the library. A library is dedicated to offer anyone a place to work, and they usually have a quiet atmosphere. If you need noise, work in a coffee shop. Figure out what works for you and go with it.

Just make sure it’s nothing like Central Perk because the last thing you want is a loud, attractive, group of people that never leaves.


2. Freewriting

Write. You don’t know what to write? Then write that. Just write.

Have a quantitative goal: 500 words, three pages, five minutes — it doesn’t matter. Just write.

Do not pause in order to spell correctly or write flawlessly, and don’t go back to rewrite. Turn off your inner editor. Do not strive for coherence. Just write.

Consider closing your eyes while you’re writing or typing, or turn the computer monitor off. Just write.

When you are done, read through what you have written. You will no doubt find a lot of filler in your text, but there will also be golden nuggets of insights, discoveries and other little gems in there that you can pick out and develop for your projects. Even if you don’t discover any new idea nuggets, you will stir up your creative mind and unearth tit bits of raw concepts buried deep in your mind you can develop.

3. Rolestorming

Imagine being someone else—such as how your biggest competitor would think about the problem or a completely unrelated industry would think about the problem. How would a 5-year-old solve your problem? What would Picasso do?


4. Listing

If you want to write about a specific topic or communicate a certain idea, jot down a list of single words and phrases that relate to the general topic you are thinking about off the top of your mind. For example, if you are thinking about producing a work of fiction, make separate lists of elements, characters or scenes you want to convey. If you are writing nonfiction, list facts, arguments, question or any other related ideas you want to cover.

Don’t outline or edit at this point. Let the activity be uninhibited. When you are finished listing, group the items on your lists in a logical manner and provide a label for each group. Write a sentence about each group and you will have several topic or theme sentences you can develop. Build on the topic sentences and define associations of the groups to get broader topics or themes with possible points to write on.

5. Mind Map

Great tool to work out as many ideas as you can in hierarchical tree and cluster format. Start off with your goal in the center, branch out into the major sub-topics, continue to branch out into as many sub-sub-topics as needed.


How you produce the map, exactly, is up to you, but as with any other brainstorming tool, wait until you’ve (temporarily) run out of ideas before you begin making connections — but don’t hesitate to continue recording new ideas as you marshal others.

6. “Why is life worth living?”

Open your word processor  or play the sound recorder app on your phone, and let out a laundry list of at least 101 ideas to deal with your situation. Go wild and say whatever you can think of without restricting yourself. Do not stop until you have at least 101.

Think the final scene of Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

7. Choosing a Topic and Defining Your Goals

First, define the goals of your film/creative product. This will help make you aware of the information that you need to gather and the pertinent facts you need to tell your audience. Make a list or, better yet, have your production team brainstorm together. Once you have a list, pare it down to three or four complementary (and realistic) goals. Here are some examples:

For a Wildlife or Natural History Documentary

  • Make the audience aware of a species in peril.
  • Make them care enough about the species to take action.
  • Identify causes that harm the species.
  • Inspire social change to end harmful causes.

For a Science Film

  • Connect a science topic with a problem in the audience’s lives.
  • Reveal how science offers solutions.
  • Explore how the audience can become part of solution.
  • Change the audience’s stereotype or perception of the topic.

Your goals may be something that you come up with or something that a client brings you. One of our clients, for example, simply wanted to save the Florida manatees. Your job as a filmmaker is plan a film that will do that most effectively. But who are you making the film for?

8. Invite A Friend Who Doesn’t think Like You

When you have a couple pages of ideas, get together with a friend and see what they think about them, start to narrow down to the best idea.

You want a variety of ideas, so invite people who don’t think in the same way you do—a friend or writing partner from different disciplines, beliefs, cultures, and skill sets. The more diverse the brainstorming process, the wider the spectrum of ideas you’ll get.

Just think about that eclectic Writers Room in ’30 Rock’.


9. There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Idea

Actually there is. But the idea of brainstorming is to generate lots of ideas which spark off each other. It doesn’t matter if these ideas are good or bad even downright crazy.

During brainstorming, every idea should be recorded without judgement. Why?

It usually takes a few bad ideas to warm up to a good one. And in group brainstorming sessions, a bad idea may spark a good idea from someone else or draw quieter group members out of their bubble.

10. Meditation.

Focus on your key question such as ‘How can I solve XX problem?’ or ‘How can I achieve XX goal?’ and meditate on it in a quiet place. Have a pen and paper in front of you so you can write immediately whatever comes to mind. Do this for 30 minutes or as long as it takes.

Remember Don Draper and that incredible final shot of ‘Mad Men’.

Article  credits: Daily Writing TipsThe Web Writer SpotlightThe Writing CenterPersonal ExcellenceUntamed ScienceInstructablesBecome a Writer Today, lynda,  and The University of Iowa/ College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

3 thoughts on “10 Brilliant Brainstorming Techniques for Filmmakers

  1. Great to see my “Rolestorming” creativity tool offered as a useful idea for films and television. It’s a fun and memorable way to seize opportunities, prevent trouble and solve problems. Rick Griggs, originator

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