Monday, August 1, 2011

Don't Be Original! (But don't also create a blatant copy either).

I tell my students all the time, "You're not going to come up with an idea that someone else hasn't already thought of, produced, created, shared, told, or expressed. Ancient Greeks gave us every theme that can possibly be told."

Good, now forget that. Because there is a difference in desperately attempting to be completely "original" and "refreshingly unique" in the current state of Film and TV. There are two conflicting sides to the argument that stories are either allusions and/or remakes or "unique." One states no two snowflakes are alike. Really? So someone has examined, measured, and compared every single snowflake that has ever fallen to earth since the beginning of time? Karl Popper would state that "no two snowflakes are alike" as unfalsifiable (IE: can't be proven).

NOTE: The above picture is supposedly of 2 identical snowflakes.

However, we all like to think that we are all individuals and therefore our stories are all new and individual too. Not true. However, the way you express your stories can still surprise even the most seasoned TV or Film viewer. There is a huge difference between Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Sean Cunningham's Friday the 13th but FT13th is essentially Psycho at Crystal Lake.

Victor Miller, who wrote FT13th, took the premise of Psycho and flipped it, changed the setting, and bam! - "new idea." In Psycho, the audience is lead to believe that Norman's mom is behind the Bates Motel murders when it's Norm all along, while in FT13th, we're lead to believe it's Jason creating the carnage when it's really his mother. Same theme, just the opposite of the original. That's surprising.

Being completely original should never be a producer's goal. Instead, being personal should be. If you write and create about personal experiences (and I don't care if they are expressed in horror, sci-fi, drama, documentary, reality TV, etc) then your work will find an audience because it will feel unique. If you find new twists on older successful ideas, you'll find an audience. If you think you're going to become successful by straight up mimicry, audiences are going to scoff because they've "seen it before". (Unless your J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci and you bring the X Files back to life in a show called Fringe.)

What I'm saying is this: stop worrying about being the first at anything, keep it personal, exercise your imagination, and when you know you've written cliches in your writing, delete them and build on what's left.

Now check out this article:

No comments: