13 February 2011


I've been thinking a lot lately about inspiration and where people find ideas. How does an idea begin? Do you look within yourself and use your own experiences? Do you actively look for ideas in newspapers and magazines? Are your inspirations internal or external? What's the catalyst that sparks your brain into a flurry of imagination? Freud would probably say inspiration comes from some unresolved childhood trauma, I think that's bullshit. For me my ideas always come from a single image I have in my head and I write a story around that image. For instance on my horror short Vision, I had the image of a silhouetted figure holding a welding torch, I then constructed a story around that image.

On my last short film, Side by Side, I had the image of a young girl and an older guy both sitting on a train wearing silly animal masks. Once again I constructed a story around that single image. Months after finishing the film I realised that I think I was subconciously inspired by Spirited Away and the famous scene on the train. Compare both images below.

Side by Side
Spirirted Away

I honestly think there are no longer any original ideas left, they've all been used and reused endlessly. What I do believe though, is that the same stories can be told endlessly, but what makes them original is how you approach them. Take Inception for example, questioning the nature of reality is nothing new, The Matrix did it ten years ago, albeit with more guns...lots of guns! So did countless films and books before it, The Truman Show another fairly recent example. The reason I found Inception and The Matrix compelling and seemingly original is how they go about telling their stories. Both films explore the same themes of our perceptions of reality and awareness and simulacra etc. Ergo, they're essentially the same story, the difference being that story is told in different ways. The Matrix went with a cyberpunk style involving robots and virtual reality and the entire human race. Inception opts for a more real world approach of corporate espionage and dreams and a handful of characters. The same story, just told differently. Rom-coms are the masters of this.

Inception is actually very relevant to this post and the idea of inspiration as it's about literally implanting an idea into someone's head, that's the most interesting part of the film for me. As I said earlier, maybe Spirited Away really did inspire me to think of the image for Side by Side, but at the time I wasn't aware of that, therefore I thought it was an original image that just popped into my head. Can we control our inspirations or are they always subconcious? How many times are we subconciously influenced by external factors? From paintings to people to conversations etc. Many people claim to have a muse (myself included), a source of inspiration, but I always take that as meaning they inspire you to create, they don't actually give you the ideas of what you create.

This evening I had an idea for another short film that is very conciously inspired by a Pixar film, but maybe it was planted there by Leonardo DiCaprio. Who knows? Please feel free to post any thoughts or comments below. What inspires you?

I stumbled upon this great video that talks about inspiration/originality in a much more articulate and entertaining way.


  1. Very insightful blog, with some good and valid questions. I would say that, as a writer, I'm encouraged to look at every resource available to me for story ideas: problem pages, newspapers, TV, any other form of media; the list really does go on.
    However, for some strange reason, my best ideas always come to me in the shower. I don't know why. Perhaps it's this repetitive, mundane action that allows my thoughts to truly wander freely. Or maybe that water is drumming some mystical rhythm on my head to inspire thoughts. I just know that my shower has given me a lot of inspiration over the years! :)
    Another thing that inspires me is when I am feeling deep emotion over something. I've written some of my best poetry whilst I'm reflecting on something or wondering why something is so. Heartbreak, upset, or an unrequited love is a good 'un!
    But saying this, I often seem to be something of a 'trend magnet' in the sense that I'll get into something really obscure, then start writing about it, or just doing this obscure thing as a hobby; then it suddenly becomes 'heard of' and pushed into the public arena before it stands on the brink of becoming 'mainstream'. This has happened to me with my fashion choices of the past (I won't go into those!), and more recently with my writing and photography. I thought a recent concept and setting was completely original, but then a TV show has now been created around a frighteningly similar idea. This was uncanny, but HIGHLY annoying! Frankly, I'm starting to worry whether I might be a little psychic!

  2. For me ideas only come when I have the time and brain space to think. If I'm too busy and stressed out I never get good ideas.

    Optimum idea generating state for me is being alone, relaxed, untroubled, and having space to ponder, be thoughtful, almost a sentimental melancholy kind of state.

    I too seem to get ideas in the shower though - maybe this is why?!


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