I have notebooks. Piles upon piles of notebooks. Some completely filled, most only partially filled… with Movie Ideas. Big and small. Short and tall. Good, bad and ugly. It’s all in my notebooks. Comedies, dramas, mysteries and science fiction. I also have a whiteboard:

Joe's Fire At Will Whiteboard

Fire At Will Idea Board Craziness

It’s where I keep most of my Fire At Will notes. Haven’t heard of Fire At Will? Don’t worry, you will… Point is, I need a place to capture all of my crazy ideas in the moment they come to me because other wise, brother, they’re gone. And I will NOT, I repeat, NOT let myself believe “I’ll just remember it later.” Again. *groan*

My latest idea Trapper Keeper®? My phone. I have a little program on it called MemoPad, where I can store small amounts of typed text and tons of potential movie ideas. In the ever-so-subtly named file, “Plots,” I have a host of delightful brain-explosions, like:

“Team Bad Ass Series – where each episode is told from a different character’s perspective. Final episode has different pieces from all… maybe a villain episode as well?”


“Sherlock Holmes-type hero vs. science in the modern age, like John Henry. Uses reason and deduction, not merely forensic evidence.”

And, oh yes, one of my favorites…

“Time travel goes into light source! Flash of light!”

I don’t even remember what I was thinking when I typed that into my phone. I think I was watching a movie, or a TV show (probably something J.J. Abrams did…). Anyway, I have an idea for a time travel story I’ve been working on for a few years now, and I may work backwards, but in some instances I have to figure out HOW something happens before I can figure out WHY it happens. The “flash of light = time travel source” thought hit me square in the face. And while I can’t remember my exact train of thought, I remember enough to progress the story forward with a HOW.

The “Team Bad Ass Series” came from my deep, unquenchable desire to make a real action movie, or series, on a local budget. I’m convinced it can be done, and not just done, but done well. Jon and I had come walking out of the theater last week after watching The Losers and I was thinking, “That movie needed some bad ass VO work. Some gruff voice and… or you know what, what if it was Chris Evan’s playful character instead and–” and that’s when I busted out my phone and started typing. I could see different parts of a series told from the perspective of each of the characters.

The “Sherlock Holmes” idea came out of my love of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a post “Sherlock” interview with Robert Downey Jr. Also, a love of debunking shows like MythBusters and sites like Snopes.com. Could a Sherlock Holmes-type character exist today with all we know about modern science? He was such a cool character because he was before his time. Would it work to bring Sherlock into today’s time? And not just make him a forensics expert or something akin to it, but put him at odds with those kinds of people? Maybe he’s an ex-expert (did I just make up a word?) and now works on his own with his “radical ideas.” Nothing may ever come of it, but the question still seemed interesting to me, and may be worth pursuing some day.

I have tons, literally TONS (if you pile all of my notebooks up) of ideas that come out of questions about the world we live in, the way people interact, the things we go through on a daily basis and the things that I only WISH would happen (still waiting for the Zombie Apocalypse). And while they may never see the light of day, I indulge most of them, giving each a little bit of time and some space in my notebooks because you never know when you’re going to write that thing, that one thing that inspires a generation.

Ask George Lucas what he wrote the first idea for Star Wars on. Probably a scrap of paper he had in his pocket.

What about you? Where do your ideas come from? And how do you keep track of them? Share in the comments!

— Joe Holt