I feel like we’ve all been there. You get inspired to film, but you’re not sure what to film. You have no ideas in mind – no narrative and no characters to channel your creativity. What would the story be about? Would you need to cast voice actors, or would you use subtitles instead? How about a title sequence? Would this be the start of a series, or a single project?
All of these elements are essential to making a good machinima, and involves lots of planning before your projects hits YouTube for all of your subscribers to see. Inspiration comes and goes, and it’s important to use those creative energies and turn them into whatever you want.
So, you’re inspired to film. Maybe you don’t have any concrete details in mind, which is totally okay. Here’s the thing: you don’t need to make a movie or series for it to be machinima. As long as you have a concept in mind – you can create a machinima. This is why I love making short concept films! If you want to test out a certain filming style, play with angles or mess around with editing – you can do that with a simple concept in mind.
The ‘concept’ of your short film can also be considered the ‘theme’ – but how do you come up with one? In my opinion, this is the hardest part! I like to think of one word (adjectives work very well for this), and paint a picture around it. You don’t necessarily have to use an adjective, but pick a word that captures the message of your machinima. For example, I made a film titled “Moment” – not an adjective, but it works just as well! Feel free to base your project off of a phrase too. If you’re stuck on coming up with a phrase or word, I recommend working backwards. Maybe you have a theme or style in mind – the next step is picking a word/phrase that describes your concept.
Another way to generate some ideas is by listening to music! Most of my ideas stem from songs I’m currently listening to. Incorporating the song that inspired your concept adds a lot of depth to your machinima. The song doesn’t have to take over the entire concept film: it could be source music within the film or layered with atmospheric sounds and sound effects.
Concept films are a great way to express your feelings. When something strikes you, take advantage of it and start filming! Use your concept to experiment with various techniques and editing styles. Don’t stress yourself out too much, these films are supposed to be very short – aim for anything between 30 seconds to 2 minutes long (but really, anything works. This is just an idea to get you started). The bottom line is: never dismiss your need to film without a concrete plan. Take advantage of your inspiration and use it to develop your skills as a machinimator!