Finding an angle on material

When working with a client, I like to develop their sense of what is interesting about idea, what can be done with it. To do this, we go to the front page of /r/todayilearned, and I ask them which story jumps out to them.

Today client picked this one: TIL the Morton salt company raised the national IQ by 3.5 points when they iodinized salt in America. Iodine is critical for normal neurodevelopment particularly during gestation.

I didn’t think it was much of a story, because who wants to see a period piece about some executive working in a salt factory? Happily, the client liked something more abstract. He said, “I like the idea of someone who makes a product that accidentally does good and how that changes them.”

That’s what I call an angle on material. He wasn’t looking at the boring, mundane details of the tale. He was looking for thematic angle. That opens up the idea substantially. Rather than making it about a salt factory (basically boring) you can look for more imaginative visuals that give you more to play with.

For instance, a drug dealer accidentally develops a drug that makes the world a better place. He ends up on the run from people who want to seize his creation, and he must fight them using whatever crazy visual superpowers the drug gives them a la NEXT or LIMITLESS.

So the next time you’re looking through old news stories, don’t just look at the literal specifics. Ask yourself what a good angle on this idea might be, it may yield a better movie idea that’s more illustrative of what is special about your imagination.

Published by Matt Lazarus

WGA screenwriter offering in-depth writing instruction, notes, critique, and assistance.

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