When Everyone Wants to Make a Horror Film – 3 Tips to Help Media Students Find Their Big Idea

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I see it every year. Bright-eyed students enter my course with visions of making the latest blockbuster or the ever-original (so not) horror film.

They start off with a zest and an intense energy for the project.

But as the days turn to weeks and the weeks sometimes turn to months, I see the enthusiasm slowly slip away and the spark dying in their eyes.

Soon they’re dragging their feet to class and groaning at the mere mention of their project…

Keeping the spark alive

It’s a conundrum isn’t it. How do we help students to plan a major media project that will hold their attention through the months? One they’ll:

✔ finish, and
✔ actually be proud of when they finally turn it in?

And how can I help them tap into the something unique, quirky or different that’s buried within them?

I simply CANNOT sit through another unscary, clichéd B- (most of the time more like V- ) grade horror film. This thought causes me to cringe more than nails on a blackboard ever will.

Please. No more!

Here are three tips I found help my students come up with a great idea that will go the distance (and help me retain my sanity):

Find your heart

Students need to tap into something they’re passionate about. If there’s a topic or a cause they naturally gravitate towards or are already spending time exploring in their personal life, it’s likely to hold their interest over the time of the production.

If they need some help, I get students to brainstorm a whole range of interests, and then unpack some in more detail. What is it they like about K-pop or football or animal welfare?

Find your voice

Once they’ve identified an interest or an idea or a cause, what do they want to say about it? Will their product entertain, educate, inspire, move, confront?

Find your muse

Film, photography, mixed media, print? I found most students have a good idea of the medium they’d like to work in. But to help them get thinking (and to minimise further clichéd ‘horror’ disasters), I get my students to explore the work of artists working in that medium.

By now most of my students will have one or two decent ideas beginning to form. They can think through these and decide on the one they most want to develop.

If you’ve found these tips helpful, download my Media Arts Project Brainstorm Template which walks students through each of these steps and more.

There’s also a template for Visual Arts projects. 🎨 (You’re welcome!)

Penny for your thoughts… what are your top tips for helping your students find their big idea?

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