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Ben Yennie: 5 Steps to finding a Theme for Your Movie.

Every good movie has a theme to it.  In Spider Man, it’s that with great power comes great responsibility.  In Star Wars, it’s that great power can come from humble beginnings.  Themes can also be found as commentary about the world we live in.  So with that in mind, we’re sharing a path so you can find a theme for your movie, and make it so that it’s not as overt as it might be.  

1. Look into issues facing the world.

If you’re going to give commentary on the world, you must first figure out what issues are facing it.  Given the current political climate in the US, it’s easy to understand why so much dystopian future media is being made.  Don’t limit yourself to politics, just try to develop an informed worldview.  

2. Find a message/issue you’re passionate about

Once you’ve researched the world, you need to find a message that resonates with you.   It doesn’t necessarily need to be political, it just needs to be a message that you as a creative wish to see in the world.  Both with great power comes great responsibility and great power comes from humble origins are incredibly poignant and not particularly political statements.  

3. Research the crap out of that issue.

If you are using a political issue, you need to understand it.  Even if you’re not, you need to understand the message you’re going to be portraying as a central backdrop of your story better than you understand the origins of your own last name.  You need to be able to embody your theme, and understand not only the primary connotation, but also the secondary and tertiary connotations.  

Research doesn’t need to be spending hours upon hours in a library or on the internet reading up on philosophy, it just needs to be a very informed worldview that you think will resonate with the audience for your film.  One way to do this is to think about your favorite movies, and what the themes they portray are.  There’s likely a reason that your favorite movies resonate with you, try to figure out why.  

4. Find the key points you want to portray

Once you understand the key points of your worldview, you’re going to need to boil it down to its key components.  If you could explain your worldview in 3-5 bullet points on a single slide, how would you do it?  What are the key indicators?  How is your worldview going to be digestible to people outside of your personal circle of friends?  

If you’re going to avoid being too overt and preachy with your message, you’re going to need to be able to boil it down to its ingredients.  

5. Scale it way back so only undertones remain

Finally, once you’ve gotten all of the components, and you understand what message you want to convey, you’re going to need to scale it wayyyyyy back.  If you don’t, it’s going to come across as overzealous.  Nobody wants that.  If you do that, you’re going to end up with a film like The Day After Tomorrow, which was a vastly over-sensationalized take on Climate Change that lost its message in overstated effects, pseudoscience, and gratuitous special effects.  

Thanks so much for reading!  We hope the very brief breakdown of how to find a theme for your movie was useful.

Something that’s likely to be even more useful, however, is our platform!  Not only do we have tools for film scheduling, film budgeting, call sheet generations and all the film production management tools you need in one place, it’s all built on top of a community that lets you discuss and refine your ideas with other filmmakers and creatives.  We’ve recently launched our Groups function which lets you hold conversations with people of a similar job type, a similar demographic, or in the same region as you!  Check it out via the banner below.


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