I took a class on inspiration. It was a one week online class offered through UCLA Extension writer's program. Taught by Jacqueline Zambrano it was called From Inspiration to Completion. I took this class before I caught on to copying all my assignments and notes instead of just typing them into the school interface (DUH!). So, unfortunately I can't refer back to my notes on all the activities that were included. But I do remember the most helpful, which have also been mentioned by other screenwriting teachers so I don't think I'm stealing anything from Jacque by sharing with you. Jacque, by the way, is a wonderful teacher and if you are ever thinking of taking a screenwriting class I highly recommend her (I think I took 4 or 5 of her classes).
Whether you are starting a project, in the middle of a project, or in the rewrite phase and are struggling on one aspect or another here is a tip to get your creative juices pumping.
Pick five movies that are in the same genre you are writing or have a theme or subject matter that is similar. You don't have to have watched these movies before or not watched them. Also, don't worry about only picking "good" movies. You can learn just as much from movies that miss the mark as those that do.
Watch your five movies. You can take notes on what was done really well and what didn't really work to help you see in your own writing. But the most important aspect of this exercise is that, most likely, by the time you reach the fifth movie you will have seen something that got your creative juices pumping and your brain working.
Here are some examples to show you what I'm talking about. For a young adult fantasy with a lot of horses you could pick The Black Stallion, Peter Pan, Legend, Narnia: LWW, and Eragon. These are all movies with young heroes/heroines. Four are fantasy movies and one is a horse film with a close bond between the horse and the hero.
For a young adult contemporary with witchcraft, Practical Magic, Harry Potter, Roswell, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Craft. The first movie is about family magic, the second the most popular movie with magic, the third about teens having a secret life, the fifth a smart teen movie with the hero and heroine at odds, and the last a teen movie about the positives and negatives of witchcraft.
For a spy action adventure with a love story, The Bourne series, The Saint, Casino Royale (other Bond flicks), Sneakers, and True Lies. The first movies are about a rogue spy, the second movie is a spy that falls in love with his target (and she him), Bond should be self explanatory, the four are more corporate spies with a lot of humor, and the last goes into more of the cliches of the spy movies.
Sometimes it is easy to find movies that tie into what you are working on and other times you have to expand your circle wider and wider picking certain elements. Here's one that would need to look for things in different elements of the theme or subjects. For a space opera with pirates and strong female lead, Serenity, Star Wars, Aliens, The Terminator, Pirates of the Caribbean. The first is a space opera with strong females, the second is the movie that really defined the genre, the third probably one of the most famous sci-fi female leads, the fourth a strong female lead and sweet romance, and the fifth pirates with a female lead.
So, now it's your turn. If you had to come up with five movies to inspire: psychics working against a corrupt government organization. What would those movies be?
Or for the children's writers: a quirky and awkward girl who prefers playing with her dog and building forts has to take a ballet class. What movies would you pick?