Arts / Business development / Guest posts / Marketing

Use this Delaware filmmaker’s process to wrangle creative ideas for storytelling

"If you need a cool idea, the Original Recipe™ process can help you improve your ideas, communicate them to all types of people, and choose The One," writes Short Order Production House's Zach Phillips.

Zach Phillips directs “Take Back Your Privacy" in H.B. DuPont Park. (Courtesy photo)
This is a guest post by Zach Phillips, founder and CEO of Short Order Production House. It originally appeared here and is republished with permission.

After a dozen years working on creative ideas for people who don’t think they’re creative (and corporations), I want to share a heuristic I’ve found useful both to come up with good concepts and to communicate their relative strengths to others.

I call it the Original Recipe™.

A big challenge in creative work is that good ideas come from a free-flowing, open process of linking together disparate things from vast oceans of experience, but in the end you need to choose ONE to actually do.

When there’s pressure/money on the line, this can be stressful. Stressful for creative professionals because while they’ve learned to trust intuition more than the average bear, are they SURE this is the idea to go with? Stressful for customers because they don’t have the expertise. The Creative Process is a Scarymagic Black Box to them.

Many a Silicon Valley robot-person has claimed to have solved this with TESTING. “Intuition is for animals! Nothing is real until they’ve clicked the red (blue, wait no, green) button!” But are they testing infinite ideas? No. Someone still needed to choose which ideas to test.

I didn’t make up the Original Recipe™ process as a marketing gimmick. It’s really just a way of writing down the process I’ve been doing since the beginning, unconsciously. (Disclaimer: While KFC’s Original Recipe is a registered trademark in the taste-engineering Big Food market, it is not yet registered in creative products.)

Here’s how the Original Recipe™ process works: As you evaluate ideas — which some can do during brainstorming, though most should wait until after — assign a number from one to 10 for each of these five “Core Ingredients” of an effective story:

  • Purpose
  • Authenticity
  • Conflict
  • Spectacle
  • Novelty

The next step is to assign a number for up to five additional Custom Ingredients. These should come from your project’s objectives. Is one of your goals to look modern and high-tech? Add a Sophistication ingredient and judge each concept accordingly.

While the Original Recipe™ process was conceived by a filmmaker, it applies to any task that requires creative storytelling.

The goal is to get as many and as much of these ingredients into your concepts as you can, and the winning concept should have a scrumptious combination.

You will discover that when you optimize for one ingredient, it always affects the others. If you enhance Spectacle (beauty, bigness), it will affect Authenticity (these guys are trying too hard). And while each of the ingredients can have an equal effect on the success of the idea, the absence of any one of them can kill your story completely (meaning no one will care about your story, at all).

If you need a cool idea, the Original Recipe™ process can help you improve your ideas, communicate them to all types of people, and choose The One.


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