“An idea is a thought. It’s a thought that holds more than you think it does when you receive it. But in that first moment there is a spark. In a comic strip, if someone gets an idea, a light bulb goes on.“David Lynch
Objects – they can be as tiny as a matchbox or as big as a car, a 100m wall separating two families or a ring lost on the way, a strange photo found in a box or (as it once happened to me) a USB stick lying abandoned in the storage of an airplane – your are the last one in the line, about to leave the airplane – what do you do?
For everyone who already experienced the death of their parents or a close beloved one the situation is well known: a flat, a house has to be emptied, things have to been thrown away. And often many of the things relate to ones own past, childhood. I.e. every object is charged with memories, incidents, things you totally forgot. And now that you see these objects everything comes back, long forgotten stories unfold.
Go through your personal belongings and list ten objects you own that are meaningful to you, that are part of your biography. Characterize these objects briefly (for instance the watch of my grandma). Try to set up a story around these 10 objects by mixing your memories (these objects are related to) with new ideas.
Or just take a common household object: how could this provide the starting point for an unusual story? Sometimes a specific detail, a small thing or object can provide a more focused source of inspiration than an overall big theme.
And sometimes a more theoretical approach helps. How can you classify objects? According to Leonardo DaVinci an object can have ten properties: light and dark, color and substance, form and position, distance and nearness, movement and stillness.
Objects can be curious or evocative, some interesting pieces of clothing, a key chain, a black box or Hitchcock’s McGuffin. Sometimes you just have to put a well-known object into an unusual context. Robert Bresson once said:
“To create is to tie new relationships between persons and things which are, and as they are… An old thing becomes new if you detach it from what usually surrounds it.“ (Robert Bresson)
What films do you remember in which an object, a prop has played a major role? I would guess in nearly every film, there is one, which stands out!
Use your smartphone to take photos of everyday life objects – in a coffee shop, in the streets, at your friends place or in a shopping mall. A week later have a second look and be inspired by combining 2-3 of these objects. Furthermore relate different locations and characters to these objects.
1. Choose five objects and try to find a story for each of them.
2. Then put each object in a different context and relate it to two different characters.
3. Take the handbag of your (girl/boy-) friend, open it and create a fictional character / biography by using the objects inside.
4. Go to an antique shop and ask the owner about strange and exceptional stories related to his objects.
5. Set up a scene & location in which an object that isn’t there (but normally should be there) creates a momentum for an idea (e.g. for a short film): a flat without door handles, a car without a steering wheel etc. Then have it the other way around: an object that is there, but normally shouldn‘t be there.
6. Play with the idea of someone opening his mailbox one morning and finding a strange object inside.
7. Guillermo del Toro – How Objects Tell The Story. Watch the video essay!
Films to watch
- The Travelling Players (1975) IMDB
- Jesus of Montreal (1989) IMDB
- Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) IMDB
- Norte, the End of History (2013) IMDB
- Ponette (1996) IMDB
- Carriage to Vienna (1966) IMDB
- Come and see (1985) IMDB
- The Samurai (1967) IMDB
Margarethe von Trotta
- Three Sisters (1988) IMDB
Alex van Warmerdam
- The Dress (1996) IMD