Standard Story Company

When Less Options = Better Films

As filmmakers, we always feel like our options are too limited, and we don’t have enough money, time, locations, etc to tell the stories we really want to tell.

However, realistically… the opposite is true.


The more options you have, the harder it is to make a great film – especially when you’re starting out.

Hear me out…

Limitations Breed Creativity

Most of the best ideas I’ve had in my films have been the result of turning lemons into lemonade.

At every stage of the process (writing/producing/directing/editing), if you’re creatively backed into a corner, you’re forced to find a more unique approach or solution for your film.

On the flip-side, when you have too many options, it’s easy to get either creatively lazy, or even worse, overwhelmed by the endless options into a state of paralysis.

If you tell me I have to make a short film that takes place entirely in the handicapped bathroom stall at a monster truck rally – I find that wayyy easier to figure out vs. having unlimited location options.

Narrowing down the options focuses your creativity and tells you exactly where to start.

Here’s a recent example:

A Japanese stock music company contacted me, wanting to sponsor a new short film. It was a fun opportunity (getting paid to make a film always is!), I’d just need to incorporate their traditional Japanese music into the film…

But how?

There’d have to be an obvious Japanese theme in the story.

This was creative limitation #1 (🇯🇵).

As usual, I also had limitations of time & budget – needing to get the film finished and posted to YouTube in a month.

On top of that, I had to post a making-of Youtube video before the end of the month too 😅

Fortunately the sponsor was paying for this whole project, but the more money I spent on the film’s budget, the less I’d actually earn for all my work.

As the producer, I had to strike a balance on spending.

So there’s limitations 2 & 3 (⏰ & 💰).

Using lessons from WRAPPED in 30 Days, I realistically scoped the project and realized I’d need to mostly lean on resources that are already available to me. Probably no fancy locations, props, or ensemble cast for this one.

It would have to be a small, fairly cheap, and quick production. Fortunately, that’s my bread & butter (for better or worse lol).

But what about the story?

As a standard-issue white dude, how would I make a film about Japan without it feeling forced or culturally insensitive?

I remembered my trip to Japan I had to cancel when COVID broke out. There had to be something there…

For a few days I reflected on that time of my life.

Finally (and suddenly) the dots started connecting, and I had a premise I was excited about:

I planned a trip to Japan to break my routine and reboot my life, and COVID killed that dream… but didn’t it also end up accomplishing the exact same goal (without me going anywhere)?

2 days later I had my shooting script – based on an idea I never would have found if it wasn’t for the limitations I was facing.

A week after that, I started the 3-day shoot for Datsuzoku with just me, a director of photography, and a PA.

The Results

You can watch the film above.

A lot of people (in person & in the comments) told me it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I saw a few friends even come to tears by the end of this 5 minute, sponsored film.

I’m not saying that to brag, because frankly, I was kind of annoyed.

THIS is the best thing I’ve done? I’ve spent YEARS on projects before, spent every dollar I had on them, but this random, commissioned, Japan-themed short, with no cast, that I had to churn out in a few weeks… is my best??

But that’s how it goes!

Creative limits may give you a smaller sandbox to work with, but that’s what makes you dig deeper and find something new.

Without those guardrails, you’re way more likely to keep hovering along the surface, only turning over the obvious & easy stones as your film develops.

When people ask why I designed WRAPPED in 30 Days with a one month deadline… well, this is a big reason why.

99% of the time, if you can’t write & shoot a crowd-pleasing short film in a month, it’s not because you are lacking the time or money (although that’s a soothing thing to tell ourselves).

Even with a single weekend and $50 to buy your buddies lunch, you can create a strong film. If that wasn’t true, all those 48 hour film festivals would go out of business pretty quick.

The only valid reasons for not being able to write & shoot a great film in 30 days are limitations of:

  • Knowledge
  • Urgency
  • Collaborators
  • Confidence

These are the limitations I find particularly dangerous for becoming a prolific & skilled filmmaker. 

I designed WRAPPED to remedy them by giving you a clear path to:

  • Learn the storytelling & practical skills that you need (not the technical skills you ultimately don’t)
  • Create work faster (w/ deadlines)
  • Leverage what you have (by creating stories strategically)
  • Get the help you need (with feedback from peers)
  • Make a film you’re proud of

Rinse and repeat this a few times and you’ll be ready to take a stab at your debut feature.

And when that day comes, you’ll discover that the feature has just as many limitations as your old 30-day short films – just different limitations.

But that’s a good thing, because if you can embrace and work with those limitations, you’ll probably find your best ideas.

PS – I recently added an entire narrative editing course to WRAPPED, even giving you footage from one of my own films to follow along the lessons with. 

That means WRAPPED in 30 Days now covers everything you need from writing your best script, all the way to exporting your polished final edit.

This is the last chance to join at the sale price, don’t miss out!

Having the community and Kent’s guidance you’ll feel motivated enough to get out of your comfort zone and get moving to actually make and develop the ideas we’ve been wanting to tell for so long.

Gabi Canto/ Anonymous Films

Following your timeline and advice, I was able to finish my first short film in 14 years. The way you laid everything out definitely helped streamline my process and I'll no doubt be returning to these course materials for future films.

Duncan M.

Favorites this week:

📚 Books: 2001: A Space Odyssey

Just starting this novel. The Kubrick film was so visionary, I’m wondering if reading the source material will demystify it or change my perception of that film. Either way, it’s fun to put yourself in the filmmaker’s shoes and try to see how they might have arrived at the final film.

🍿 Movies: Samsara

This one had been on my list for a long time, and I’m glad I finally watched. It’s not a normal film. I’d describe it as a non-verbal documentary – basically just incredible shots of earth and humanity, with ideas and themes expressed through juxtaposing different scenes next to each other. It kind of feels like a movie you’d show aliens so they can get an idea of the breadth of what happens down here. Shot on IMAX film, the images are consistently amazing and sometimes shocking. At the very least, anyone who wants some inspiration for their cinematography should check it out.


That’s it for this week.

Let’s make some movies.


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