Brainstorm your film ideas in Milanote

Follow this step-by-step guide to learn the modern process of brainstorming in Milanote, a free tool used by top creatives.

How to brainstorm film ideas in 7 easy steps

You have an idea for a film. It's just a spark at the moment, but you can't stop thinking about it. Now is the time to harness your creative energy and turn your idea into something real. And brainstorming is the perfect technique for the job.

You can use brainstorming to explore the topic for your film, dream up new characters, locations, or even the visual style you're after. It’s best thought of as a way to light up our imagination. As ancient philosopher Plutarch said, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

In this guide, you'll learn the modern approach to brainstorming using Milanote. Remember, the creative process is non-linear, so you may find yourself moving back and forth between the steps as you go.

1. Start with the central idea for your film

What's the idea or concept for your film? This is your starting point. It might be just a rough idea at the moment or a topic that you want to explore, but this process will help you see how far you can take it. Add a note that describes the film in 1 to 2 sentences to get started.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Create a new board for your brainstorming.

    Create a new board

    Drag a board out from the toolbar. Give it a name, then double click to open it.

  2. Add a note to describe the concept of your film.

    Drag a note card onto your board

    Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.

Pro tip:

Your initial idea doesn't need to be something groundbreaking, you'll transform it over time. As Steven Spielberg says "All good ideas start out as bad ideas, that's why it takes so long."

2. Invite people to collaborate

Next, invite others to brainstorm with you. They don’t have to be the people who will execute on the ideas but rather a diverse mix of thinkers. Brainstorming online means they can contribute from anywhere.

Director Joshua Fernandez says "Creativity is not the domain of one single person. Through free-association of thoughts and brainstorming, an accidental suggestion can be the best solution".

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Invite others to add their ideas.

    Invite editors to your board

    Open the "Editors" menu from the title bar of your board. Add email addresses of the people you'd like to collaborate with—they'll receive an invitation via email.

3. Add as many ideas as you can

Now it's time to get creative. Start adding any ideas that relate to your initial concept. Think about the characters, their relationships, the locations you could use, visual styles and the history of the topic. Explore every thread until you fill the board.

Don't worry about evaluating your ideas yet, that will come later. Just add as many as you can. Setting a timer for 5 minutes is a great way to create a sense of urgency and prevent people from judging their thoughts.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Add a note for each idea.

    Drag a note card onto your board

    Start typing then use the formatting tools in the left hand toolbar.

Pro tip:

Don't allow killer phrases like “it’s too expensive, it’s too hard” to derail the brainstorm or judge ideas too quickly. As Alex Osborn said, “It is easier to tone down a wild idea than to think up a new one.”

4. Add inspiring imagery, motion & sound

Sometimes it's easier to communicate an idea with an image or video, especially if it's a mood or style you're trying to express. Gather reference imagery, videos and sound and add them into the mix. These can become the foundation for a moodboard as your film project evolves.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Use the built-in image library.

    Use the built-in image library

    Search over 500,000 beautiful photos powered by Unsplash then drag images straight onto your board.

  2. Drag images from your computer onto the board.

    Upload a image or document  

    Click the "Upload file" button or just drag a file onto your board. You can add images, logos, documents, videos, audio and much more.

5. Add your research

While research is the foundation of documentaries, it's also a great way to uncover ideas for fictional films. Think about how you could take an event from the past and weave it into your story, providing a fresh perspective on it. The more you know about the topic the more immersive and believable the story becomes.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Install the Milanote Web Clipper

  2. Save content from other websites straight to your board.

    Save content from the web

    Roll over an image (or highlight text), click Save, then choose the destination in Milanote. Return to your board and find the content in the "Unsorted" column on the right.

6. Evaluate your ideas

Now’s the time for critique. Run through the ideas again, this time critically evaluating them against the original concept.

Ask each person to choose their favourite ideas and explain why. Be prepared to share your thinking and welcome suggestions and improvements. Encourage constructive debate. If an idea isn't dramatically improving the story, put it aside. You can always return to it later.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Start a comment thread.

    Start a comment thread

    Drag out a comment from the toolbar on the left and place it on your board. Other editors can reply to your comment.

  2. Mention teammates to get their attention.

    Mention teammates to get their attention

    Type '@' in any text field to mention someone who has access to your board. They'll receive a notification and be able to respond to your comment.

7. Finally, group your ideas into themes

Once you've explore tangents and shared feedback, the next step is to make connections. This is where you see the magic of brainstorming.

Start by grouping similar ideas to uncover patterns in your thinking. Add a title to each group so it's easy to scan. You might find your ideas fall into groups like characters, costumes, locations or aesthetics but there are no rules about how you do it. Now you should start to see your initial concept coming to life.

How to do this in Milanote
  1. Drag content to create groups of similar ideas

You're done!

Now that your brainstorming session is complete, you have a strong foundation for your film! Remember, just as creativity and inspiration is constantly evolving, so are ideas. Come back and add to the brainstorm when inspiration strikes, or refer to it as you start your script. Use the template below to create start brainstorming in minutes or check out our full guide on how to plan a film.

Start Brainstorming

Get started for free with Milanote's easy to use brainstorming template.