It’s all well and good being a YouTuber, but what if you want to get more creative in your videos? We caught up with PJ Liguori, the most imaginative YouTuber we know, to mine him for his essential tips…
Most of us have the odd creative idea that enthrals us, but often when you’re trying to think outside of the box it can be hard to get those juices flowing. But generating video ideas and turning them into finished productions doesn’t have to be difficult or scary.
To help us explain how to make this process easier, we’ve teamed up with tiny planet explorer PJ Liguori who is renowned for his unique video style that overflows with bizarre creatures and crazy characters.
So how do you tap into those ideas? And how do you bring them to fruition? Follow our tips and you’ll be on your way in no time!
1. Free writing
Free writing is a tool utilised by many creative types. People often cast it off because they look at it as a means to an ends, but as PJ explains, it doesn’t have to be that way. “I often do it for fun,” he explains, “I find if you sit down and tell yourself ‘I am going to free write with the intentions of getting a great out of it’ then you’re doomed.”
“You really need to shut your brain down and stop thinking,” he continues. “There will be pages and pages of absolute nonsense, but somewhere within there, you could accidentally create an entire concept for a non-stop train that travels through space and transports some of the weirdest creatures in your imagination.”
Funnily enough, that’s how PJ came up for the concept of The Forever Train…
2. People watching
Struggling to come up with a character? Some dialogue? An idea? No problem, head into your local town – or really anywhere that has a bounty of people – and just sit and watch. People are interesting, and you can get inspired by the smallest thing someone does.
They have a pocket watch? Maybe they use it to stop time! They pulled something strange out of their bag? Perhaps it was something they bought on the black-market on Mars!
If you don’t want to leave your house, however, remember that you have the internet at your disposal. Find someone on Instagram that you find interesting, and start piecing a back-story together based off their images. Think of the moments which lead that person to take that photo. Just watch and let your mind wander. You’ll have a story in no time.
3. Note down your dreams
Every night when you head off to dreamland, you concoct brand new stories in your head. It can be hard to remember these if you leave it too long, so make sure you note them down.
For PJ, on of his dreams became the basis for fishy business. “I had this crazy dream that these two, huge, fish came to my house and threatened to repossess it,” he recalls. “The rest is a bit of a blur but that idea itself was hilarious to me. So the next day I wrote as much magical nonsense I could and fishy business was born. ”
4. Listen to soundtracks
PJ finds listening to soundtracks for video games or films effective for cultivating his imagination. “When you play Skyrim and absorb that amazing ambient theme, all you’re thinking of is killing dragons and riding horses sideways up mountains,” he says.
“However, when you take that soundtrack and listen to it outside of the immersive gaming experience, it makes your mind go a bit wild,” explains PJ. “It puts the music in a new context, a context that you create, and that’s pretty amazing. I don’t know how to make my own cinematic score, but I sure as hell can borrow one for inspiration.”
Sometimes people are wary of ‘stealing’ an idea from somewhere else, but honestly, it’s been done over and over. Think of all the different retellings of Romeo and Juliet. And BBC’s 2010 series Sherlock isn’t exactly original, is it? It’s a reinvention.
Take a story or concept you like and give it your own twist. Its been done so many times, but all of the variations have brought something new and different to the table.
6. Put your placeholders into action
Now you have loads of ideas, that’s great. But how do you bring them to life? PJ says it’s important to remember that these concepts are just placeholders until the day of shooting. “I guess that’s because nothing is ever in stone, not when you work with really talented actors and YouTubers,” he says.
“I try not to get my heart set on a very particular joke if Chris Kendall can come along and deliver it in a completely different way that changes the line – that’s totally cool.”
7. Budget! Budget! Budget!
Don’t go wild on your credit cards just because you want to do everything and anything you can do to make this vision come true. Look at your placeholders and work out your budget before hand. “I made films for years with out any budget planning, and just charged it all to my card until the video was done,” confesses PJ.
“In hindsight, although it offered infinite creativity, because my attitude was just ‘yeah whatever, put it on my card and I’ll deal with the consequences later,’ budgeting now is a dream. It helps keep things grounded, keeps things moving along, and best of all, it tells me what I can and can’t do,” he continues.
But it’s also important not to let the budget restrict your imagination. Talking a little bit more about what’s to come in his Vimeo on-demand funded series Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures, PJ admits there have been times he’s scared his producers with his brilliant (but expensive) ideas.
“There may have been moments during the writing session where I’ve gone a bit crazy and said to my producers ‘we’re gonna need a volcano, guys. Gonna need a big, huge, paper mache volcano for an ultimate battle’,” he says.
8. Get others involved and collaborate!
You can’t do all this alone if your ideas are as big and wild as PJ’s are. So find friends with skills that may be useful to the project and get them enthused about your concept. If they’re creative like you, they’ll come up with plenty of new directions you can take your story in. And more often than not, these ideas will take the project in a great direction.
PJ says that his Geek Week film Smokey Saloon came into existence thanks to an idea he and his friend Louis Grant had together. “He [had] always wanted to make a film where you used a torch as a sabre, and battled evil dark monsters in the darkness,” he says.
Finding out YouTube planned to fund a film for Geek Week, PJ pitched Louis’s idea. “What I ended up with was a really cool sounding pitch for some ‘Sci-fi Western’ short film that involved a saloon and a lot of smoke,” he says.
Reiterating the point of how much collaborating with friends helps, PJ tells us how the concept for The Party Nightmare came to be. “At University, we were messing around in our house with a tripod, just pretending to shoot each other, but when I got shot, I kept bursting into dance. Moments later, we conceived The Party Nightmare.”
“‘What if a horse comes into our house and starts shooting us all, forcing us to dance forever?’ That came about just from hanging out and messing around, it doesn’t get more natural than that!” says PJ. “I suppose that is my advice if you struggle with ideas, try to draw from life – even if your life involves messing around with tripods, pretending to shoot your friends.”
And remember, green is not a creative colour…
Well, it can be, unless you’re the minds behind these scary puppets. Whatever colours you choose, let your creative juices flow. Use some or all of our tips, and you’ll be on your way to fulfilling your wildest visions. Want more tips? Why not check out these:
- 5 Top Vlogging Tips
- Charlie McDonnell’s Guide to Rebranding Your Content
- 6 Reasons You Should Start Making Videos
- TenEighty’s Guide to Joining a Network