How To Answer The Trick Question: “How Did You Come Up With This Idea?”

If you’ve read my post 5 MORE Trick Questions Hollywood Executives Ask—And How To Answer Them, you know that one of my key pitching strategies is to answer questions effectively.

The #1 Trick Question

“How did you come up with this idea?” is a trick question, not because it’s designed maliciously to trip you up, but because there’s a question hidden within. Figure out the hidden question, and you can prepare a much better answer.

Understand The Hidden Question

This is a question you can expect to be asked in any pitch meeting.

Other versions are:

  • How did you think of this idea?
  • What inspired this project?
  • When did you get the idea for this story?

You are being asked this question because your source of inspiration is part of what gives the executive confidence in you and your work. In other words, the executive is evaluating you and your project based on the quality of your idea’s genesis story.

The hidden question is: Are you the right person for the job?

If you don’t have a good answer to this question, you may not be. That’s what makes answering this question so important, and so difficult.

Seize The Opportunity

This is a chance to share positive information about yourself, your creative process, and your work.

However, what many writers do is give an unprepared, general answer that contains too much irrelevant detail, e.g.:

  • “I first got the idea when I was in 3rd grade, and my teacher gave me a B- on a diorama I worked really hard on…”
  • “It was 3 AM and I was on the couch, smoking, really depressed, when I saw this infomercial for a product I’d already bought…”

Here’s How To Answer: Demonstrate Your Expertise

Your expertise is of great interest to the decision-maker and that makes them listen carefully to your answer.

A good answer starts like this:

  • “I’ve seen just about every vampire movie that’s ever been made, and I realized that all of the successful ones had three things in common….”
  • “As a former member of navy intelligence, I know how many intel operations take place on battleships, destroyers, or submarines, but I never thought that an underwater oil rig could be so relevant to a spy story until….”
  • “I first got the idea for Full Reverse when my apartment was incinerated by a private jet that fell out of the sky….”

Your expertise is one of the key selling points for your project, and your answer to “How did you come up with this idea?” should clearly demonstrate it.

You don’t want to seem like someone who inadvertently bumped into an idea for a movie. You want to be the person who discovered the idea because of your expertise, enthusiasm, and dedication.

Do You Know the #1 Screenwriting Obstacle that is Holding You Back?

Screenwriting Breakthrough Quiz

Almost Every Screenwriter Struggles with 1 of 3 Common Obstacles. Over 16,892 Screenwriters Have Found Out Theirs.

Take 60 Second Quiz

Discussion About How To Answer The Trick Question: “How Did You Come Up With This Idea?”

  1. Stephen Glazer

    Excellent post Stephanie. I think if I was asked that question by an executive my expertise in that area would definitely be raised by me. My script “Gemstone” takes place in the world of Con Men where very few competent screenwriters have any real world experience.

    My script “Gemstone” got a “Strong Consider” (a flawed draft) from Scriptshark and is set to go into scouting in the next few weeks. Thanks for all the helpful blogs!


    • Stephanie Palmer

      Congrats on getting good coverage, Stephen. I wish you lots of luck with “Gemstone.”

      • Stephen Glazer

        Thanks Stephanie. If I end up getting some face time with any producers I will definitely be putting your great advice to use.

  2. Andrea A Johnson

    Fantastic post, I really look forward to updates from you.

  3. Berry salem

    I have a great idea about true life story it is about the hidden life of a lot of people from Middle East for what Muslim lady suffer and how they treat her a lot of things happened to me but no one can say the truth because they be will be scared to be killed but I’m not scared I believe my life story will be amazing movie contact me if you are serious

  4. Robert

    Thank you for all the information , my book is a powerful one at that , the ending is next

  5. sports betting

    I savor, cause I found just what I used to be taking a look for.
    You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a
    great day. Bye