Spitballing is a surprisingly apt metaphor for the process writers, or filmmakers in general, go through to come with a concept. It revolves around throwing ideas out there and bouncing them off others, until something sticks. It has become a bit of a Hollywood stereotype; the table of corporate-focused producers attempting to think like the average joe. Of course it isn’t necessarily negative, nor is it exclusive to Hollywood. Nonetheless, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Indianna Jones came about through a spitballing session between none other than Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and you can read the transcript here.
In Film-TV 1, we operated somewhere between spitballing and a spec script process. We wrote story ideas and outlines, before selecting which we would like to turn into a script in our production group. However, in other projects I have worked on, I found spitballing is often how things start off, and is a great way to build up complex and multifaceted ideas, at an extremely rapid pace. We often hear of writers taking years or even decades on some works, but a collaborative process such as this usually results in a great rush of ideas, problems and solutions, all at once.
Despite the individual nature of the story ideas we had, there was still plenty of room to bounce ideas of each other, and having script consultations was a great help. Even if an idea seems finished and refined, often an outsider’s opinion can be helpful in recognising the strengths and weaknesses of the work.