The original Twilight Zone series is an excellent source of inspiration for filmmaking for multiple reasons. First, the series ran on a limited budget so they had to constantly focus on stories that could be filmed at a low cost. Screenwriters often let their imagination run wild without thinking about how easily and inexpensively someone could film their stories. By studying how The Twilight Zone creatively kept costs down, you can use those same techniques in your stories.
One episode, called “The Midnight Sun,” is about the world slowly heating up and wiping out everyone on the planet. Yet the entire story takes place solely within a single apartment. Even more amazingly, the minor special effects convincingly creates the illusion of an overheating world by showing us paintings melting and radio show announcers talking about the coming apocalypse.
However, what makes The Twilight Zone especially compelling decades later is how the better episodes are actually dramas. Rod Serling originally wrote thoughtful teleplays but got tired of constant corporate censorship of his ideas, such as an oven manufacturer objecting to a story about gas ovens used by the Nazis to cremate Jews during World War Two.
To get around this censorship, Rod Serling wrote dramatic teleplays with a supernatural or science fiction setting. By creating thoughtful commentaries about common issues, Rod Serling and the other Twilight Zone writers created stories that are still entertaining and intriguing decades later.
When writing your own screenplays, focus on a universal idea and don’t get caught up in mindless explosions, special effects, or decorative settings that fail to support the overall story. If The Twilight Zone could create simple stories on a low budget that still retain their appeal decades later, you can apply those same principles to your screenplays as well.