If you ever took any creative writing courses or were part of a writing group you might remember writing exercises -- something like "write a ten page story that includes Fig Newtons, a dyslexic wombat, is set in World War II, and the main character knows how to play a Xylophone."
I always thought those were rather artificial, of questionable educational value, and distracted you from the real task of getting your actual writing done.
The distributor is now requesting that we put together stories where the lead character is a 15-year-old boy, plus or minus a year (COP DOG's 12-year-old lead would be too young for next year's slate); with an animal ala COP DOG, but we're already using a dog in another movie and couldn't afford something like a bear and definitely not something aquatic! (did you know that chimpanzee actors are governed by roughly the same working condition rules as child actors?); it must of course be about 90 minutes long; limited locations and limited number of parts, including non-speaking parts because, at these budgets, extras are expensive too (unless your family members all have a lot of free time); should be humorous but maybe with a little heart (er, sentimentality -- but not during the first ten minutes! The first ten minutes should be fun); and there must be a family aspect, i.e. adult or other members of the family centrally involved (don't ask me, that requirement is pretty vague).
It'd also be good to include a holiday theme -- but Christmas is used in another project and we need holidays that also resonate in Europe -- so no Thanksgiving and Halloween isn't so great either.