Research your story

I was gone for a few days (please tell me you noticed) because i was researching for my next project. It’s a feature film and i can’t get much further into it (also because there’s not much to talk about it either).

Researching for a feature film seems logical, after all, that thing is two-hour long, according to your theme you can’t get all your facts straight. But for 15-minutes? What can go so wrong?


Mostly, the structural, actual storytelling, moving the narrative on, might differ from the script brothers. Still, the rules of stance towards the viewer applies to both movie siblings. The first rule of a film is to hook your spectator on, but that can’t hold the story on its own. You must not fuck this up thereafter.

Verisimilitude is a key word. Remember Raiders of the Lost Ark? Didn’t you get yourself knocked out when Indiana Jones survives that submarine trip? You might get back to the movie soon subsequently, but for those few seconds you were staring at the ceiling of the movie theater. That’s a 110 minutes film, when we’re talking about a short film, a blink is almost substantial time length wasted.

Still, losing your spectator because you didn’t get your facts straight is amateurish job and i’m not talking about a situation only, location is possibly the most damaged aspect of a film due to lack of research. When you’re doing a story on your neighborhood you possibly know everything, but try writing about the Saara desert if you haven’t ever been there. And, honestly, working on your environment is kindergarden writing. You can’t evolve playing cozy all along.

Research will avoid flimsy obstacles which you might present to your characters, because there’s always a doctor watching your film to declare that the particular venomous plant doesn’t grow in that area. For example, do you know what’s the biggest threat at the Amazon rainforest? Gators? Indigenes? Jaguars? Spiders? None of them. Stingrays it is. Just like the one which killed Steve Irwin. And i bet everything that you never thought those would be a great obstacle for a survival film. How did i learn that? Research. The one and only.

Besides cleaning up the way from bad hazards, research will also show you new obstacles. This means that it will pop up your best possibilities. You lost your encounter with the indigenes, but you got a character stabbed in the leg by a stingray while crossing a river. You just got yourself a ticking bomb. Your story only improved by taking away your preconceptions on a subject and inserting a fresh, realistic point of view to the situation.

If you’re doing a history piece then? If you don’t research you’ll simply repeat the same clichés, mistakes and anachronisms we carry along the road will all others that came before you. And by doing that you’re losing a chance to emphasize yourself as a screenwriter.

Here i’ll list a few tips to improve your research:

1. Use the internet properly: Google is a powerful tool if used properly, skip all determiners, prepositions and pronouns when doing a search. This way you’ll hit the jackpot of internet tags, or how the information is stashed at search engines. Or something like that. Don’t get tired after the first page as well, results come from determination.

2. Visit a teacher: University is the place to be to find knowledge and there’s probably a phD wandering around there whom knows more than you on the subject you’re investigating. If not, they may at least suggest you some lecture.

3. Visit the library: It’s hard to visit the library empty handed, but if you did the first two steps correctly, then will be something specific to look after. Internet can’t compete will books when you’re doing some real research.

4. Get in touch with everybody: There will be a point in which you’ll want very specific information in very short time, this should lead you to specialists and you can find those everywhere. For example, once i visited the morgue to ask about human decomposition to the legist. It took away some cards from my hand, but gave me some pretty good draws too.

5. Read literature from that time: There’s no better way to recognize an age’s mannerisms than literature. And great literature will also improve your writing by itself. Win-win.

6. Don’t get lost: If you get too used to research it might become a form of procrastination. Don’t allow that to happen. Learn the moment to close your case and start your first draft. Think this is like a murder case investigation, after you got all your pieces together, it is time to send it to trial.

Hopefully i’ll be around sooner next time. See you this week (It’s a promise!)


3 Responses to “Research your story”

  1. 1 Vikki (The View Outside) June 25, 2012 at 7:42 am

    I’m thinking about embarking on a project where there will need to be LOTS of research, so thanks for the tips :)


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