Posts Tagged 'research'

Writing a Short Film: Research

In the case you kept close track of this blog, you might be aware i’ve already commented on research. However, this is a new series which will follow my personal process while i work on my new short film script. This is meant to be a suggestion if you’re lost under the writing steps, yet feel welcome to share your own method.

I can’t reinforce properly how important a decent research is, because the opposite may put your film down instantly. Why? Plausibility. This is the reason why you should develop your research and your characters with the same effort as if you were writing a feature film. Have you seen The Dark Knight Rises? **SPOILER** Did you notice there was no freaking way for Bruce to return to Gotham from the pit? **END SPOILER** These details break the magic a little bit and in these internet days, all you need is a single viewer to spot it. Then they will post it everywhere because it is their chance to grab the attention his mom missed to give him and all the hipsters in town will criticize the plot and say they noticed the screw up. And then the experience after your film projection will be bad buzz. Even if you didn’t care about the TDKR screw ups *cof* Burning symbol in the bridge *cof*, you’re not Christopher Nolan. You’re just like me: a nobody.

My rule of thumb for research is: do it for everything that does.

What this means? You must study every element from the story that do something. Even if not a direct action, your scenario, for example, affects the story just for being. There’s no need to go really deep into most of the stuff you study. Most of the time researching is all about confirming what you already now.

Talking about my new story, it’s more like a challenge i have no idea if i’ll succeed and if you keep reading you’ll how nuts it is. I want to write a dramedy with a clear 4-act structure in 15 minutes tops. It’s about a young woman who has to take care of her grandmother, who collects cats. This is just a taste out of it and you’ll certainly learn more about the project as this series moves along. There’s a scene in which the woman goes to buy the largest pack of pet food. How much it weights? Calling my local pet store and asking is research, even if i had an idea it would be around 20kg (44 pounds). This is essentially for credibility, although some fact-finding might improve your story some other ways.

Out of nowhere, the woman finds out her grandma has Alzheimer’s. This is a crucial point for the craft because even though i’m interested, no one in my family had Alzheimer’s. I’m a complete stranger to this world. Several amateur writers i know would avoid this. Playing away from their backyard. Yet is this process of incorporation into someone else that attracts me into the writing world. Without the proper research you can’t get underneath the skin.

Dealing with Alzheimer’s puts me in a very tough position, because it is easy to go cliché or wrong, meanwhile the good path is narrow. Then i apply the deep research for my story. In this moment, research is my resource for effective plot points. I start working on the experiences of people whom took care of relatives with Alzheimer’s. Basing my twists into real situations beyond giving me solid ground to proceed, is also a respectful attitude towards those whom live in that world.

Most of the time, research is virtual and i need a place to store everything. I use Together for that. It’s an Evernote that works. Allows me to tag my files and organize them within folders. Plus making it superb to send information and don’t invade my workflow. In the image you may check the folder and some files i’ve stored so far.

Screenshot 12 21 12 4 49 AM

Using Safari Reader or Evernote Clearly, it is smooth to save a formatted web article within Together without much of that whole internet pollution. Works better than the Evernote Web Clipper, honestly. Together also keeps the files in a uncompressed folder, so i sync them in my Dropbox and can access my research pretty much from anywhere.

Screenshot 12 21 12 4 55 AM

Some quick comments on researching:

  • If you’re insecure about something in your story is because you didn’t study it enough. Research is backing it up.
  • Maintain your research notes stored and organized. You must have them at hand at any given moment.
  • Most of the time researching is confirming your suspicions.
  • Don’t be afraid to play journalist. Interviewing an expert is really good to clarify your thoughts.
  • Get what you need and fucking move on. It’s a thin line between research and procrastination.
  • Plausibility, plausibility, plausibility.
  • And most important: research everything that do anything in your story.

See you around (:


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!)

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