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How do use the internet for screenwriting research?

8. Make research your BFF, pt. 2

But I’m a writer! I’m hardwired to be a recluse who never leaves my writing hole. I don’t want to have to talk to people! Tough t***ies, friend. You want your script to shine and so do we, so never fear! Film Daily is here and to point you down the path to success.

Our mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make damn sure you have a grounded understanding of just the kind of research that’ll make your script glow with excellence.

You probably thought of using the internet at the first sign of the word “research”. The internet is nearly infinite, and you can find just about anything on it these days. The internet is only getting bigger by the second!

Prep your research right

Firstly you’ll need an outline for your script in order to determine just what to research. This saves you time by preventing tangents such as, “Just what exactly goes into this BMT sandwich my character just ordered?” Set a time limit for researching each scene to ensure you don’t run out of time to write.

Reading articles and interviews is really advantageous and immensely useful, but you ought to be just as creative in research as during the actual composition of your script. Think outside the box and venture into out-of-the-way avenues of the internet. 

Aziz Ansari has responded to sexual misconduct allegations made against him by an anonymous source. The ‘Master of None’ star and co-creator released a statement outlining his own take on the allegations, claiming that he was “surprised and concerned”.

Sign up for newsletters and delve into forums relating to your subject. Email all the people you can find to help your research and tread that fine line between pain-in-the-ass and politely persistent – it’s all part of the game, hon! 

That way, if you get rejected like Aziz Ansari got rejected by Blake Lively, it won’t bother you as much because you’re still going to be talking to a hundred other people. Aziz moved on, and so can you.

Go wide & go deep in your research process

Broadening your research increases your chances of finding material to inspire your scenes. Little details like phrases a particular community uses will jump out of your brain just when you need to enrich a scene.

Granted, not everything on the internet is entirely true – but even fake news can spark interest in other people’s points of view, taking you down paths you might never have imagined. Remember: you ain’t writing an encyclopedia – you’re researching your world to create deep realism, warts and all.

Having all the world’s info at your fingertips just begging to make it into your story takes the pressure off hugely when you sit down to write your script. You’ll be able to sum up your ideas much more coherently after leaving no stone unturned in your contact list. 

The most important thing to take away from this is experiencing first-hand how a basic concept for a story can be changed into something beautiful & honest. You’ll never go back to writing crude stories lacking integrity.

Is that the time? It is! It’s the time you promised us you’d sign up to FilmCraft’s From Zero to Hero for the most unparalleled screenwriting tutelage the world has ever seen. You’ll be glad you did.


Task 1

  • Return to your research folder / Trello board / Evernote.
  • Is anything else you can add to it?
  • Are there any other people you could interview?
  • Research who your characters are.
  • Find actors (doesn’t matter how famous) who fit the description of your character.
  • Move on with your research to a more visual stage:
  • Make a Pinterest board with the headshots of your chosen actors . . .
  • and another with pictures of locations similar to the ones you want to use in your script, in order to paint a clearer image of your visual story.
  • Think of all your research as your raw and unrefined screenplay.
  • This work contains all the answers and information related to your screenplay.

Themes are crucial to any story. Producers need to know this info quickly to find out if your screenplay is worth making into a film or not.

Task 2

  • Compile a reading and watch list around the topic you are writing on.
  • Explore as many avenues as you possibly can: travel books, biographies, documentaries.
  • Visit as many of your desired locations as you can. Experiencing places physically will help you dramatically when imagining your scenes taking place.
  • If you haven’t already, reach out to professionals relevant to subjects in your script. Authenticity is rarely seen in amateur scripts, so get your script to the top of the pile with this research technique.

Extra credit

Do a web search for the most successful movies of all time. What do you learn from their movie titles?

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