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Screenwriting Tips – How to Do Research


Michael Bruce Adams is a screenwriter and a friend of mine. I interviewed Michael for my “Art and Craft of the Director Audio Seminar” and I have included a portion of that interview here. Part One (today) is about how to research; Part Two (Wednesday) is about the search for truth; and Part Three (Friday) is about how to write believable characters.

A film that Michael wrote has just been released and is called “REACH FOR ME.” Michael can be reached at solperro@shaw.ca


Peter – Where do you get your ideas?

Michael– It depends on the project, but usually an idea will come to mind from a memory or something I read, or it could be given to me as a synopsis by another filmmaker. But the work doesn’t really begin for me until I can find my own spark, one scene or image related to this idea I’ve got that charges me emotionally, motivates my imagination. Until I have that, I can work the idea all I want, but the story will never reveal itself. Once I have the spark, I use that as a springboard into the research and that’s where the story really comes to light.

Peter – Do you research every script?

Michael – Absolutely. Research is how you build the world your characters will eventually bring to life. Some projects are easier to research; the old adage ‘write what you know’ plays a huge role here. Not that I’m advocating that, but as a new writer, telling stories that are close to your heart or past experiences means that YOU are the prime research material, what could be easier… right. It’s also very safe.

Those experiences are a good place to start as a new screenwriter, but, the nature of screenwriting means that we have to go beyond that safety zone. And going beyond the safety zone is the joy of being a screenwriter. We get to experience emotions that we wouldn’t ordinarily allow ourselves to experience, and create situations that we would never physically enter into.

If we’re good at creating these worlds and we enter them honestly with our characters, we will experience everything our characters do with emotions just as intense. This is the gift, and the curse of being a screenwriter. Those who don’t have the courage to dig deep enough into their own emotional well rarely create anything out of the safety zone, and those types of projects just don’t resonate with audiences. Research is a gathering of knowledge, and an emotional mining process. It’s a search for truth.

Want to Learn More Film and Television Directing Tips and Techniques? Check out Peter D. Marshall’s 2008 multi-media reference guide for filmmakers, The Art and Craft of the Director 10-Day Audio Seminar – a 162 page eBook packed full of insider film directing tips and tools supported by over 500 film making reference links, 26 mp3 audio files, 28 video links and 23 pdf special reports all designed to help you become a successful, working film and television director.


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