Are you a first-time screenwriter? Does the process of identifying a story idea, researching the chosen subject – the subject is the topic that your screenplay covers. For example, the movie Rocky’s subject was on boxing – and writing an accurate, compelling screenplay appear too herculean?
Then a technologically inspired approach can be the answer. Indexed within search engines are dozens of online tools, websites and resources that can help you get familiar with your screenplay’s subject regardless of how complex it is.
Many of such online tools are free and easy to use. This means that if you’re working on spec or with low budgets, you can still acquire a library’s worth of information with little financial investment.
Furthermore, a great deal of information that can be accessed through the internet is reliable and verifiable.
Although online media content may have attracted a bad rap in recent years due to a surge in plagiarism and fabricated information, it is still a fertile ground for doing valuable research work. This is why Journalists and Academics still use the internet to conduct their research today.
When done properly, online research may even impact film marketing efforts down the line. For example, if you consulted an influential blogger during your research, he might announce the premiere of your film to his huge online audience when it was released because he was vital to its making.
But a dependence on online research is not usually the best strategy. Rather, a strategic combination of online research with live research tactics, like going directly to the source to conduct personal interviews and examine the environment, will usually provide better results. Here are proven suggestions on how you can use online research to get valuable results:
1. Start With Google
Perhaps, this is too obvious.
But do you know how to use this free resource to find most of the information that you so desperately need? If you don’t, then a good starting point would be to apply any of the 10 Google shortcuts as shared by Raindance’s Elliot Grove in this blog post.
However, if you want to use academic and scholarly publications in your research, then you should turn to Google Scholar. This free Google service has access to millions of published research and offers filters that enable refined searches.
Through the Google Image search function, you can also access relevant images on your subject. After all, the pictures are easier and faster to comprehend than text. Using them, you could speed up your script research process.
Using Google News, you can also stay abreast of current events within the scope of your subject. Such information, usually contained within the websites of reputable media companies such as Forbes and CNN, might spur you to explore new story ideas.
2. Go Through Wikipedia
Is Wikipedia, the popular free online encyclopedia, reliable?
In fact, as administrators of the website warn,
“Do not use a Wikipedia article as a source for another Wikipedia article, even when describing Wikipedia… Wikipedia should not be considered a definitive source in and of itself.”
But Wikipedia is still a valuable resource for screenwriters.
This is because of the references to consulted websites and publications that Wikipedia contributors include at the end of every article. Through the references, you can visit the original publishers of any information used on Wikipedia to find out if they’re credible. You can do this by:
- • Finding out who owns or contributes content to the website. You can get this information on the Contributors page, Team page or About us page.
This is important because highly authoritative media sites are usually owned by reputable persons and attract contributions from experts. For example, the Raindance blog is authoritative because it is owned by Raindance; a leading film organization in the UK.
- • You can further complement your effort with social media investigation. Simply visit online forums and social media sites to meet and ask other reputable stakeholders what they think about the website, its owner(s) or contributors. Highly reputable websites usually get glittering reviews from their readers.
3. Use Other Online Tactics
Wikipedia and Google are not the only sources of information for your online research. You can always include the following in your efforts too:
- Contact academics and researchers:
There is probably an academic expert or researcher for every subject, even your script’s. Academics are often reliable and can even help you reach other information sources.
But how do you meet academic researchers through the internet?
First, focus your efforts on finding research papers and articles on your subject. Then reach out to the scholars responsible through their contact information which might be published on paper. If there is no contact information on the paper, then you might search for the scholars on social media sites like LinkedIn to contact them or use the email finder tools, Lusha or Hunter to get their email addresses or phone numbers.
You can also look for academic experts who are active on social media or online forums. Before contacting them, ensure that you double-check to see if their claims are true. For example, you may look for their published articles or studies on reputable journals or ask their employers to verify their claims.
- Use YouTube:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. Videos are faster to understand and harder to forget.
This is why you must prioritize video analysis in your research efforts. You can always find free videos on many subjects through YouTube.
When searching for videos, don’t expect to find feature-length videos on your chosen topic. Since most YouTubers don’t get paid for uploading videos, no one might have sponsored an expensive video production on your topic yet. But look at the bright side; even a one-minute video or a sarcastic reference to your subject in a video can be relevant to your needs.
- Listen to conversations on blogs, forums and social media:
Is your lead character a female doctor in the offshore oil and gas sector? Do you want her to appear believable and multidimensional on screen?
Then use social listening tactics in your research. This simply means that you should find top blogs, social media groups, social media pages or forum discussions that engage online users who resemble your characters or share their traits.
For example, a Google search for “top insurance blogs” will lead you to a list of reputable blogs that discuss pressing issues in insurance. This can help you identify authentic challenges, attitudes or perceptions of Insurance salesmen that you can use if one of your characters sells insurance.
You can also reach out to top bloggers and journalists on your subject as well as social media group administrators.
These kinds of sources are knowledgeable since they constantly work to find news on your subject that’s relevant to their audience.
But how do you contact them?
You can use the same strategies for finding the contact information of academic experts to locate their emails and phone numbers too and send a message asking for their help in your research.