Friday 15 April 2011

Someone Hasn't Done Their Research

Earlier this week I got half-way through my current feature and realised I didn’t know what to write next. I knew what the plot was but wasn’t quite certain of the location. Was my 15yr old character going to Juvi for his crimes or would he be tried as an adult? In my outline he was going to juvi but I then realised that maybe that wasn’t the case. I hadn’t actually done my research.

That wasn’t the first time I got to a point in the script where I was uncertain of the details, but had previously felt that I could get away with lines such as “add more relevant description here” or during a dialogue “they talk about blah”. Open notes: do research.

So I found myself taking a break from writing and did some research. I came across some real life examples, some of which were heartbreaking - it's a Drama afterall, and suddenly my script had an extra supporting character. Oh and in case you are wondering, he’s going to be tried as an adult.

This small set-back and the fact that my script is full of holes made me realise that research before writing is important. The story itself of course supersedes this, but with a solid story and a good and detailed outline the need for research (if any) will present itself at this early stage. Needless to say, my outline was poor. 

I've done a common rookie mistake. I was so eager to jump in and start writing that I didn't do the necessary preparation. As much as outlines and treatments seem like a task, they exist for a reason, and will generally end up saving you time rather than being time consuming. Capiche?

Further research for my story (which again should have been made in advance) will be to watch certain movies and read some scripts and books that could help set the right tone and mood for the story. Spot the odd one out: 

Curious to watch Arronofsky's vision on this adaptation

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Seen the movie, read the novel, will read again for the tone

The Shawshank Redemption
Interested in the script more than anything due to the continuous use of voice over
I've only ever seen the play, with Christian Slatter, but I remember the very dark humour in it. Ken Kesey wrote this book whilst under the influence of mescaline.

The above list is purely for specific research. In general I make sure I always have a script and/or a book on the go. The most recent book I read was Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. He spent about 10years doing extensive research and consulting a historian for this book! Note to self: never write anything about World War I.

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