• Joseph Morganti

Researching For Your Script: Things to Keep in Mind

Writing a script is a challenging task not every writer can set out and accomplish. Part of that challenge is dictated mainly by research and organization. Researching is a significant make-up of the screenwriting process and isn’t heavily talked about by experts. Professional screenwriters tend to focus on what you should do story-wise with a script instead of the nitty-gritty with researching.


The failure to talk about research can significantly hinder the success of a script. After all, research and preparation help drive how good a script is. Seeing as just about every screenwriter wants their script to be as good as possible, it’s an important area that should be discussed more. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at what you should keep in mind while researching your script!

Photo credit: Cambridge University Press


Researching and Planning Are The First Steps in Making a Script


The most significant point to make with researching and planning your script is that they come first in the screenwriting process. It’s practically impossible to write a script without taking the steps necessary beforehand to ensure you’re prepared for the task. No one can just go into a script cold turkey and expect brilliance.


Research is a broad notion in and of itself that can mean a lot when referencing screenwriting. It can be as straightforward as a writer looking into what makes a great script. It could be a writer looking into specific settings and periods to make their script historically accurate. It could also be a writer reading into a literary work for a potential adaptation.


Regardless of what the research portion entails, every screenwriter can benefit from doing it beforehand, especially a beginner. Taking notice of when acts should break, how characters should develop, examples of great scripts, settings, and time periods fall under the research umbrella. Make with what you will for this part of the process.


Be Organized


As straightforward as it is to say you’re going to do research heading into a script, none of that matters if you’re not organized. It doesn’t matter how great your memory is; if you aren’t organized, it won’t be efficient once you begin your script. A good rule of thumb is to create an evolving document to add information as you see fit.


You may also want to break the document up into specific subcategories for the research. For example, if you’re researching tips on characterization, you can put information related to it under it. You can do the same for other areas such as setting and time periods, act structures, and whatever else.


Taking notes and having it organized like this will make it easier to access needed information in the matter. There is a lot tied to researching for your script, so it’s your best bet to take as much information as you can and write it down. Thanks to the internet, this process for screenwriting has never been more straightforward.


Look For Similar Genres and Their Scripts


While researching, an excellent way to get the most out of your research is to look for similar genres to your story idea and read their scripts. Break it up into analyzing scripts that are the best of the best, see what makes them special, and make notes of it. These scripts are acclaimed for a reason, so why are they acclaimed?


Besides looking at great scripts, it’s equally beneficial to view scripts panned by critics. Being mindful of why a script didn’t work can be as knowledgeable as examining a great script. Again, the internet has just about every script available online for free, so you might as well use it to your benefit.


Avoid Making an Adaptation If You Don’t Have the Rights to it


Research tends to be heavily done when a writer is adapting a previous work. As great as an adaptation is, it’s pointless to write a script if you don’t have the rights to it. Unless there’s a studio backing you up and is currently inquiring into getting the rights, it’ll be an almost impossible sell for an adapted screenplay, especially as a novice screenwriter.


Now, if you’re already established and made a name for yourself, this isn’t as huge of a deal. Still, just about every one of you reading this are on the beginner spectrum for screenwriting. Take notice of what you can adapt legally and what you shouldn’t; it’ll save you time in the long run.


Don’t Only Research to Find Facts and Don’t Let it Dictate the Story


Whenever someone brings up the phrase research, screenwriters panic and think of it negatively to their creative effort. The truth is, research isn’t only meant to be based around finding facts. You can research for inspiration, character design, plot points, and anything really. Don’t let the research dictate the story and realize it’s there to benefit your writing, not be a mechanism of finding facts for the story.