The Internet has changed the game in every way possible. No longer do we need to go to the library and gather tons of references to take up space on the book shelf. Everything is a click away. And there’s no shortage of information. In fact there’s too much information and can cause a state of stress. The key is to know how to navigate the polethera of information and find what you’re looking for quickly and easily. This could be for inspiration or for a deeper understanding of a subject matter. My advice is to always start general, then go deeper into specific topics. Wikipedia is a great source for this and can start you on your journey. Just know when it’s time to stop researching and time to start working. And never never plagiarize.
I believe in order to be a great filmmaker you have to become a connoisseur of film. Watch as many films as possible from different genres and from different eras. There’s an entire century of films that many newbies don’t even explore. But your modern filmmakers borrowed from the past and have even remade from the past. So don’t choose to be ignorant and learn how the different genres have evolved. From the silent film era, noir to even foreign films. And there’s no excuse. A lot of these films can be found on demand and even on YouTube for free. If this is your career, invest the time in your knowledge and it will pay off.
Speaking of YouTube. YouTube is the second biggest searched website next to google. It seems like no matter what the topic (documentary, news clips, etc) someone has uploaded a video about it. There is so much information and content out there that you can easily get sucked into the YouTube vortex. I actually encourage this though as it can lead you down an interesting path of information that you otherwise may not have discovered. However, if you’re researching about the Battle of Gettysburg and end up on ghetto fight videos, then you’ve gone too far.
They always say if you want to become a writer then you must read. If you’re writing a screenplay about an Ex female CIA operative who falls in love with an extremist trying to kill the president, then read as many books possible in the political romance genre. This way you can understand the subject matter, learn the rules of that genre and get new ideas and perspective that haven’t been explored. There are expectations that come with every genre, and the last thing you want to do is disappoint those expectation. However, like in any field there are the good and the bad. Not every writer is created equal. So learn what’s already done so you can build upon it and carry the torch to new experiences.
I think most people can agree that music is the soundtrack of our lives. It can make us cry or describe the exact mood that we’re in at the moment. Well it can also become the soundtrack or inspiration for your next film project. Music streaming sites such as Spotify and iTunes have made it extremely easy to like and share your favorite song by creating playlist. I’ve personally written an entire screenplay based on lyrics from a song. And because music is so visceral, it can drive home an emotional feeling that words cannot otherwise interpret. So create playlist for each of your films, scenes and even for individual characters to communicate sonically a tone of what they are feeling. Cause like they say, music is the universal language.
One thing I love about human society is our ability to create among our desired tribe. We create rules within rules and systems within systems all to segregate ourselves from each other. Magazines since their creation have been about that. Segmenting industries and subcultures into niches and appealing to their desired tribe. And no matter what the topic is, it seems there’s a magazine about it talking in their own language about their history and their code. And although the Internet has taken over traditional magazine publications, they are still fun to thumb through to look at ads and get inspiration and ideas on a desired topics. They are little pockets of the human experience.
7. Social Media
While on the topics of tribes and subcultures, this cannot be more true than with social media. Since the past ten years hundreds of brands have popped up on social media showing different nuances of society and the human experience. These are the new channels that audiences are tuning into to learn about particular interest and brands. And Instagram and Pinterest are the head contenders. They allow you to save, share and communicate to like minded people who are into what you’re into. Pinterest can be a great source of ideas such as fashion and style while Instagram can be a great source for lifestyles and personalities.
One of the most slept on sites for creatives is Artstarion, a community site for concept artist of movies and video games. This community used to belong to cghub before they officially shut down. But this site has a great feature that allows you to filter through latest submissions and top picks. And you will notice instantly that the cream rises to the top. I personally love researching through images as I’m more of a visual creative. And when I need inspiration for out of the box ideas this is my source. Some of the worlds these artist create are just mind boggling and really take you to new places. You can also get great ideas for characters and costumes.
9. Getty Images
Another great source for those more visual is gettyimages. This is a stock site that is more practical than the fantasy worlds of Artstation. If you’re looking for real world scenarios and inspiration then this is your site. What I like to do is build up a collage using images as placement holders or cut images together using editing software for potential clients or investors to previz what your intentions are. Plus depending on the rights of usage, if you decide later that you want to use the photos or stock footage then they’re available for purchase. There are many stock sites out there but this one is more premium. Even official big media outlets use Getty images for photos or stock footage. Plus if one of the images isn’t ideal, they have similar type photos usually of the same model.
10. Personal Experience
And finally the gusto of all research is just good old fashion personal experience. Most of everything described early is based on you sitting at a computer or some mobile device to get your information or inspiration fix. But none of these artificial simulation come close to the real thing. Get out the house. Travel. Meet people. Fall in love. Take risk. And just experience life. No one has ever regret going on new adventures and over coming their fears. I know modern society and a 9-5 don’t make it easy, but you can still find little things everyday that take you out of your comfort zone. Like taking a new route to work or befriending that one coworker that you usually ignore. It doesn’t have to be big adventures, just something that challenges you and allows you to face your fears. As creatives, we have to be able to absorb new things, experience new situation and just sometimes people watch to get that spark of the human experience. Then we go into our personal quiet creative space and just create. And the knowledge and insights that you’ve learn will always find its way into your work.
To conclude, no matter how much research you do and information you gather, be careful not to show off that knowledge for the sake of showing it off. Most of the research you did won’t end up in the final product anyway because most audiences won’t remember it. At the end of the day your story always needs to be emotional true first. Because stories are about people. And human emotion has not changed for thousands of years. Desires are universal. Fears are universal. And that’s what people remember.
What’s your method of research. Let us know in comment.