Tag Archives: research

Research is sexy

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

Salams and yo!

Research is sexy. Like Angelina Jolie, Ben Barnes, Bradley Cooper, George-Clooney’s-jaw-bones sexy.

….or at the very least fruitful, but blog posts which allude to sex always manage to get more hits.

I’m writing a screenplay about leaving home (a feat I have yet to accomplish myself). The main character in my story is a guidance counselor.  A profession I’ve only once had direct contact with at school. And it was a waste of time too.

Suffice to say, my main character is a good guidance counselor.  I have little idea what that means. This means I need to research.

A part of me (the lazy part) just wants to dive in and write the darn story and to the devil with all this “research” BS.

The part of me that appreciates the hard work that goes into my craft remembers the shock and awe I felt when I found out the inimitable Four Lions was written by *gasp* a white guy.

I’d rather not tell you what this bonkers movie is about.  Please watch the trailer:

I know it’s a movie about terrorism, but somehow it made me hopeful. There is a joy about this movie that escapes their funny accents and their nihilistic fascination with death. Maybe because Wikipedia listed it as a “Jihad satire” .

But I digress.

The point of this post being, the writer Chris Morris researched the heck out of his subject matter. He spent three years talking to terrorism experts, police, the secret service, imams and ordinary Muslims, and then – and only then – did he write the script in 2007. The film only went into production in 2009 and was released late 2010.

From development to theatrical release, the film took almost 6 years. SIX YEARS!

I must say, I’m heartened by the level of respect Mr. Morris gave his subject matter – far more respect, it seems, than we give each other these days.

Note to self and to everyone else reading – the details matter. I don’t want my viewers pointing at the screen shouting “That would never happen!”

My kingdom for access to my university’s library again. There was something comforting about the musty smell, the rough carpets and the new weird friends I made between pages in that giant cavernous place.

But I digress again.

The sexy researcher’s toolkit (in other words, things I’ve discovered I need more of):

  1. People – people for me are the most fascinating resources. You see, a screenwriter doesn’t need the facts. We need something more authentic. And what is truer than the truth? The story.
  2. Listening skills – people like talking.
  3. Time – This process is absolutely vital to healthy development of an idea, especially if the idea is even vaguely grounded in reality. It gives solid ground to worlds that our characters can then confidently tread on – and blow up, if need be.
  4. Patience – You might hit a few dead ends. One source won’t give you the quality of information you want. Another will bore you senseless but will be quite useful. Yet another will start out boring you to tears and then suddenly their narrative explodes with colour. As I said, people like to talk. We should (probably) let them (most of the time).

Hope that’s given you some food for thought.

Love, peace and harmony,