Screenwriters may not want to write for television or write a screenplay for a big-budget movie. Lately, documentaries have grown from small budget films with limited viewership to small-to-big budget films with mass viewership and mainstream appeal. The difference between this form of screenwriting and other forms of writing is that you are communicating a direct message to your audience. The message might be about saving whales, stopping the illicit trafficking of diamonds in Africa, uncovering wasteful government spending, or revealing that aliens from Mars do live among the human race. Either way this form of writing has specific rules that one must understand to create a solid and powerful message.

The Importance of Research

The first and most important factor of documentary writing lies all on the research. You might have an idea for the documentary and your mind might be illuminated with images and so forth, but without a solid base of research, critics and viewers will not take you seriously. This is non-fiction writing. The accuracy of the information will directly reflect the value of your documentary. That said, you’ll need to develop solid research skills, months before writing your first draft. Some documentarians spend more than a year on research before they develop a storyline and begin writing their scripts.

Is Your Research Valid and Relevant?

Research has many facets. You will have access to loads of information from which to choose. You’ll need to learn how to extract the most relevant and pertinent parts of your research, rather than read every single thing you find. Research is composed of validity and relevance. When you scour your sources, you will need to judge how valid the point is and how relevant it is to your main argument. This will create a mechanism of selective research. To assist with your research you can make a list on a paper that ranks your research based on both validity and relevance. Rate it from one to five on both categories; if you have a five on validity and a five on relevance, then you have a solid piece of research. Rating pieces of your research will allow you to select what is important and what you may want to use as fillers.

Credible Sources for Your Research

During the research process you will have many sources and repositories of information that can add substance and credibility to your documentary. The easiest source is the Internet; however, not all sources are valid because the Internet is an open source platform and anybody can write what they want. You’ll need to cross-reference the information to check its validity. Secondly, you can peruse printed sources at your library or town hall if your information deals with something related to government. Thirdly, seek out experts and gurus to give you pertinent and insightful information that you may not be able to find online. Interviewing gurus, CEOs, politicians, activists, celebrities and so forth is a brilliant way to research your subject. Tracking down the experts is more of a challenge.You can start with these three sources to build your own repository of factual-based information for your documentary.

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