Location Research

Finally, you should experience the subject in situ, or on location. You could, say, go to see the factory at work, spend two weeks getting the feel of the university, take the plane trip, ride with the police in their patrol cars, watch daily life in a small Vermont village, accompany the theater director to rehearsal, visit the beaches of Normandy, where the Allied invasion took place, or watch the new tourists stream through Saigon. All the time you are trying to soak up the subject and get close to it as possible.

Research is vital to most good films, and yet it is a difficult subject psychologically. This is because you know that only a fraction of the material you are accumulating will ever be used in the final film. As a colleague of mine, Jim Beveridge, once put it: "Research is like an iceberg. Seven-eighths of it is below the surface and can't be seen."

Research is also a tantalizing mistress in that it is constantly showing you new possibilities and new direction for your film. You think that you are the boss and that research is the obedient donkey you ride on, but before you know it, the donkey has kicked up her heels, resisted the reigns, and taken you to a totally undreamed of destination. A year before writing this book, I did a film on Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi war criminal and high SS officer. The film was to be a view of his life based on the diaries Eichmann wrote in jail in 1962. But while researching, I found to my astonishment that he had written a secret and contradictory set of memoirs in 1957. So it was whoops, halt, and rethink the whole basic premise of the film.

Defining Limits

People often go astray in failing to define suitable limits to their films. If your goal is clear, then you should be all right, but you may have problems if you approach a very broad topic—for example, drugs, juvenile delinquency, international terrorism—with no guidelines. What do you do when the subject is seemingly limitless? You have to do some preliminary research and then make some quick choices. Using your common sense, you select boundaries; within those boundaries, you then select three or four promising areas for further research and development. The boundaries do not have to be arbitrary. You should be guided by what you yourself are interested in, by current public interests, and, as always, by what is feasible and practical. Thus, you don't decide simply to do a film on drugs; you decide to do it on drugs and the young, or drugs and their sources in the Far East, or drugs and big business. Once the scope of the subject has been limited, you can go ahead.

However, even if you have the most rational mind in the world, you may try to do too much in one film. In the end, your ambition may let you down, whereas a more modest film would have worked well. This happened to me on a film I did about automobile accidents. It was clear that the subject involved three diverse elements: people, including drivers, pedestrians, and accident victims; vehicles; and roads and road engineering. I could have concentrated on any one of those topics, but I decided to look into all three. I saw all the films, read all the books, talked to experts, and wrote to dozens of people around the world. And all the time, new topics of interest kept opening up. I found out about a correction course for dangerous drivers. I was told about a society for bereaved families. I obtained photographs showing cars of the future. A psychologist told me of hypnotic experiments on aggressive personalities.

I accumulated a mass of fascinating materials, yet the film came out a mess. My cardinal mistake, which was obvious in hindsight, was trying to cover the three topics of driver, vehicle, and roads, instead of limiting myself to just one. The research had been great fun, but I didn't know when to leave well enough alone; as a result, I seriously weakened the film.

Film Making

Film Making

If you have ever wanted the secrets to making your own film, here it is: Indy Film Insider Tips And Basics To Film Making. Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Is there a story you want to tell? You might even think that this is impossible. Studios make films, not the little guy. This is probably what you tell yourself. Do you watch films with more than a casual eye? You probably want to know how they were able to get perfect lighting in your favorite scene, or how to write a professional screenplay.

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