I love doing research. That was probably what lead to me doing screenwriting. Everything I read would turn into a story in my head and make me want to learn more.
The problem is that I want to know absolutely everything about absolutely everything. When I start looking into a topic I don’t know when to stop.
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” – Mark Twain
Sometimes your pursuit for the details can get in the way of the story. I once had a really great story planned out. It was a light action comedy with a sci-fi element to it. So I called NASA and talked to a top guy there for a while. It brought up a few minor issues with a very minor plot point. It totally popped my bubble. I still haven’t had the courage to return to the story, even though the genre didn’t deserve 100% adherence to the truth.
“In all pointed sentences, some degree of accuracy must be sacrificed to conciseness.” – Samuel Johnson
Here are a few questions to help keep on track.
- How essential is the fact to the plot? If it’s the central point then you can go for your life. If it’s only mentioned once by a character, then you probably only need to a bit of the lingo, not the full detail.
- How much of the stuff you’re researching will end up in the final movie?
- Do you need all of the facts to complete the script?
- Do you know enough to make an educated guess?
So, remember that your main job is to tell the story. Keep focused. As you research stuff keep thinking how it applies to the story. If you stray into the irrelevant it may be time to drop it.