How to Use Research as Your Secret Writing Weapon

Hosted by Michael Sonnenschein

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Michael Sonnenschein

Webinar hosted by: Michael Sonnenschein

TV Writer (90210, CRISIS, BLIND DATE)

Michael Sonnenschein is a long-time and practiced TV writer who has been staffed on shows like The CW’s 90210, NBC’s political conspiracy thriller CRISIS the original, groundbreaking syndicated comedy reality series BLIND DATE. Michael began his career as part of the Disney/ABC Television Fellowship after working as a freelance journalist and reporter for publications like the Village Voice, GQ, LA Weekly and elsewhere. He has also developed and sold several series and pilot pitches; current projects include an unannounced series at a streaming service adapting a novel set in the little-known violent aftermath of the American Revolution, a revisionist history of the Roman Empire, and a legal thriller set in Washington, DC. Michael has been able to sell his projects through his careful use of research and knows the steps to take to get research on your side. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

Research is a component of almost any writing project-- often, a major component. It gives you the ability to write with authenticity, to better understand your characters, and to find story ideas you might not have otherwise considered. Yet research isn’t just useful for solo writers working on their feature or pilot. Research can make or break your pitch to an executive or allow you to stand out in a special way when trying to bring stakeholders on board. More so, research can help you stand out as a member of a TV writers’ room, building story arcs with your colleagues as part of a writing staff. In almost every situation, research can be a writer’s best friend, but only if you know what you’re doing when starting the research process.

Not all research is made equal, and some forms of research will serve writers better than others. The internet makes a practically infinite range of material available to television and feature writers, on almost any subject imaginable. 'Doing research online' in a general way isn't enough. Every writer you're competing with for an open assignment, a staff job, or a slot on a development slate is also 'doing research online.' You need to figure out the most effective way to wield what you learn, which varies from situation to situation and project to project. So what's the best way to approach researching your project? Perhaps even more importantly, what are the most effective strategies for deploying the tool of research to further your writing career?

Michael Sonnenschein is a long-time and practiced TV writer who has been staffed on shows like The CW’s 90210, NBC’s political conspiracy thriller CRISIS the original, and the groundbreaking syndicated comedy reality series BLIND DATE. Michael began his career as part of the Disney/ABC Television Fellowship after working as a freelance journalist and reporter for publications like the Village Voice, GQ, LA Weekly and elsewhere. He has also developed and sold several series and pilot pitches; current projects include an unannounced series at a streaming service adapting a novel set in the little-known violent aftermath of the American Revolution, a revisionist history of the Roman Empire, and a legal thriller set in Washington, DC. Michael has been able to sell his projects through his careful use of research and knows the steps to take to get research on your side.

Using real Hollywood examples and projects from his own past, Michael will teach you the most effective research strategies for any project you’re working on. He will focus on the specific research processes for writing your own project, pitching to studios and execs, and serving on a TV writers room staff. He’ll also discuss how to make sure your research doesn't backfire and weigh down your pitch, bog down your story, or annoy your showrunner-- all of which happen more often than people realize. He will reveal unusual and little-known research sources that will yield material Google won't show you. He’ll also dive into how to gain research from the real world-- unconventional ways to find out about things, researching through experience, and how to get interview subjects to open up and give you the real stuff you need to tell the story you want to tell.

 

 

"Every project I've sold, and every writing sample that's gotten me a job, has involved research, and I think that's the norm. But when writers treat research as a blunt instrument, it's often ineffective or even counter-productive. I'll share some specific tools and tactics I use in this underdiscussed part of being a working writer in Hollywood."

-Michael Sonnenschein

What You'll Learn

  • What Kind of Research Do Writers (in Hollywood) Need to Do?
  • What to Always Keep in Mind When You Start the Research Process
  • The Main Modes of Research
    • Wide net idea hunting
    • In-script
    • Period/Historical scripts
  • Best General Research Practices
    • Keeping the story and characters in mind
    • Why less is more only when you have the ‘right’ less
    • How you know when you’ve found what you’re looking for
    • Synecdoche of research materials
    • Varying sensory modes
    • The 12 page rule
    • Avoiding the gimcrack
  • Researching for Your Pitch
    • Finding your hook
    • Preparing for the Q&A after the pitch
    • Michael’s own examples
  • Researching for a Writers’ Room
    • Why you need to proceed carefully
    • Reading the room, literally
    • Researching your own hobby-horses
    • The special case that is procedural television
  • Non-Google Online Resources You Can and Should Use
  • Real World Research
    • Real world sources- when you need them and how to find them
    • How to approach people and get them to talk
    • Michael’s slightly sneaky trick
  • Closing Thoughts
  • Q&A with Michael

 

About Your Instructor

Michael Sonnenschein is a long-time and practiced TV writer who has been staffed on shows like The CW’s 90210, NBC’s political conspiracy thriller CRISIS the original, groundbreaking syndicated comedy reality series BLIND DATE. Michael began his career as part of the Disney/ABC Television Fellowship after working as a freelance journalist and reporter for publications like the Village Voice, GQ, LA Weekly and elsewhere. He has also developed and sold several series and pilot pitches; current projects include an unannounced series at a streaming service adapting a novel set in the little-known violent aftermath of the American Revolution, a revisionist history of the Roman Empire, and a legal thriller set in Washington, DC. Michael has been able to sell his projects through his careful use of research and knows the steps to take to get research on your side.

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