August 1, 2017 at 9:42PM

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Using a survey to craft your film

Currently, I’m making a film about a high school wrestler who struggles with an eating disorder. I thought you guys would get a kick out of this research method I tried.

Now I know a little about wrestling. I came 2nd in conference in 8th grade (humble brag)…

But I wanted to have an idea of the high school wrestling culture before I started scripting my story out.

The worst thing would be to write a 15 page script, then throw it away because it’s not accurate to the topic of my film.

Now here is the Survey Tactic that recently worked crazy well for me.

First, I put together a survey of 5 questions that hit on my general film idea for wrestlers to fill out.

Next, I searched Reddit (an internet website forum with every subculture you could imagine) and I told them about my film and asked for help.

I ended up getting 30 amazing, detailed responses. These are real thoughts from people in that subculture.

Here’s how you can create your own survey.

#1 – figure out the subculture for you film.

What’s your film about? Is it a wedding film? Is it about a dancer? Or maybe a farmer? Figure that out!

Start searching for subreddits. Or use other forum sites. You can even have friends fill out these surveys.

Example for wedding films: you can find a ‘bride’ subreddit and see what shots brides actually want captured. This is going to help you create some killer wedding films.

#2 – Go to google drive and create a survey.

Write up some questions that you have about the type of film your making. Write out questions that would help serve your story.

This is going to allow you to get a jump on your visuals and story before you set your script in stone.

This is especially helpful for documentary work that is covering a specific subculture.

#3 – Sift through those responses.

You might get a lot of responses. Focus on the longer responses.

It means they really put their thoughts and feelings into answering these questions.

Sure, some of the responses will be weak. But you’ll find golden nuggets like this response I got!

"I did, but I had body image issues before wrestling and wrestling actually improved a lot of those while I was active in the sport. Afterwards, I continue to have some but I am 50+ pounds over my competition weight as a senior in high school so there are valid reasons for the body image issues. I am also very short for an adult male in the United States (5'2"), which presents its own body image issues.

I developed patterns of binge eating, particularly when stressed or depressed, sometime as a teenager but was able to prevent binges during the wrestling season unless I was in a situation where it was appropriate to binge (i.e., after weigh-ins, after a tournament finished, end of the season)."

#4 – List out these topics into scenes and moments you can capture.

Take the responses you got and start breaking those responses down into scenes / moments in your film.

Don’t skip this. This is where we actually get value out the information we received.

Because this allows us to tell the truth about that subculture. And that’s what people enjoy most. People laugh at the truth, cry at the truth, and feel the truth.

I'm learning that telling the truth in storytelling works. A trick to do that is by listening first.

What do you guys think about using surveys to tell stories? Obviously it shouldn't replace storyboards or scripting, but do you think this could be helpful?

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