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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Power of Google

One of my favorite parts of the screenwriting process is the research phase. I've always been someone who loves to learn, and find interesting elements in nearly any subject matter. This may be partially responsible for the way in which I read nearly anything (for my reading jobs) equally well (I think) -- scripts of any genre, novels, books on historical events, biographies, plays, magazine articles, treatments, partial manuscripts, whatever. You name it, I've probably been paid to read it. (Okay, no one's paid me to read a ketchup bottle label... yet. But I have gotten paid to read comic books!) Again, this is in keeping with my Enneagram or Myers-Briggs types (and my horoscope sign, Aries, if you believe in all that).

So when I research a new screenplay, I dive into the task voraciously, reading as much as possible on any topic even remotely related, gleaning details that may somehow find their way into my script. And of course, one of my favorite tools for research (though certainly not my sole source), is Google. I know I'm not really saying anything new here, and that most of you probably Google (don't you love the way it became a verb?) frequently. But even still, sometimes people overlook the simple things when it comes to their screenwriting, and need a reminder. So here it is!

I think of this now because of something that happened to me just yesterday, which shows that even I, who makes widespread and frequent use of Google, still overlook it at times. You may have noticed that I've been a bit quiet the last few days on here. That's because on Friday morning last week, my computer died. Or, as it turned out, was thankfully merely comatose. Yep, it crashed. Big surprise, eh? Yes, I use Windows, and yes I despise Microsoft. So anyway, I only had sporadic computer access via OPC's (Other People's Computers). Then I called a computer geek (and I say that with the utmost respect and love) friend last night. He was unfamiliar with the specific error I was encountering, but made a novel suggestion:
Google it!
Duh! So I typed the specific error message into Google and was presented with a slew of message board postings on just this topic! I followed some instructions, and am not quite sure what I did (I'm no technophobe, but I'm also no geek -- quite comfortable on the computer, but not super familiar with all of its inner workings), and in fact, the guy who posted the solution I used wasn't sure why it worked either. But regardless, I'm back on my own, cozy computer, and happy to be writing away.

So use that Google! It's a damn fine research tool! I had already been using it (just before my comp crashed) to get lots of great background info for the script I'm co-writing. And I found tons of good stuff, just sitting there begging to be read. So I recommend you do the same!

And just so this isn't a complete fluff piece, here's a small tip I like to give people. It is simple but very frequently overlooked by even those who sit in front of a computer all day long. Whenever I'm surfing the web, and particularly when I've Googled something, I use the following technique to help remain focused on the initial topic, not lose my train of thought, and even save a bit of time. I open all links in new windows. Then, when I'm done reading what I had opened, I just close the window, and I'm right back where I was. No need to keep hitting back on the browser. Especially in a Google search this is great, because you can simply check each returned web page, and only keep open (or minimize) those ones that are relevant.

For those who don't know how to do this, by the way, in Windows you simply right click on the link instead of left clicking it. You'll see a number of options, including "Open Link in New Window" (or in "new tab" if you're using a new enough browser). I'm certain you can do this in Mac too, but don't ask me what you do, because I'm simply not cool enough to be a Mac user!


Anonymous Neil said...

When I find useful information on google, I always lose track of it. I've been using Onfolio (http://www.onfolio.com/) as a great way to quickly save full web pages, even snippets that I put into folders. It's also an rss reader. I find it a great help when I'm researching a project (for us unorganized types).

8:00 PM  
Anonymous JP said...

Just wanted to say this is my first view of your blog and I found it both entertaining and educational. Best of luck on all of your endeavors Joel, JP

10:17 PM  
Blogger Alex Epstein said...

Command-click in Safari opens a new tab, if you're lucky enough to own a Mac. Ditto in Firefox.

I do the same thing. Also means I can keep reading this page while loading the rest. A new window obscures what you're reading, but a new tab (assuming you set your options so) opens behind what you're reading.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Vlad said...

If you're using IE on Windows (probably other browsers too) you can just hold SHIFT when you left click to open in a new window instead of fussing with the pop up menu. If you open in a new window as often as I do (and it sounds like you do) it pays off to know the keyboard shortcut!

4:43 PM  

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