Documentary Question | Research Software

by Abe
(Los Angeles, CA)

I'm researching information for a full-feature historical documentary that spans a period of ten years, with many characters, an enormous amount of official documents and other sources.

I'm looking for research-software/database that will help in the research: keep the information organized; sources; help connect the dots by being able to search dates/facts/people. I'm not computer literate enough to create my own database in Access or other database software, so I'm looking for something that's ready to use.

Any and all ideas are greatly appreciated.

Many thanks.

Comments for Documentary Question | Research Software

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Nov 28, 2016
Look to Academia
by: Jonathan

Years ago, when I was a brain-fried grad student writing a thesis I found Zotero to be very helpful. It's a citation management software - it tracks information and where you found it. It might be a useful tool to organize documentary research as well.

Feb 27, 2015
Research Software
by: Abe

Thank you James for you response to my query. Right now I've begun with Evernote. My plan is that when I have my research done I'll transfer to Scrivner to do the actual writing and compilation of the material.

Once again, thank you.

Feb 24, 2015
by: James, Anchorage Alaska

Hi folks,

I know that some of you have questions regarding your documentary projects and how to keep them organized. Recently I downloaded and installed the trial version of Scrivener into my computer and installed it.

After installing and launching it I was able to locate and import my project from "" into scrivener. The only drawback is that I had to go into the preferences and set it to accept "OpenOffice" files and documents, or they will not import. Scrivener will reject them with an error message until you either convert an OpenOffice document to MS Word, or Apple "iWork Pages."

However, once I set the preferences correctly I easily and seamlessly and easily imported a book that I'm writing into Scrivener. Now granted, Scrivener is a program that is based and designed with writers in mind. However, it has many, many useful features that include, "Scriptwriting, Storyboard Creation and story boarding. Users can also create playwrights and write poetry as well. It's a very easy and intuitive program. In the Scriptwriting feature you are also given a choice to create and write a script for documentary filmmaking. It's an easy program with a cost of only $45US for the download version and it has a free 30 day trial basis and you have access to the full version of the program. If you need or want a script and a way to organize your projects, I strongly recommend this program. When I have the money I am buying the license and optional install CD. Good luck, hope you find this useful. I really like Scrivener. If I didn't I would not say a word about it. Thanks and have fun with your projects...

Jan 23, 2015
great follow-up
by: Desktop Documentaries

Hi Abe,

Many thanks for checking back in with an update. Sounds like you've got an excellent plan with Evernote and Scrivener. Best of luck with your project and if you can, check back again later once you've had a chance to really dive into the software and report back on how it worked for you. I'm sure a lot of other filmmakers are facing the same issues you are with keeping track of all the research and notes.

Jan 23, 2015
Thank you
by: Abe

Thank you so much for your responses. I've received many responses re: Evernote and several suggesting Scrivner. I'm planning to start with Evernote and see how that works. Once I'm ready to put together a script I think I'll move to Scrivner.

Once again, thank you for responding to my inquiry.


Jan 20, 2015
research software
by: Anonymous

Hi, Abe -- those other programs are for scriptwriting mainly. Not so much for keeping track of complex facts. And I doubt a spreadsheet will give you the ease of use you will want. -- I can not recommend Evernote strongly enough. They have a free version, but you will likely want the paid one, which is still a fair deal. It is very searchable,; allows direct linking to websites, audio notes & more; can be organized by folders & tags as you prefer. It is well worth the time to learn how to use. Also, if I may say, you will want to become more computer-confident in order to juggle so many facts, schedules, etc. You can always hire an intelligent high schooler to handle your data, & give you lessons! For complex research & film production, software really gets the job done more easily & accurately than paper (& I love paper). Gd luck!

Jan 09, 2015
by: Faith

Hi Abe,

Try going directly to the Storyist website:

Also, Celtx is another production management tool that may offer what you're looking for:

Hey, so if any of these end up being helpful, will you check back here and share what you learned?

Jan 08, 2015
by: Abe


Thanks so much for the information. Storyist is not available at this time, but Scrivner is and I'm going to look into it.

Once again, thank you.


Jan 08, 2015
Have you tried scriptwriting software?
by: Faith

Hi Abe,

Have you looked into scriptwriting software such as Scrivener or Storyist? I haven't used them myself, but a producer for PBS's Frontline told me he has used both of those software programs and likes them both. I've heard they are super helpful in organizing material and then turning all that scattered information into a script.

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