Sunday, May 10, 2009
Ted Hope on Respect for your Audience
Film is a dialogue between the audience and the screen, and like an individual, film can talk down to its audience or ignore its audience’s needs. Respect is an equal relationship and in film it is reflected by the creative team indicating that they don’t think the audience is a bunch of fools or unwilling to work for a deeper and richer experience.
After 100 years of filmmaking, most audiences recognize that a handgun introduced in the first act will most likely go after in the third. Audiences know that an overt close-up at the end of a shot sequence means that the subject is important or will be important in an unexpected way. Filmmakers who don’t acknowledge our shared cinematic language demonstrate a lack of respect for an audience.
Since audiences generally have seen many films, to not show them something new, make them feel something new, or think of something in a new way, demonstrates a disrespect of the audience’s time and investment. Movies have to do more than just get made or made with high technical standards; they have to aspire to taking us somewhere not just new, but something that will provoke us beyond the common place conclusions of the concept.
Studios and financiers frequently ask filmmakers “who is the audience?” in regards to a project, and they never want to hear “everybody”. They expect to have a clearly defined group whom they know how to reach and communicate with, but even this demonstrates the beginning of a disconnect with the true nature of any community. Nobody likes to be defined as a specific demographic. One of the true joys of cinema is that it speak to the expansiveness of the human spirit. Sure we have our favorite things, but generally what we initially respond to, are just a few of them initially – film can expose a greater part of ourselves, and filmmakers willing to do this, show the greatest respect for an audience. A movie does not have to be a singular tone. It does not have to fit firmly within the dictates of a specific genre. Great movies do not require that all the lead characters are people we “love” and “sympathize” for. We show audiences respect when we recognize that everyone likes to experience new things and recognize them as part of themselves.- Ted Hope