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The Audience is Listening

I was recently reading through a digital filmmaking magazine that was talking about the exploration of the term “HDTV” and what it’s meant over the past 75 or so years. In a nutshell, the term “HDTV” has been applied to every improvement in television since 1929, so making it only slightly less antique that the term “television” itself. However, as I read past the opening paragraphs, the writer proceeded to list exhaustive figures about lines of resolution and refresh rates, without explaining anything he was talking about. I’m fairly well educated on HDTV and I found my brain swimming. It was as though the writer had completely lost track of his audience, or perhaps he had simply transformed his audience in his mind from digital filmmakers to televisual engineers.

A while before that, I was leafing through a periodical for filmmakers who were students in college. I figured that they probably covered some of the same topics we do here at Microfilmmaker Magazine, assuming they were trying to especially help beginning filmmakers. With that in mind, I found an article on how to audition actors for your next film and began to read. To my shock, it had nothing to do with auditioning for a student or even an Indie film, instead it explained how you were supposed to audition folks if you were on a Hollywood film. I stared at the magazine in complete confusion. What sort of student filmmaker has Hollywood’s budget behind him for making his student film? (And, no this, was not a publication created by and for UCLA’s film school!)

Of course, this issue is not just about magazines and periodicals losing track of their “target demographic.” Many Independent filmmakers of all stripes have completely lost sight of their audience, as they proceed to create the audio visual equivalent of self-stimulation. Don’t get me wrong, I think you need to make films you are passionate about, as that passion is necessary to keep you going through the long months--and, at times, years--of making a film. However, you must remember that your vision must make sense to an objective audience! It’s got to tell a story or show a vision that another human being can understand. If you lose that understanding, then you might as well save yourself the effort and stress of making a movie and simply write your ideas in your diary.

However, just being aware that you have an audience and who that audience is isn’t enough. You must make decisions that benefit and make sense to that audience.

For example, when we first started this magazine, we wanted it to appeal to all filmmakers, but we targeted one group that had no other resources on the web as our main audience. That group consists of filmmakers who have little to no formal training, making low budget films financed by whatever money they can raise themselves. Because that was our audience, we made goals about what we would include that would benefit that audience:

  1. We would review equipment that would be affordable to low-budget filmmakers, and specifically look at the value of everything we reviewed from the perspective of a filmmaker with $30,000 or less for a film.

  2. We would write and reprint filmmaking articles that people with no training could read and understand clearly.

  3. We would critique films so that new filmmakers could learn from their mistakes and from the mistakes of others. Because others would read the critiques to learn--often without the ability to see the film that was being critiqued--each critique need to be perfectly understandable to folks who have never seen the movie.

While there are more rules than this which govern our thinking at Microfilmmaker Magazine, these give you an idea of the concept of making choices that benefit your target audience. Now, I’m not saying we succeed in these goals every time or that there aren’t some folks who might get confused by our writings, but we always aim for these goals. If you don’t aim for goals that are associated with who your audience really is, then you’ll always lose sight of who they are.

With that in mind, as you begin to work on your next film, ask yourself who your audience is. And once you’ve decided that, put a real face on the people who make up that audience! Think of friends who are like those in your audience and write the film you’re passionate about so that it would make sense to them! If you do that, then you are telling a story to folks who haven’t heard it before, but who are interested in sticking around for the ending!

God Bless,

Jeremy Hanke
Microfilmmaker Magazine

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