Saturday, September 15, 2012


You audiences are tough.

We filmmakers have to sit in the room with you, with our baby on the big screen.

You don't know it, but we listen attentively to every reaction you have to our film.

Why did they laugh there?

Why didn't they laugh at that?

Why aren't they crying at the dramatic finale?

If we are really unlucky, we get to hear your sarcastic comment you think no-one can hear.

Or we can have that amazing moment when you erupt into applause the instant the credits roll.

It's life on a knife edge, especially as audiences grow more and more savvy and refuse to accept anything but great.

Truth be told though, the hardest thing we have to do as filmmakers is take an honest look at our own film. This is an absolutely essential step, to take stock of its strengths and weaknesses.

Assessing your own film honestly is the only way you can start to think about distributing and marketing it, realistically.

If you are not willing to accept that your low budget zombie-apocalypse-coming-of-age-period-drama is anything but an instant Oscar contender, you may have a long and difficult road ahead of you.

We had to do it for the short film I produced, 'The Good Neighbour'. It got us thinking about what Film Festivals we should target and also helped us to understand when we were rejected.

It is a difficult task, that applies to all filmmakers - the big names and the newcomers alike.

Even George Lucas, the legendary Oscar nominated creator of the Star Wars franchise.

Mr Lucas' latest project 'Red Tails' is a high flying blockbuster based on the stories of the American Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African American aviators in the U.S. armed forces.

But Mr Lucas struggled to get the attention of Hollywood distributors for the film. One of the studios didn't even bother to show up to the official preview screening, eliciting this response from Mr Lucas:

“Isn’t this their job?” Lucas says, astonished. “Isn’t their job at least to see movies? It’s not like some Sundance kid coming in there and saying, ‘I’ve got this little movie — would you see it?’ If Steven (Spielberg) or I or Jim Cameron or Bob Zemeckis comes in there, and they say, ‘We don’t even want to bother to see it. . . .’ ”

Lucas goes on to say that he doesn't believe it has anything to do with racism, but simply a lack of understanding from the big players on what makes a successful 'popcorn' film.

But is it that simple?

With all due respect to Mr Lucas, he is one of the greats after all, but could it be that the film is just...ahem...not very good?

It is currently sitting at 39% on film critic site Rotten Tomatoes, and top critic Roger Ebert, among many others, gave it a less than favourable review.

Looking at your film honestly is tough.

Even for the greats.

But films are not inexpensive to make.

And audiences have a lot of other options to entertain them (e.g. high end TV, Youtube, Apps, Games, real life, etc etc) if you are delivering anything but great.

You have to know your film better than anyone and know who your audience is.

It may be tough to judge your baby.

But it's necessary.

- - - - - - - - -