Tuesday, January 05, 2016


So, you're a creative genius.

You know it.

You are an unbridled creative force of nature.

You don't have to listen to anyone.



So very, very wrong.

There is a common misconception among creative types. The creative thinking gurus will bamboozle you with confidence building diatribes about 'protecting your creative vision' and 'the singular focus of the auteur'.


Any person creating something, no matter whether it's food, frocks or films, must think of one group in the process. Not 'should'...'must'.

The audience.

The poor, mistreated and often neglected audience. Forced to sit in a barely-cleaned, musty cinema to watch a film they could be viewing comfortably at home. Overcharged for everything, from the tickets, to the popcorn, to the bucket of ice pretending to be a soft drink, in the process. But trumping all that is how bad 'Let's be Cops' turned out to be. What a dreadful way to end a night out.

And they paid for this experience.

You can ignore advice from your friends. You can disregard the pleasant supportive one-liners from your family. You can even overlook the professional feedback from your peers and colleagues, if you wish.

But discount the audience at your peril.

"The audience are idiots!" you say. "Like Henry Ford said, if it was up to the audience, he would have made faster horses, not cars."

And it is this disdain for the audience, this swollen sense of pride, that is at the heart of the misconception amongst many creatives. They honestly believe the audience has no part in the creative process except showing up for the finished product.

So I tell them: I bought a $21 Hamburger.

Whilst I admit this is a confusing start to an explanation, their short term bewilderment is necessary.

You see, the core of the problem is that many creators confuse the valid question of 'how to execute an idea' with the issue of 'making bad artistic choices by second-guessing the audience'.

The argument goes that the creator should ignore the wants of the audience, and lead them instead to something they didn't even know they coveted. Something great. Something transcendent. In this scenario, making your creative decisions based on guessing the audience's desires is a mortal sin. You must follow your storytelling instincts, instead. The audience will come to you.

And so I tell them again: I bought a $21 Hamburger.

At this point, I will either lose the creator entirely, or they crack and want to know what on Earth I'm talking about.

So, I continue: how did McDonald's know WHAT to make. How did they know to make their first hamburger? 'White Castle' already existed, so how could they be sure that audiences would respond to their new idea?

The answer is, they weren't sure.

The founders of McDonald's went out on a limb based on what they thought was good. That uncertainty is part of the natural risk of creating something. They went with their instincts on WHAT to create.

But the question of HOW the audience will consume their product is different altogether. They could have set up a food truck, a diner, or a five-star restaurant. McDonald's knew they needed to consider their audience and the experience they wanted them to have.

And so the McDonald's hamburger restaurant chain was born. Today, they still serve their ultra-fast $3 cheeseburger.

But I ate a $21 hamburger.

It was delicious through every mouthful. Far superior in taste and experience than the McDonald's version, albeit seven times the price. And there wasn't an empty seat in the restaurant.

Not everyone will pay $21 for a hamburger, for higher quality ingredients, of course. The purveyors have considered their audience, executed an experience that matches, and their audience have responded.

Can your film only be watched in imax? Are there no female characters? Is it just as good on an iphone as a cinema screen. Is it a horror film? Do I get to watch it all at once or in weekly tranches? Will it be a Transmedia experience? Will it be a 90 minute film or a 4 hour epic?

All of these questions are answered by considering your audience, particularly the experience you want them to have. The audience has this important part to play in your creative process.

Love thy audience, for they will help you determine how to execute your idea.

And execution is key.

Otherwise you're just another hamburger.

- - - - - - - - -