Keeping an eye on the audience...



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  • Keeping an eye on the audience...

    A conversation sprung up between Ravenlocks and myself. There is a slight disparity between my observation of how an audience reacts, and what is probably expected of them.

    As a fumble brained newbie clutzing his way around trying to learn one thing and another it seems to me that audience watching should be one of the tools a script writer keeps in their tool box and it should work well on many levels.

    Even the worst movie can have a scene that grabs the audience, even the best might have something that loses them.

    Is audience watching a good solid tool ?

    If it contradicts prevailing opinion, which should you choose ?

    What do you think can be gained from audience watching ?

    How much should audience watching influence your script ?

  • #2
    A skilled story teller can use the audience's preconceptions and expectations to manipulate them. Stories succeed and fail based on our ability to know what scares or thrills or is romantic or exciting to an audience and use that to inform our story and manipulate the audience. Hitchcock was a master at this, consider how amazing the death or Marion Crane was not because of the way it was shot but the pure manipulation of audience expectations are what made that scene so powerful and Psycho a true classic.

    Know Your Audience is one of the sacred commandments for all story tellers.

    Leo also touched on this recently when he said he writes for a big audience not only a few people. This brings up a very important related issue. If you expect people to invest a lot of money into making your film and you expect a lot of people to spend money to see it, it better appeal to them and not just to yourself or your close circle of friends.


    • #3
      Another aspect of this is something a friend and I were talking about just the other day... you have to know 1) your audience's 'ew' factor. What will turn them off SO completely they will turn away and not look back?

      but even more so 2) it's okay to make your audience uncomfortable, but you better have a good reason for it. If you want to bend their perceptions of what is acceptable you have to make them want it, or understand it.


      • #4
        It's all about the audience.
        It's all about structure.

        It's the same thing. Structure is based on what the audience expects in a story. Everything, from the structure of the acts to plot points to scene sequences to a protagonist with a goal to a strong antagonist to setups and payoffs exists only to satisfy the audience. Truly understand all the nuances of screenwriting structure and you will understand what the audience wants. In other words, "current generally accepted" screenplay structure is the answer to what satisfies the current audience.

        It will be the (gradual) changing needs of the audience that will make it necessary for the structure to evolve.


        • #5
          Print out these posts from writestuff and twobrads. They're keepers.


          • #6
            Thank you all for answering this.

            I think it is pretty well memorized.

            A lot of things don't stick in my head too well, but when it comes to things about writig, almost everything sticks to the wall.


            • #7
              TwoBrad's post above is one of the best i have ever seen here on DD.

              All of you who read screenwriting books would probably need to plod through a whole chapter and try to filter out the essentials.

              Here on DD it comes neatly packaged as a single paragraph