Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Don't Pitch to Buyers, Pitch to the Audience - Part Two

Part 1 is here.

Screenwriter and novelist William Goldman says, "In Hollywood, nobody knows anything."  By this he means that nobody knows what's good until the audience has its say.  Comedian Jerry Seinfeld says, "Audiences will teach you what's funny about you."

While business people will judge your ideas, their judgment is just a guess until the audience gets a look.  While a creator may feel strongly about an idea, that feeling is no better than a guess as well.  The success or failure of an idea rests with the audience and until its judgment is known, the outcome is just speculation.

Creators should  focus on pleasing audiences rather than focus on pleasing buyers.  If you want to date someone, approach the person you want to date.  Why spend time romancing the person's parents?  They may love you, but they can't force their son or daughter to love you.

What engages the audience and what do they remember?  Characters.  People are still creating stories about Hercules and Robin Hood.  Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan are now more than a hundred years old, yet they still have name value and are the basis for movies and TV shows.  Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo, Homer Simpson, and Spongebob Squarepants are characters created for animation that are recognizable to the average person.

Chris Meledandri, producer of Ice Age and the Despicable Me films says, "We start with strong characters and build the movie from there."

At the talk I gave at Animatic T.O, I showed stills from four films that won Best Animated Short at the Oscars since the year 2000.  Nobody in an audience made up of animation professionals and students recognized all four films.  There's no chance that a person on the street would.  While these films tell engaging stories, none of them create characters that are meant to live beyond the film.  Characters are more memorable than stories.  (For the record, the films were Father and Daughter, The Moon and the Son, The House of Small Cubes and The Lost Thing.)

It's important to understand that just as creators and business people see the world differently, so do artists and the average audience.  Artists love looking at art.  Every artist has a shelf full of books whose images serve as inspiration and that provide hours of browsing pleasure.  It's a hard truth, but audiences don't care about art or animation.  They want characters that entertain them.  Want proof?
Even beginning artists can draw and animate as well as South Park.  The majority of professionals can draw and animate better.  But audiences are not interested in a high level of craft unless it is accompanied by something that entertains them.  Given a choice between art and entertainment, entertainment wins.

To be continued.

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