Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who's Your Audience?

When I'm The Audience - My hair stylist, Lauren, moved to a salon in far north Dallas last month and since I don't like driving an hour and fifteen minutes in traffic for a thirty minute haircut, I had to find another stylist and here we go again.

It's the same thing over and over every time my stylist graduates college or moves on to a salon I either don't want to pay for or drive to -- your layers are too fluffy, your bangs are outdated, you need highlights, you don't need highlights, ever considered a perm? Regardless of my style, cut, color, or length, the new stylist knows best. Ha.

Here's the deal, girlie. I'm not out to compete with runway models or bag a man. I just want to look in the mirror without hating you.

STYLIST: But your hair is so -- so--

ME: Charlie's Angels?

STYLIST: No, they had straight cuts.

ME: Wrong angels.

My mirror is my audience. Not my co-workers or even those construction site guys who don't whistle as often as they did when I was twenty. Me. I'm the audience.

When I'm Not the Audience - My ladies ensemble sings all over the place. One of the first things we ask when selecting our music is "who is our audience?". Even for something like a fourth of July picnic, we must know the audience. We can't just sing any patriotic song. It doesn't work that way. Singing in front of an audience can feel like singing in your underwear but singing the wrong music in front of an audience is like singing the Texas fight song while sitting on the OU side --- in your underwear. We need to know two things --

(1) who is the audience and

(2) timing of that audience.

If we have an audience of ranchers and rodeo cowboys, we know the tired ol' "God Bless the USA" is gonna be a huge hit no matter what time of the year. If we have an audience of young adults, "God Bless the USA" is gonna be a drag unless the timing is right like during the high period of patriotism after the World Trade Center fell. Meanwhile, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" is always going to be a hit with WW2 era senior adults and never going to get more than a few polite claps and crickets if we perform it in front of an audience of twenty somethings.

Who's Your Audience? - Yeah, it's a no-brainer question, but many writers don't know who they are writing their screenplay for. I'm just guessing here, but I think most of these aspiring screenwriters who can't answer the question "who's your audience?" are some of the ones who never went to film school. I'm not dissing them for not going to film school. I didn't go either. But how are they going to pitch the story if they don't know who the audience is?

I read a portion of a screenplay a week ago but before I started it, I asked, "who's your audience?" The reply was "I don't know. I just wrote a good story." I suppose that could be true. Maybe it's a very good story and we can figure out later whether it's a coming of age thing or something middle aged single men will watch. But if producers have to know who is going to watch a film before they make it, shouldn't writers know who is going to watch the film before they write it? Can you really wait until you're ready to market your screenplay before you figure out who you're marketing to?

Forgetting Your Audience - My lady's group recently asked a former Mavericks dancer to choreograph something for us. She's stunning, talented, personable, and has a gift for figuring out what works. We gave her a CD, told her who our audience was (no cheesecake stuff), and what our physical limitations are (no splits). Most of what she wrote for us worked. But we were afraid our conservative audience might not respond well to a few the moves that seemed too seductive.

"Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry" she said, "I forgot who your audience was."


wcdixon said...

Could working with the choreographer be like working with a story editor (who might be on several projects at same time)? You take from them the suggestions that work and help and so on, but let yourself (or lady's group) be the ultimate judge of who your audience is, and make sure you don't forget them...and then modify accordingly?

ECHenry said...

Like your funny take on hair stylists, Marry An. Almast sarcasm, not quite.

I've written 6 screenplays to date, and the only one I spent any real time thinking about who my auidence was, was a teen comedy I wrote, "Revenge of the Fat Chicks." The obveous demographic for this is teens, HOWEVER after some thinking, I wanted everyone who ever went to public high school to relate so avoided today's jargon, and focused on common cliques that have existed since the dawn of time. My mom whoese in her mid 50s, and a 15 year old neighbor girl I showed the script to like it.

Keep up the great posts.

Sincerly, your biggest fan in the state of Washington,

E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

MaryAn Batchellor said...

WC, yup. That's about the way it works.

Oh, and for the curious, it took two weeks to learn the choreography and we only made two mistakes - one that nobody noticed and one that resulted in a minor crash. Nobody can say we don't have fun!

The Moviequill said...

or in my case no undies in OU on the Texas side (thank god it wasn't televised)

MaryAn Batchellor said...

So that was you? Sorry about my horns. Hope it healed.

The Moviequill said...

it's amazing what the healing properties of a good salsa can do these days

Fun Joel said...

A correlary to this issue is the problem of people who claim to know who their audience is, but have absolutely no concept that that audience is too small to support the budget that film would require.

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Yikes, Joel, that's a horse of a different color and I'm not qualified to comment but sure would like to know how that happens.