#screenwriting #film #genre
Years ago I attended a conference held by The British Board of Film Classifcation (BBFC). It was a very interesting - and of course the notion of film censorship reared its head. Since the majority of us in the room were students, many of us expressed outrage that censorship existed at all; we claimed that as artists we should be “trusted” to make the “right” stuff. The chap speaking – I’m afraid I don’t remember who it was – accepted our point with the weariness of someone who had had this point put to him OVER AND OVER again and made the very good counterpoint:
“Is it actually the makers or the audience who is important here?”
I didn’t know what he meant at the time, I just remember writing this, circling it and adding “WTF?” in bright neon pink letters next to it with the highlighter I had bought especially for the occasion. Then I promptly forgot all about it.
Fast forwards approximately a decade and I know EXACTLY what that guy from the BBFC whose name I cannot remember means:
It’s the audience that is important.
Without a shadow of a doubt. Here’s why: without an audience, nothing we write or make matters. NOTHING. And yes, this includes niche as well as mass audiences. Basically, as long as you have an audience, however small, what you do matters. Without an audience, we are shouting into the wind.
Well, durr: you say. That’s obvious. But is it? After all I have already written countless times on this blog about the specs that don’t have a discernible audience, thus lack an identity. I have also written about how Hollywood knows its audience very well and caters for them, despite being maligned for it (and the audience being maligned too). I have even written about how there are *obvious* elements that take movies out of various audiences’ reach, like excessive swearing.
What I have NOT written about is WHAT an audience wants can CHANGE and not only that, our RESPONSE changes to that AS WELL.
Let’s take a movie as a case study: BEETLEJUICE. This movie came out in 1988 when I was approximately 8 or 9 years old. The movie was rated 15, but my parents were liberal and besides, it looked pretty fun with a cartoonish Michael Keaton on the front, a house and a spooked Geena Davis and headless Alec Baldwin, where’s the…….”