Monday, February 20, 2006

Can I Sell That?

Commercial ideas are the stock and trade of the film business. We don't make pants, we don't service cars, we sell good times. I'm going to do a little primer on this for the next few posts, then circle back around and answer some questions I've received via e-mail.

Basic elements:

Target Audience

The basic parameters for a commercial film are that it services a specific Target Audience. A demographic. Understanding this eases the journey a little bit. I make a certain type of film. My mandate is for films targeting males 25-45 (the real pie chart would say males over 25, but I'm not really interested in making RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, or BASIC INSTINCT 2) and females over 25 (I can't say I'd make DOUBLE JEOPARDY, but I'd definitely make a WAITING TO EXHALE or a STEEL MAGNOLIAS). As a writer, however, I tend to write stories that would appeal to males under 25. Go figure. Clearly, my muse needs to get her head examined. :) Anyway, I know this about me. When I'm pitched ideas, I read screenplays or books, or I go out for a writer meeting (rare so far but that little "sideline" is growing), I know what types of projects I can get through, and what ideas I can sell. I don't believe in the romance of movies like THE NOTEBOOK. I don't get it. I don't follow the genre, the nuances escape me, and when I pitch (or hear pitches) with these types of ideas I can't work up the passion to paint a picture. I can't sell it. I spent a few long, agonizing months when I first gave up my studio gig pitching and hearing comedy ideas. At the time, it made sense to me. I have producer friends who are very versatile and able to sell ideas in many genres. Bully for them. I'm a one-trick, sucker punch pony, and that works for me.

Learning who you are writing for, what your demographic is, takes a little bit of research, some strong intuition and friends who are willing to tell you the truth. Break out a piece of paper and start writing down all the movies you've ever loved. Draw a circle, cut it into quarters labeled 1-4, then, start assigning those films to a quadrant. Some will have more than one label. If you come up with a fairly even spread either you are very versatile or you haven't done it right. Now, this isn't to say you can't reach from say GO to CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, but the exercise is to help you define your core demo, it's also going to help make you more aware of the film elements that target specific demographics. Wash and repeat until you understand how a film like 8 BELOW could be reimagined for each of the four quadrants.

Upcoming posts....

Clear Concept

Sympathetic Protagonist

Worthwhile Journey


rick james said...

wow, you have a lot of great info.. thanks for taking the time and sharing.. i'm a newbie, to this whole thing, but we did manage to finish our little feature... getting our butt kicked in this whole film festival fiasco... i didn't know how political these things are... just like everything else in life, its who ya know.. oh well..

The Film Diva said...

Film festivals are tough. I just spent a few months helping a friend screen tapes for one, and let me tell you, there are tons of indies out there. Plan on getting your tapes out to a lot festivals, there really isn't enough screen time to show every good film submitted at most festivals.