Think About Your Audience…

Rewrites. 

A word that sends a shiver down the spine of most writers.

Not me. But I’m a bit weird like that.

I’ve just done what I hope is the final rewrite on With A Little Help From Our Friends. I’m not planning on doing any more until I’ve locked in what’s actually happening with it, but for now, it’s pretty much good to go. I read it for the first time in a few months and realised that something was missing. It took me awhile focusing on other things in the script – and, admittedly, a lot of the notes I made were more directorial than writer-focused which was an exciting twist on the usual process – before I realised what it was.

I was putting the audience in the wrong position in the beginning.

When I get to a certain stage in a script, I find it really helps push the story to think about who the audience is going to click with and who you want them to click with. For instance, if you’re writing a mystery film, you’re NOT going to reveal the killer in the first scene and so the audience clicks with the detective character. If you’re writing an action flick, you want them to click with the hero, not the villain. Or perhaps the damsel in distress character and then the hero comes in and sweeps her/him off to safety and they race away together.

In most scripts, there is a character who is essentially representing the audience. It isn’t always the same character either – it varies. Shakespeare did it: the character who identifies the characters, who doesn’t quite understand what’s going on, the one who is in the same position as the audience and asks the questions they can’t. In movies, it’s often the protagonist – they discover the rules of the world at the same time as the audience. It has become a lot more subtle (usually) since Shakespeare, but consider how you want your audience to feel in each scene and push that emotion as far as you can.

The audience is the most important thing you’ve got to focus on as a filmmaker.

After all, if you’ve got no audience, you’ve not really got much of a film.

6 thoughts on “Think About Your Audience…

  1. Paul Berry says:

    Nice piece Alli, yeah we can easily get locked into our own scripts that it is easy to forget about the audience, which character are they relating to? I find getting a few friends I can trust for constructive critism to read through from a viewers point of view helps. Forcing myself to do that also helps me focus on all aspects of the script.
    I have a question for you; When writing shorts do you try to stick to a 3 act structure like for features or do you stick to a simpler structure due to time constraints? I’ve written a few shorts and spent a long time on my first feature script which I am rewriting to make sure it flows well. Any resources you could recommend fo writing short film scripts?
    Thanks, Paul Berry

  2. Alli Parker says:

    @Paul Berry

    Thanks for your comment, Paul. Feedback is really important – I’ll be touching on that in the next few weeks.

    As for your question on three act structure in shorts, I think almost every story has it in some capacity or another. In features, it’s bigger and encompasses more. In shorts, it has to be much simpler. Thinking about it, almost all of my scripts use it – short or long. But if your story is complicated in a short, your three act structure will be crammed with information. You need to strip it back.

    If you look here, these are all my previous posts on structure of short films. Otherwise, just watch a lot of them. They’re all over the place these days. Find ones you like and figure out why they work and find ones you don’t like and figure out why they don’t.

    Good luck with your hunt! Let me know if you find anything useful.

    Alli

  3. Shams says:

    Congrats on getting your rewrite done. I’m deeply intrigued! I hope it’s good. If you need a second opinion, let me know.

    Re your comment about “got no audience” you have to be SURE not to confuse that with “got no market” – eg my stuff has a LOT of audiences, in less well-off places like stockwell, brixton, parts of clapham, london bridge, and other less ‘pro-establishment’ zones where people love my politics (and so love the jokes) – and this extends to a lot of renegades/rebels i know from public schools – the chomskys and paxmans (or is that chomskies and paxmen?), but of course the same stuff is NOT acceptable to any ‘market’ of (eg) itv, bbc, murdoch. Then again, nowadays I am able to get people who are the audience to watch it on the web, get revenue off it and so create new markets. I’m sure it’s not really what you meant, but it’s good to watch for it. A lot of egomaniac writers tend to think of ‘market’ as audience – market = big name for you. Audience = lots of moved people who love your work, and make you feel amazing.

    Hope your rewrite proves to be the one that tells your story the way you want to!

    Shams

  4. Paul says:

    Thanks Alli, interesting that almost all your short scripts use the three act structure – is that planned at your pre-writing stage or just naturally occuring in your story telling?

    Anyway, I’ll browse through the rest of your posts here and watch more shorts. When I’ve tried to watch short films in the past, I’ve not found many to be very inspiring, there must be some out there! Any recommendations welcome. Best of luck with yours!
    Kind Regards
    Paul

  5. Alli Parker says:

    @Shams

    An interesting point re: market vs audience. But even if you know people who have the same sense of humour as you, it doesn’t matter if you’re not telling the story right. People will turn it off in the first ten minutes, get bored or disinterested if you get too sucked into your own work and can’t see the forest for the trees. Making a film without thinking about the audience is like making a dress without thinking about the girl who is going to wear it. You have an idea of what it’s going to look like, but if you don’t target the right girls, then people aren’t going to buy your dress.

    Metaphorically speaking, of course.

  6. Alli Parker says:

    @Paul

    Not a conscious decision to continually use three act structure on my part, it happens organically for me.

    A few of my posts of structure use examples of shorts that might be worth having a look at. But even the ones that aren’t inspiring you, figure out why they aren’t. Sometimes it’s even more valuable to figure out why something isn’t working to do the opposite in your own work.

    Alli

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