Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Differences Between Audience and Fan Base - Indie Film Terms

     I know we do a lot of ranting and raving here, but we also like to spread knowledge to the indie film world.  There are a ton of film terms that mean the exact same thing in the industry, and it wildly depends on the group / studio that's using them, what region, what country; sometimes even changing on a single set.  There are two terms we often discuss in Development and Pitching that have small but distinct differences: audience and fan base.  They are very closely related but not the same thing.

What's the difference?

     Many filmmakers talk about "building your audience," but that is no longer the case these days.  In the early days of film, it was necessary to expose new genres and types of films to new audiences who have never experienced them - you truly had to build them then.  However, film has been around for over a century and does not fall into the same type of exposure marketing-wise (barring new ways to experience film like 3D, 4D, interactive, VR, etc), especially in the wake of the Digital Age.  As such, audiences are already built into genres.  The most distinctive is the horror genre, which is why it is considered the easiest genre to break out as a new indie production company or director.  As a filmmaker, you do not have to build an audience that enjoys horror; horror fans already know they like horror and will look for new movies in the genre on their own.

     I did use "fans" there, but YOUR fan base is where the terms get hairy.  Although you do not have to build your audience, you absolutely have to build your fan base for your movies.  Your fan base consists of audience members that enjoy your body of work and look forward to your future films; this is absolutely different from general audiences that already enjoy the genre or style of your film.  Whether you are a new director, new production company, or a relative unknown filmmaker, your job is to convert your viewers within your audience into fans that will return to see more of what you've got to offer.  Your "fan base" is essentially your "repeat customers."

     To be clear: your audience does no equal your fan base... EVER!  To assume this is to say that every single person that watches your film (audience) will instantly enjoy it and subsequently become one of your fans afterward. That will never happen (just the nature of the beast), but you can do plenty to increase your chances of retaining your audiences to come back for more later on.  It takes a lot of time, a lot of diligence, and a lot of patience.

How do you build your fan base?

     So how do you convert your target audience into your fan base?  That's a very tricky question.  There are many factors involved including: genre and genre history, story structure, cast, marketing plan / roll-out, distribution, etc.  I can't go into all of these here, but there is a huge one where my team and I always see indie filmmakers and large studios alike fall short: delivering on your marketing promise.

     Have you ever watched a trailer or teaser and became instantly curious to watch a movie?  Of course you have - we all have!  Have you ever gone to see a movie based on the trailer just to be massively disappointed since the trailer had all the best parts of the film?  Another resounding "DUH!"  Now, we need to understand that it is the job of the Trailer Editor to get people to see the film, and, as such, they must find smaller snippets that build anticipation (and never deliver) to get people to want to see them.  Good Trailer Editors know how to do this for the crappiest of films and know how to do it really, really well.  They are separated from the story as they should be, but when a film doesn't deliver to the same hype as the trailer, no audience member bats an eye at the Trailer Editor because it is the filmmaker's responsibility to deliver the promised compelling story.

     Don't fret, though; large studios fail on this huge factor of marketing and delivering a quality product all the time.  It is also why many filmmakers and studios try to compensate with gimmicks: anti plots, non-linear stories, high-end VFX, "action packed," "politically-charged," etc.  Despite what people believe, audiences are more willing to spend money on what they are familiar with like your trailer, teaser, posters, BTS, interviews, and so on, in a genre they are used to.  If you give them a romantic comedy when you've marketed a horror film, then you're in for a rude awakening.  I argue that the disconnect for audiences from becoming die-hard fans is due to this lack of delivery of a quality product that was promised to them in the marketing campaign.  Selling / Pitching as if your product costs higher than what you they are paying is a common and effective marketing practice, but that does not happen if you are flat-out lying about the story.  Your ideal situation to convert audiences into fans is when your end product over-delivers on the expectation of a good product and blows them away; that should always be your goal regardless of budget.

HARD PILL TO SWALLOW: Nobody cares about your budget or the hardships you and your team endured while making your film.  Stop trying to convince people why they need to see your movie when you're talking about it; they only care if it's entertaining - the delivery.

A small but prime example of horrible delivery

     Even something as small as your thumbnail art can make a fantastic case for the effectiveness of marketing, and the subsequent *sad whistle slide* that results from a bad delivery.  My business partner and I experienced this within the past few months.

     We were browsing Hulu for new material.  We came across this amazing looking poster (omitting film name).  It was a sci-fi movie on an abandoned planet occupied with killer robots.  The log line and thumbnail art were intriguing enough to get us to take a look.  The poster / thumbnail looked as if it would have high end VFX included in the film (great marketing).  What played out was one of the most terrible films we've ever seen.  I'm talking about run-down, human-made buildings (brick and mortar) on a supposed unoccupied planet, VFX robots that sometimes walk in front of foreground objects when they're clearly supposed to be behind them, etc; just overall vomit of filmmaking.  Later, we found a very similar poster (I even want to say the SAME poster) as we soon realized the filmmakers (or distributor / marketing team) literally rehashed someone else's poster design with robots, looks, style, and designs that weren't even in the film!  Needless to say, we did not become fans of their work.


     Knowing your target audience is crucial to understanding your market and what they already like to watch.  Funneling audiences to pay to see your genre film should always be your primary goal in your marketing plan and roll-out.  Your long-term goal as an indie filmmaker is to grow your fan base by converting audience members into fans who want to see what else you can create (and, more importantly, deliver) in the future.  Delivering on your promise of a quality product will be what makes or breaks you as an indie filmmaker.  Stay focused on delivering the highest quality of product (within the reasonable deadlines you've set and budget) to these built-in audiences to hopefully convert them into fans.

Written by: J Hooligan

#audience #fanbase #indie #indiefilm #indiefilmterms #buildyouraudience #buildyourfanbase #film #filmterms #distribution #marketing #quality #business #filmbusiness #filmblog #businessblog 

No comments:

Post a Comment