17 October 2009

The Non-Refundable Transaction



The theatre/multiplex experience is a combination of several transactions.  An invitation is exchanged, "Wanna go see this flick?" and accepted.  Carbon emissions are exchanged through transport.  Space is occupied by the car in the parking lot.  Money is exchanged for the tickets.  Money is exchanged again for gummi bears, Twizzlers, popcorn and soda. Walking is exchanged for sitting.  Light is exchanged for dark.  Patience is exchanged for incessant advertising and previews.

Then the film starts, and the most important transaction takes place.  The single most important investment people make in our art.  The one that they can't get back if they don't like it.

Their time.

Novels can be put down.  Skimmed backwards.  Stopped at each chapter and picked up at a different time.  For the two hours plus that the respective kabooses of our audience members are stationed in those uncomfortable theater seats - there's no pause for commercial interruption.  No piss breaks - unless you want to miss potentially key elements of the story. 

Am I saying that we have to make our art for the audience?  Not at all.  What I'm saying is that our art better be worth their time.

Instead of asking ourselves, "would I like to see this?" we should consider the question "would I be pissed off if I spent two hours watching this?"  If the answer is anything less than "not at all," you've got some serious work to do.

The above statements don't include the initial monetary investment of film financiers, of production companies, of marketing people.  Of the blood, sweat, and tears of your crew.  The investment of time away from your family.  Of time spent going grey over the smallest minutiae of detail.  Of the crew's time away from their families.   Of your family's time putting up with you during the process.

In other words - make sure that what you dedicate years of your life to is damn well worth it.  Not only to those you bring on to help you realize the vision, but to those who will ultimately make the investment of taking time out of their lives to see your vision.

The greatest gift we can give our audience is the realization, maybe five minutes after the last credit, maybe five days later, that "that flick was time well spent."

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