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Sunday 15 March 2009

The Defining Character - The Audience.

When you go to see a stand-up comedian the role of the audience is crucial. Whether the night is good or bad is often completely dependent on the quality of the audience. If they're up for a laugh and energetic, that will help the performer. It's the same for a band. When Counting Crows played Brixton Academy in 2002 they said they 'Blew off the roof' -- the perfect fusion of a band on form, in a great venue with thousands of fans who were full of energy. But you assume a film is just a film, It'll play the same anywhere. But in my experience, that is anything but true.

I remember when I saw 'Superbad' in the cinema - we all thought it was absolutely hilarious, a wonderful comedy that all us twentysomething guys could relate too. But a few months later when I watched it with my girlfriend, that magic wasn't there. It wasn't just that my girlfriend at the time didn't like it, but I didn't either - as I watched it, nothing seemed funny. It was as if I had seen the film performed live for me twice, but the second performance wasn't as strong.

Is a good movie always a good movie? When I first watched 'Funny Ha Ha' and 'Mutual Appreciation' I thought they were works of genius, but when I watched them with someone else they lost all of that magic.

Sometimes the reasons are due to technical things - for example, 'Cloverfield' is going to be a lot better in a cinema packed with eighty people than at home with just you and your DVD player. But more often than not - it seems like the energy of the audience can dictate how the film performs. It's entirely possible the same film never plays twice. A strange concept.

I have noticed this as a Director, too. I have screened my films in many different places -- and I've come to learn that it's not just about demographics and finding the right audience, it's also about how well the film plays. There have been times when I have sat there proudly as my work of art plays on the screen, everyone has been mesmerisesd and completely taken in by my work. The actors look great, the jokes are hilarious, and my writing glistens. But on other occasions, within seconds of the credits starting I have sunk back into my seat just wanting to hide from everyone. The scenes are long and boring, the comedy is predictable and stupid and my writing seems amateur. This is just based on how I feel when watching it, but my fears are usually confirmed afterwards when people tell me what they think. I've never had the same reaction twice.

So I don't know, it's a bit of a weird theory - and I don't want to get all hippy on you with metaphysics and 'energy' -- but I'd be interested to know your thoughts on the subject. Is a film just a film? Does it play the same wherever it goes?


  1. When I watch a film and feel strongly about it, that doesn't change, whatever the setting. However, I would rather watch them in a quiet place. Theatres irritate me. It's rare for me to go to a movie and watch the whole thing without threatening to bludgeon someone. Yeah...issues.

  2. Yeap, agree! Different settings, different company, the mood of the day...all of them effect how you feel about a movie. That doesn't necessarily take away or add to the merits or demerits of a movie tho. What is there is still there!