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January 22 at 8:15am

The Five Crucial Things We Want From Movies

By Ted Hope

IMG_9912What are our expectations when we sit down to watch? How strong are they? Are these expectations actually demands? Will we be punished if we don’t fulfill them?

I think there are universal hopes all audiences have for cinema each and every time they sit down to watch.  When we fail to provide them, people start to lose faith in our product. We need to keep this promises front and center when we create new movies. Many do, some don’t. Which side do you want to be on?

I recognize that this may feel a bit “back to the basics” or even obvious.  Yet, I can’t even begin to list the number of times I have left unfilled. I recognize great cinema does a lot more than these five too.  I have made my lists of all I want from cinema. I encourage you to do likewise, but mostly I want us all to keep these five essential needs at the forefront of our endeavors:

  • Take me somewhere I have never been. The discovery can be a place, person, or thing. It can be beauty or an aesthetic. It can be emotion or thought. It just needs to feel fresh, original, or somehow new.
  • Make me feel. This needs to be authentic, not manipulative. Sadness is perhaps the easiest to deliver, perhaps alongside fear. It grows increasingly challenging to deliver more complex emotions.
  • Help me understand this issue/world a little better. And this needs to be for myself — don’t just tell me.  I want to walk away with this new found knowledge as part of myself.
  • Deliver fun and surprises. Chills and giggles. Beauty and desire.
  • A transformative experience. This can be either for the viewer or for the characters on screen (and thus potentially replicated by the viewer too).

Without these things, what are we delivering? Without these things, how can we unlock the inherent utility of cinema?


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50 Comments

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  1. cj / Jan 22 at 8:15am

    Audiences seem to want a combination of something they haven’t seen in a long time and something they’ve never seen before.

  2. George Romo / Jan 22 at 8:15am

    Hi Ted,

    Welcome to LA.

    I wanted to say I really enjoyed your book. A lot of good things about it. So thank you.

    I didn’t know where else to write this but I had a question (actually I have several but this one will do for now) that I’ve been fielding to friends and peers alike, which you sort of touched upon in the last few chapters in your book and that is about a new financing structure for independent film or film in general.

    Now i’m not a producer so I don’t know the in’s and out’s of how it all works but you talk about adapting models from other realms such as using social media as a way to see audience strength for a certain project which could tell of how much money could be made back on a film. What do you think about adapting what the independent music model has been doing for the last decade, if not decades, or so with self promotion. Kevin Smith did it with his movie RED STATE where he traveled around to cities and sold the film to theaters.

    How about being able to not only do that but package films so that A)it makes people want to come to the theaters B) allows for possible revenue made by merchandise. I always see bands now selling pre-orders of special edition vinyls along with different other goodies and the digital download of that album. What if along with the audience following, filmmakers were able to market their films as well, with merchandise in order to have that audience following feel more connected? You see things like the Alamo Drafthouse team up with the artist collective Mondo and make special edition posters for the movies that they are selling. So what if filmmakers did this? Instead of vinyls its DVD’s/Blu-rays and posters and T-Shirts. Shane Carruth did it himself and showed that just marketing and selling your film online can be done. So if we took these models of indy music along with social media don’t you think indy filmmakers would have a better opportunity to finance and recoup money themselves instead of relying on investors so heavily? Thoughts?

    Thanks again.

  3. Nigel / Jan 22 at 8:15am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The reasons I watch films and review them for that matter is partly due to the points you raised. I do wonder though how some studio execs could allow some of the films I’ve watched to be released. Then I question whether the exec asks themselves the same questions or do they ask ‘Is there a market for this, can we make our money back?’ It seems a lot of the time it’s the latter.

  4. Stan / Jan 22 at 8:15am

    Absolutely agree. It is amazing to me how many films lack the simple elements you listed here.

  5. john / Jan 22 at 8:15am

    Pretty spot on! Though the last one isn’t absolutely necessary, sometimes people just want to watch something quick and entertaining. I sure didn’t watch Expendables seeking an epiphany, but you’re definitely right in saying that the best films do just that.

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  47. Mark Wagner / Jan 22 at 8:15am

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