About The Audience

The Empty Cinema, by Wolfskin

“It’s a work of fiction. It’s a metaphor.”

This is, apparently, what George Lucas says to people who criticize his work. When they bring up Jar Jar Binks, nuking the fridge or the complete dehumanization of Star Wars, he tells them something along those lines. And somewhere between his lips and my ears, the words change to have the following meaning:

“I don’t care what you think. It’s my story and I can tell it any way I want, and people like you will pay for it, so you’re the dumbass here, not me.”

This seems to be almost common among storytellers & directors these days. Look no further than the likes of Michael Bay and Uwe Boll. There are people out there getting paid embarassing amounts of money to tell bad stories who don’t care about the people in those stories or their intended audience. This sort of ties back into my musings on what a story should be about, but it occured to me that a major problem with a lot of the productions out there is that the creators are concerned about their creation, and not the audience.

Chuck (not Magic Talking Beardman Chuck, but sfdebris Chuck) said once that “the worst feeling when doing comedy is when you tell a joke and nobody laughs.” Stand-up comedy can keep a performer honest because you get feedback, be it good or bad, right away. The same goes for music, especially when a band is first starting out. If you think you’re awesome and you get up to play only to find beer bottles getting thrown at your head, and it happens more than once, something is probably wrong on your side of the stage. This has been true for quite a long time, back when the folks in the cheap seats in a theater would toss raw or rotten veggies at somebody they didn’t like up on stage.

Stand-up comedians, musicians and stage actors are all entertainers. When you tell a story, be it in a verbal, written or audio/visual format, you are entertaining. And if that presentation is being put together to be seen by somebody other than yourself, you are intending to entertain an audience.

It makes sense, at least to me, that you should care about that audience.

It is illogical to assume that you are good at what you do if you get no feedback. In order to get that feedback, you need to show your work to others. The other people who witness you work are your audience. And you can’t just stop at family & close friends, either. That’s the problem with George Lucas from what I’ve seen, because during the production of the Star Wars prequels he was surrounded by people who are either his friends or were told by his friends not to challenge him.

People you haven’t met need to see your work, and tell you what they think. How else are you going to improve, and more to the point, know you’re improving? If you’re only going to show your product to someone who’s going to tell you it’s great no matter how much it might suck, you might as well show it to your dog. I’d say ‘show it to your cat,’ as I’m a cat owner at this point, but your cat will treat you with disdain despite the quality of your product and wonder when you’re going to feed them again.

I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, here, but I hope I’m being understood in how important I consider it for thought to go into your work, and to try and make it about something other that sex and violence. When you show it to others, and they don’t like it, don’t just dismiss them out of hand. Ask them why. Find the weaknesses in the work, and make them better. Not only will you be glad you did, your audience will too.

1 Comment

  1. I think one of the problems with someone the size of a Lucas is that he’s reached an untouchable zone. He’s been criticized and kept honest on previous work, and that work has hit it *huge*. His “vision” gets lauded, and people think he’s a genius, so it gets to Naked Emperor Syndrome – “George Lucas is a genius, his writing captured a generation; if *I* have a problem with what he’s doing, *I* must be missing something!” And George is entirely likely to look at anyone who calls him out on anything and go “I’m sorry, did you make ‘A New Hope’, and spawn a phenomenon that continues on down through the generations? Oh, wait, that was *me*. Screw your little opinions, little person.”

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