When I made the trailer for A DEFIANT DUDE, I had one goal in mind: To find an audience.
As filmmakers, it’s easy to lose sight of the audience. We get caught in the technical aspects of writing, financing, producing and editing our movie. We forget that further down the line we’re going to depend on an audience if our movie is going to be successful.
A footnote: I’ve taped this quote from Shakespeare over my desk. The quote appears at the end of THE TEMPEST when Prospero addresses his audience:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails
Which was to please.
We often don’t think about our audience. Our friends are other filmmakers. We read Indiewire, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. We hang out with our cast and crew. We talk shop. And then, when we make our movie, it’s for them — not for people who are teachers, plumbers, barbers, or the barista who works at Starbucks — but instead we create our film for friends who ‘ooh’ and ‘aww’ at the technical gymnastics it took to get a certain shot, the wizardry of an edit, the way light strikes a performer’s face.
However, most audiences don’t care about this stuff. They just want to be told a good story, and be entertained.
A trailer, like a movie, should entertain us, too — and in the internet world of short attention spans, we have to be quick. In the same time it takes to watch two beer commercials, I knew that I had to catch our audience’s attention, hold it, and compel them to want to see a movie about Bo Muller-Moore, a Vermont artist fighting a claim of trademark infringement — a story that, on the surface, lacked broad entertainment value.
All during our trailer’s creation, I also had this statistic in the back of my mind: Kickstarter (where we funded our film) had studied the projects on its site and discovered that the average viewer clicks out of a project’s video in just four seconds — four seconds!
A footnote: The latin root for the word ‘entertain’ is ‘to hold’ or ‘to stick.’
Recently, somebody posted our trailer for A DEFIANT DUDE on Reddit and within 24 hours it got over 150,000 views. Those hits came from people who related to Bo and his story. I’m lucky to have a subject and a star in Bo who connects with an auidence — but I also think that some of the things we did in the trailer held that audience in place and made them want to see the movie. We incorporated drama, suspense, story and, most importantly, humor. We tried to be generous, and keep the pacing quick. We also put ourselves in an audience’s place and asked: What does the audience want from this story? We imagined that they wanted to see Bo win, and so being defiant was vital to to the telling of the story. So every chance we got, we showed Bo being a defiant dude.
Final footnote: Virginia Woolf had this to say about connecting to an audience: “No audience. No echo. That’s part of one’s death.”