Know Your Audience…

Rocketboy Notes When I am watching a movie that is brilliantly written, it leaves me kind of breathless. Because I know just how much hard work goes into writing a screenplay that breezes along effortlessly, with no friction, without a single scrap of waste, simultaneously surprising and obvious at each turn (‘how is he going to get out of this?… Of course! That’s how’), with wit and pathos, pace and pause for reflection, with characters I relate to deeply… stories where the journey is so touching, moving, exciting and cathartic in was I could have never imagined when I began, that I sit back, exhausted and marvelled by the excellence.

That’s my benchmark. Sigh. Groan. Yikes.

And it’s why I find writing so very hard and so very terrifying. Having made three features and the short' Gone Fishing', for me personally, it’s not worth embarking on a film unless the script is THAT good.

There is just too much pain and heartache to endure on the journey through financing, shooting, editing, releasing and finally judgment on your last work… unless of course, the script is THAT good.

And of course, famously, ‘you can make a bad film out of a great script, but you can’t make a great film our of a bad script…’ So even if you do manage to scribe a terrific screenplay, underfunding, bad scheduling, poor casting, shoddy editing, inappropriate music, even the wrong title… all, and a near million other things, can conspire to mess it up for you.

This is why it is so vital to take your time to write it well, to rewrite and refine, to understand your story and characters at every level. It’s the best way to ensure that all the hard work on your script is rewarded with an excellent movie.

Rocketbike And it’s with that backdrop that yesterday, I returned to the screenplay for ‘Rocketboy’.

I have for the last year been working on and off on a Hollywood film project, which for contractual reasons, I cannot reveal just yet. We will see how that one evolves.

But ‘Rocketboy’… Some of you may recall that ‘Rocketboy’ was the genesis of ‘Gone Fishing’. And now it has come back center stage… And it’s time for a redraft. A BIG redraft.

The photo above is of the notes I made with Judy Goldberg yesterday, our first pass on work that needs to be undertaken now. Why so much?

Well, of course it is in part that pesky pursuit of excellence, but it is also a refining of our hero in the story, and perhaps most importantly, a rewrite with our core audience in mind. So far every draft I have written has kind of been for me. I am a movie lover, and I know that I would love ‘Rocketboy’, and so QED, anyone like me would like it too. That may be true, but it is also a very European ‘arthouse’ view. It’s self indulgent.  I have been writing for too small an audience. Me.

‘Kick-Ass’ last week really sealed this mindset for me.

It’s a movie that totally understands its audience. A movie where the online review by the Daily Mail stunningly illustrates how much some people ‘don’t get it’ on a deep and fundamental level. But that’s cool, it wasn’t made for those people.

‘Kick-Ass’ is currently hanging out with its best mates right now, in class rooms, online chat rooms, Facebook and twitter, on street corners, behind the bike sheds… anywhere young people gather…

‘Know your audience…’ It was also the most important advice my editor friend Eddie Hamilton had for me and the viewers in the video interview I posted on the blog last weekend. You should check it out. And if Eddie offered it as his single most important piece of advice, you know that it’s a big one.

And so that’s why we have so many notes on ‘Rocketboy’.

We are making some major changes to some characters as we refocus, with laser precision, the story to speak more clearly to our target audience.

Wish me luck. Really. Because right now, this feels like both the biggest and hardest job I have ever undertaken.

OK. Phew.

NOTE – Do check back in as we want YOU to get involved in Rocketboy too… Details to follow in due course…

And remember, we are running a one day workshop ‘How To Be A Great Script Reader’ here… there are only a few places left.

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author

3 Responses to Know Your Audience…

  1. Kate April 9, 2010 at 9:37 am #

    That was the most compelling thing I took out of that interview too. I’ve pulled out of two films earlier this year because the director didn’t know his audience and wasn’t willing to compromise on his vision in light of that vision not reaching an audience.
    It was hard – but I know I made the right decision. I want to make movies that will have an audience… right from the get go!

    Thanks for that Brilliant interview Eddie and Chris. I really enjoyed Kick-Ass.. disturbed by it but also really enjoyed it… that fight scene in the warehouse has now become my favourite piece of cinema!

  2. Terry Stephens April 9, 2010 at 7:53 pm #

    Chris you’ve been working on Rocket boy for ages.

    If the movie is anything short of brilliant I will be disappointed.

    Sorry to put the pressure on you man but I’d expect you to say the same thing to me too.

    All the best with it though. I can see it is a passion of yours. Just make sure it is the same for the rest of us.

    Like KICK ASS!….Not Ass KICKED! 🙂

    Keep up the good work

  3. Stephen April 9, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    Strangely, I always read the Daily Mail reviews because they almost always get it so wrong. If they like a movie I often avoid it, but if they hate a movie I’ll often go see it and enjoy it. Not that my view counts above theirs, but do they employ people who see movies in a different light to the rest of the world.

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