Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Managing Expectations and Being a Good Audience Member

If there's one thing I have learned over the years it is how to manage expectations, when you watch a few hundred films a year you learn that being disappointed a few hundred times a year isn't really that much fun.

Most people out there don't watch as many films as I do, and most people out there don't know how to best manage their expectations and be a good audience member. This is because most people only watch a few films a month, if not even less, and when they do watch them it's because someone, at some point, has told them that the film is worth watching. The problem is, that the reasons one person has for a film being worth watching very rarely correspond to another person's reasons of worthiness.

This last year I've watched more films with a group of friends than I have previously. I used to either go on my own, or with a single friend who I knew what liked and wanted from a film. When you go with a large crowd, when you stand outside the theatre and discuss the film with a large crowd, you see where people go "wrong". A recent example I have is from when I went to watch the film Hansel & Gretel - Witch Hunters. One of the first comments I heard immediately after the screening was: "That wasn't exactly [Cloud Atlas]" (which we had seen the night before). I got his point, he didn't like it as much as he liked Cloud Atlas, and I thought that was everything to it, but when explaining his opinions it sounded like he was after something very different than the film advertised.
He wanted a more realistic, more hardcore, fantasy tale, a more "serious" film. It seemed like he wanted something more along the lines of, yes, Cloud Atlas or Lord of the Rings. It's perfectly fine wanting a film like Fellowship of the Ring, but not when you go into a film by a renown splatter director who enjoys parodies. The trailer itself was a redband trailer, it showed a lot of gore, it showed guns, it showed stupid jokes, it pretty accurately represented the feel of the film. All you had had to do to have a more suited mindset was watch the trailer, or at least read up on the director. I went in with all this in mind and found the film to be totally alright, not horrible, not great.

When you learn how to manage your expectations you need to learn how to be a good audience member, watching a film might seem like a one-way type of deal, but it's as two-way as any media. Opinions normally don't get me angry, but they can very easily get me angry if the person expressing them hasn't understood this two-way street watching a film is. I can't count how many times I have heard people complain about a film being absolutely horrible, when the only thing wrong is the people's demographic. You cannot go into a film aimed at ten-year old girls as a forty-year old man and expect it to cater to your tastes and life experiences. When you watch a film, you have to judge it on its own merits, it's like compearing apples and oranges. If you bite into an apple wanting a nice, sour, citrus taste, than you're out of luck. It is not the apple's fault that it doesn't taste like an orange, it's your fault for eating an apple expecting an orange.
You see examples of people orangewishing every day, forums are flooding with people just exiting their teens complaining that the children channel's they used to love hasn't grown up with them. They don't realise that there is a whole new generation of children watching now, with new tastes, new demands and new feelings.

When you want to watch a film, do your research. I'm not saying you need to read the director's seven-year blog detailing every aspect of the production, but see who's involved, read the pitch and if you want to, watch the trailer. Don't completely relay on the picture you piece together from this, though, it's not a big secret that film adverts these days not necessarily are perfect reflections of the film they advertise. You'll learn soon enough what the different pointers in a trailer really means, and whether it's something for you.
And please, please don't go into a film not aimed at you if you have no intention of watching it for what it actually is. A children's film is a children's film, a girly film is a girly film, a boyish film is a boyish film, you cannot change that. If you can't embrace it for what it is, then it isn't for you anyways, move on and find a film you'd rather watch.