Today's guest post from producer Cotty Chubb concludes his post on recognizing audiences. “Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.”
But here’s what we do have to do. We have to know who needs what we make. The days of a generalized appetite are likely past. The great magazines of my childhood are gone: The Saturday Evening Post, Life, Look.
In their place a multiplicity of niches… Bass-fishing, trout-fishing, salt-water-flat fishing, each with its own devotees, each with its own audience and its own media that satisfies with fact and fantasy.
When Beverly Hills was awash with money in 2006 I was talking to a successful independent producer friend who'd amassed a stash of cash, hedge fund money looking for a non-correlated asset paired with a compliant bank selling leverage. [No disrespect to my friend, none; I couldn't have raised that money.] About a picture he was intending I asked, "Who's the audience?" With the calm that comes from a full wallet, he said "If it's a good movie, people will come to it." Except that he's since entirely lost his equity, tapped out. And he made some good movies.
Really, it’s only sensible. If your job is gratifying the unspoken needs of a group of people, shouldn’t you have some idea who those people are?
Sure, there are national wounds. Dad comes in, sits on the bed. “Stevie, your mother and I love you very much. But we’re going to destroy your world because, frankly, our needs are more important than yours.” That’s a national wound and multi-generational. Lots of people need to see a world come back together when it looks like it’s impossible.
But if you’re not making pictures that are going to have tens of millions of dollars available to reach across the nation and the generations, and you’re not spending scores of millions on spectacle, you better be looking to give intense gratification to a smaller and identifiable group.
Who are you making the picture for? How can you find them? Through what channels can you reach them? What bonds them together? How can they discover you?
Don’t ask these questions before the first draft is written. Let that unconscious discovery process happen unimpeded by externalities. But you better have some good answers before you start raising money.
Lessons from Momofuku
David Chang, the chef-owner of Momofuku Ko and a couple of other astonishing restaurants was talking last week to Evan Kleiman on her KCRW radio show, Good Food.
It’s a wonderful interview with many lessons for film-makers. David Chang was highly trained but had his own vision. He opened a noodle bar in the East Village where the focus was on the food made cheaply and bravely. The success that came from gratifying customers allowed him to open two more restaurants, each specific to his ambition to create something he thought of as honest.
Evan was trying to get David to define his style: so it's French technique and an Asian palate?, but he demurred. It's American food, he said. It's always French technique but it's not about authenticity. Craft matters, but not obedience to authority. And then he said these wise words:
"Screw authenticity. Let's make something tasty. Let's try to make something when if you eat it, you slap yourself on the forehead and say 'Wow, that's really great.' And when you leave, that's what you're talking about."
Notice he's talking simultaneously about himself and the people who eat his food. He's the cook and he's the eater. He’s the director and he’s the audience.
As a recipe for success in our beleaguered business, as we try to forge a new way forward, that's as good as it gets:
Make Something Tasty.
Make it for us who sit in the dark and dream.
Cotty Chubb is a producer and manager working in LA. Movies he's proud of range fromEve's Bayou to The Crow toPootie Tang to the upcoming Unthinkable with Samuel Jackson and Michael Sheen.