Without An Audience, It Can't be Art!

By Emily Best I hold this apparently really unpopular view that without an audience, it can’t be art. “Art” is a social label, a negotiation between the artist, the object (or performance) and the viewer.

This is history’s fault. Art was reserved for the rich or those with access to the rich. We didn’t see how it was made, conceived, choreographed, or staged until it appeared in front of us. And mostly, everyone liked it that way. Artists got to create with very little interference. Audiences had very little interaction with the artists or processes that created what they saw in museums, theaters, and on stage, so they were happy to pay their hard earned money to witness that “magic.”

But now we live in the age of the digital download. What a viewer used to have to spend $10 on a museum ticket to see can be called forth with a few clicks of a button. What a viewer used to line up to buy in a store for $10 (a CD or DVD) can now be downloaded in a few seconds for a few dollars (or free). The value proposition has been turned on its head. And now there’s just so much stuff available everywhere all the time, film studios and filmmakers are trying desperately to compete for a slice of a rapidly dividing pie. The movie business had a system: It used to be “theatrical release, then video, then TV.” Now it’s “VOD, then theatrical and DVD,” or “all three together!”, or whatever combination of existing options the studios can come up with using their data models. Not a lot of out-of-the-box thinking being applied.

Did you know football used to be a running game only? There were a LOT of combinations of running plays. Then one day in 1905, St. Louis University’s Bradbury Robinson passed the ball forward to his teammate, leaving the other team scrambling through the rulebook to see if that was ok. It was. Everyone started renegotiating their offenses around the forward pass. BOOM. Whole new ball game.

In the digital age, transparency is the forward pass. It’s the business play that’s changing the game. Everything changes when you let everyone in. Kickstarter has done it to business and Facebook has done it to society. It makes consumers - audiences - demand to know more, to see more, to feel like a part of the process. It’s toppling regimes, swaying elections, and making it more possible than ever for people to get creative endeavors off the ground.

It’s faster and cheaper to make movies and your audience is out there and it’s easier to connect directly to them than ever before. Yet fewer specialty titles are getting the green light from studios than ever before. Transparency is creating so much connectivity, but the data hasn’t caught up, and data is what they use to green-light pictures.

At the moment, studios are throwing money at the problem, trying to find the Thing to replace those juicy DVD revenues that padded their pockets for a decade. They make and remake existing properties rather than risk the potentially lower return of specialty (indie) movies because they have to feed the Beast. The Beast is not agile and flexible, and the technology platforms profiting hugely from transparency certainly are.

And yet, filmmakers read “How to get film distribution,” or “How to get your film financed” and all these books tell you how to think like a studio, how to find data like a studio, how to write a script based on the “market.” There’s no talk of passion, or connection to your audience, or ART. These expert authors write not about finding audience but about about finding “markets.” Who is a market? What does it like? It’s as impenetrable as the studio walls or cable’s VOD numbers. No one really knows (despite their most fervent claims).

So why are so many independent filmmakers trying to use the Beast’s model? Filmmakers are startup entrepreneurs with creative products, and can design their business models really any way they like. The difference is, startup entrepreneurs are learning from books like Eric Reis’s “The Lean Startup.” Reis’s core argument is that rather than investing tons of time and money producing what you think the market wants, you need to get the product in front of real consumers as soon as humanly possible – even before the masterpiece is ‘ready.’ You ask questions by showing them a fledgling product and seeing how they react. Then you iterate, and build a core of supporters from the very beginning who will help you make it better.

So, who is your audience? Can you really know without testing?

Transparency - letting people in - is a brave, creative act. It asks more questions of the material than it answers because it acknowledges that the art of filmmaking is meant to have an affect on an audience. And only an audience can tell you if that’s successful. They might also help you make it successful.

And so here’s the fight I have: many talented artists I talk to feel that letting the audience in to the process, even as a thought, somehow corrupts the purity of expression. And I say, corrupts? You must not think much of the people on whose eyeballs and pocketbooks your livelihood relies. Why should they not demand their equal place in the artistic equation? I argue that rather than hinder the artistic process, an engaged audience emboldens the creator to take bigger risks.

It means trusting the audience with their taste. In turn the audience trusts you to produce high quality work without all the traditionally legitimizing (studio) eyes on it. It's a big responsibility for everyone, but it means we might all get back to the art of filmmaking. And, you know, change the business while we’re at it.

EMILY BEST is the founder and CEO of Seed&Spark, a startup to build truly independent community in which she would like to make moving pictures. Before producing Like the Water, the project that inspired it all, Emily produced theater, worked as a vision and values strategy consultant for Best Partners, ran restaurants, studied jazz singing at the Taller de Musics, tour guided and cooked in Barcelona, and before that, was a student of Anthropology at Haverford College. 

Audiences: Made, Not Born

Today's guest post is from screenwriter Jeremy Pikser. When we say, “know your audience,” what do we mean, exactly? What defines the characteristics of an audience? Is an “audience” identical to a “market?”

Is the audience, as Hollywood (and, really, the entire ideology of market consumerism) would have us believe, a natural expression of human nature, the zeitgeist, or what people “want now?”  To think so would be to ignore the domination of our sense of what all these are by exactly the cultural forces who are selling us what we “want.”

The creation of desire is a well worn concept, but it’s worth keeping in mind when we think about the “audience” for art. The requirement, for instance, of virtually every popular story to have somewhere in it a hot chick, a beautiful woman, a fair maiden isn’t, obviously, something that’s been created by Hollywood out of whole cloth. It has a long tradition in popular (and not so popular) art. But the entertainment industry has cultivated this notion into a much more powerful and self perpetuating “necessity.”

Let’s talk about stars. There is, we understand, an audience for films with bankable stars. What does that mean? How was the star system developed, and why? People go see, let’s say, a Will Farrell movie. When they talk about it (even, more often than not, when professional CRITICS talk about it, they don’t say Ricky Bobby does this or that, or Ron (was that his name?)Burgundy does this or that, they say Will Ferrell does.

On the other hand, if most TV fans saw Hugh Laurie walking down the street, they’d say… “look, it’s House!” Would there be an audience for a show starring Hugh Laurie using his native accent? Is there such a thing as a Hugh Laurie series as there is a Will Ferrell movie?

The expectations of the audience, what it wants, how it thinks about what it responds to in a film or TV show doesn’t arise spontaneously from human nature or the zeitgeist, but by the way the industry develops and promotes it’s “product.”

The audience wants stars (which basically means a very small pool of lead actors) because the studios figured out a long time ago, repeating casting that had successful audience results, and exploiting those repetitions to the hilt through publicity anointing the actors as “stars” was the most profitable way to sell films. People respond to Jean Harlow in a film. So the next three films calling for a sexy woman require Jean Harlow to be in them, and Jean Harlow is proclaimed the sexiest woman in pictures, and before you know it, the audience “wants” a “Jean Harlow movie.”  After 70 years of this, the audience can only want a “somebody movie.” Its what the audience understands as a top movie experience. If there’s not “somebody” in it, it’s less likely to be satisfying, and less likely to have an audience.

Of course the kinds of stories and  the way they’re told follow the same pattern. When the entire culture from E network to the Times “culture” pages take as a force of nature that the release of every $200 million summer tent pole is an seminal event in the collective experience of contemporary human experience, it’s not surprising that audiences await them with bated breath.  And it becomes a fact that audiences “want” to see big movies, with big budgets, elaborate effects, and lots of explosions (like the old SCTV  Farm Film Report where Billy Sol Hurok and Big Jim McBob rated films on how well “they blowed things up.”).

The market creates the audience, the audience drives the market by following its lead.

And in the most corrosive of all such feedback loops, audiences “want” successful pictures. I don’t know exactly when it was, (surely sometime after 1975, maybe as recently as the 90s?) “arts” coverage and the audience started focusing on film grosses and evaluating films largely on the basis of them.  Now it is relative well accepted that a film that doesn’t meet market expectations is definition a film “fails,” and is therefore, not a good film. George Trow wrote a great article in the New Yorker 15 or 20 years ago marking Family Feud as a turning point in the culture because it was the first game show where the “right” answer was defined as the most popular answer.

This isn’t to say that the notion of creating an audience is inherently a bad thing. Culture is never created or experienced in a cultural vacuum.  That maximum profit is the end all be all of the most powerful forces in the culture create the conditions for both expression and response, may indeed be an inherently bad thing, but there are other examples of audience creation, too.  The European New Wave directors of the late 50’s and 60’s created a new audience, not just by making films that audiences were ready for, but by building a culture in a variety of media that cultivated the values and attitudes of the new cinema and was expressive of the audience’s non-mainstream interests. The American film makers who aped them in the 70’s to some extent did the same. Critics like Kenneth Tynan, Pauline Kael, and Andrew Sarris played an important role, too, in educating audiences and creating a nexus for a new concept of what they “wanted.”

As varied and eclectic as all the players may have been, there was some kind of underlying aesthetic, social agenda, and relationship to historical developments that unified the creation of this new audience—a zeitgeist that gave rise to both the artists who educated the audience, as well as the audience who embraced their work and supported it. This, to me, is the kind of feedback loop we should strive for.

Jeremy Pikser is the co-writer of the film Bulworth, for which he won the LA Critics Award, as well as Oscar, and Golden Globe nominations.  War, Inc., which he wrote with Mark Leyner and John Cusack premiered at the TFF in 2008.  In 2009 he  completed a script for director Darren Aronofsky about Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert (Ram Dass).  He is currently developing a cable series with co-writer Mark Leyner.

Understanding Other Audiences: An Australian In America

Today's guest post is from Louise Smith, the producer of Nash Edgerton's THE SQUARE (out now in theaters in the US and highly recommended). I’ve just returned from a trip to New York & LA for the release of my film THE SQUARE.

In the lead up to the opening weekend, I was part of some Q & A sessions with Nash Edgerton (the director), and we were asked a couple of questions that I thought I’d share with you:

Had we ever thought to subtitle our movie (the lady who asked the question said she couldn’t understand our accents) Does everyone in Australia have a mullet Hmmm… no and… um, no.

The Square -Anthony Hayes (Smithy)-(p)MatthewNettheim_2

The cultural gap between Australia & America is always bigger than we Aussies anticipate – especially from the eyes of an American looking toward Australia. We however, consume American movies and TV all the time, so there’s no language or cultural things for us to learn about your characters when we watch them… we know them already because we’ve grown up on them.

This is my first feature as producer and my first experience of releasing a film in this market. It’s a tough gig to get an Aussie film on American theatrical screens – and I’ve been learning a lot, especially from Apparition, our distributors.

It’s corny to say it, but I feel very lucky to have this opportunity. It’s so different to releasing a film back in Australia. So many different things to consider – the population alone is staggering – and the number of key city centres across the country – just fantastic for a genre pic like this to hopefully find it’s niche.

It’s been a real treat for me (and relief considering the questions above) to have such a positive recognition and understanding of our film by so many American reviewers and industry professionals. I had an Australian film journalist ask me today why I thought this was? (ie that American reviewers understood the film in ways that reviewers in Australia hadn’t) and I don’t have an answer, other than to say that genre is a huge part of the cinematic experience for Americans in a way that it just isn’t for Australian audiences. I love how passionate American audiences are for genre.

I loved sitting in the cinema watching THE SQUARE and seeing the way people jumped and screamed and audibly yelled at the screen! (We are much more shy in Australia) and I loved the way in which people understood the dark humour that Nash brings to the screen. That part of our story telling needs no translation – and this excites me.

I love that we have been able to release Nash’s short film SPIDER along with the feature and that this is a real crowd enticer!

Actually, when we were trying to get a distributor on board for the US, Nash & I (along with Pathe our sales agent) set up 2 screenings, one in NYC and one in LA for various potential local distributors. We knew we wanted them to see it with an audience because we knew that it played at its best when there’s a full room reacting to the various plot turns. So we filled the cinemas with friends around the distributors.

We had also planned to show SPIDER prior THE SQUARE mainly to get people in the mood… let them know it’s OK to laugh at this film. However, right before our first screening, we hesitated. Someone had mentioned to us that we maybe shouldn’t show it to an American audience in this way and so we began to doubt our instinct.

Then in walked Chris Rock.

He had seen THE SQUARE in Australia when he was on tour and had gone out of his way to contact Nash to congratulate him on it. Anyway, the first thing he said to Nash was that he’d watched SPIDER on YouTube the night before and he thought it was great. (actually I think he said something about Nash’s talent for shocking people but I can’t really remember and I wouldn’t dare paraphrase Chris Rock!) I just know that suddenly the answer was clear… We ran up to the projection box and asked them to play SPIDER first.

And lucky we did – because it was the combination of these two films that made Bob Berney from Apparition sit up and take note. And here we are… our first weekend in the US and we had the 3rd highest screen average overall.

Anyway… it’s still a long way to go and my Australian sensibility says to delete that last paragraph… it’s too early to get excited… But maybe that’s one cultural thing I can take up from my American film friends… there’s no need to be shy.

Louise Smith has been producing  television commercials and feature films for over than ten years. Her debut feature film production THE SQUARE, just released in the USA, and was nominated for 7 Australian Film Institute  Awards as well as being only one of 12 films selected for Official Competition in the inaugural Sydney Film Festival‘s international Sydney Film Prize.

In 2002 she co-produced the feature film THE RAGE IN PLACID LAKE starring Ben Lee, Rose Byrne, Garry McDonald and Miranda Richardson. Smith currently has projects in development with directors Ben Chessell and Rachel Griffiths, with whom she has already made two short films.

Make It Tasty: Part 3 of 3

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.

Part 1. Part 2.

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.

Make It Tasty: Part 2 of 3

Today's guest post continues yesterday's from producer Cotty Chubb. A memorable dream

Two years ago in the middle of the night I woke up heart hammering. I'd been having an argument in a dream. Actually, I'd been screaming. Screaming at a director, I don't know who. We were standing alone in the front row of an empty movie theater. "You think," I ranted, gesturing up at the blank white screen, "you think that what's up there is the movie, and you think that it's your movie, you made it, it's yours. But you're fucking wrong [I told you I was screaming, right?]. That's not the movie. The movie... the movie... the movie is what happens in the air between up there and down here. That's the movie, you moron." And then I woke up.

Maybe I'd eaten too much supper, like the boy in Winsor McKay's Dreams of A Rarebit Fiend. Or maybe I was sick of narcissist auteurs. 2008 was a bad year for that.

Kubrick's advice

In the mid-eighties Stanley Kubrick went to Michael Herr, one of the great writers of the Viet Nam War (Dispatches, check it out) who also wrote the Martin Sheen monologue in Apocalypse Now. Kubrick said "I want to do a Viet Nam movie and I want you to write it." And Herr said, "I don't know how to write a screenplay and I'm not about to learn how to write a screenplay writing for the best film-maker in the world."

But Kubrick said, "It's not that hard.

"Just pretend that you're going to a movie. Walk up to the box office. Buy a ticket. Take the ticket and go inside. There'll be a kid there who'll rip it in half. Take the stub and walk through the lobby. Go into the theater. Walk down the aisle to about six rows in front of the screen. Take a seat in the middle of the row. Sit down. Wait. After a while, the lights will go down and the curtain will go up and the movie will start.

“Just write down what you see."

It's not that hard, he said. Just write looking up at the screen not down at your desk. Just write with the images filling your vision. Just write as part of the audience.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

But writing for the audience, writing as part of the audience, making the movie that happens between the screen and the audience, all that takes respect for the audience, for their emotions, for their needs, for their dreams and hopes and fears.

Did you see the Hughes tribute on the Oscar telecast? Hughes's movies were studio movies. They made millions for the studios. And John Hughes respected his audience. Look at how their teenage emotions, fragile, skittish, powerful, are portrayed, with love and humor and a sharp eye. But studios don't make those movies any more. Why not? I think it's because, with rare exceptions, studios don't respect audiences any more – don’t respect them except as consumers. It’s what can we sell them?, not what can we feed them.

Spectacle and branded entertainment experiences must seem to studio heads a safer bet than movies. And maybe short term it is. But they've raised a generation that doesn't really care about movies anymore. Why should they? They haven't really seen any. If you're a young man, you might have liked Sherlock Holmes. But it didn't feed you. The last movie that really spoke to young men might have been Fight Club and how long ago was that? Last century, 1999. (Maybe Superbad, because Apatow in that one wrote especially empathetically but I've heard its demo skewed older.)

So this moment is an opportunity perhaps. Yes, the distribution apparatus has collapsed. The tsunami of hedge-fund capital swept in -- lots of movies got made because well-heeled neophytes thought having lots of money made them producers -- and post-Lehman, like all tsunamis, it swept out, leaving behind tangled wreckage and broken lives.

But some brave souls are picking up the pieces, hammering together some shelter out of tin and plastic sheeting and old pipes. We don't know what the business model really is; we'll know it when we see it in the rear view mirror. Oh, we'll say, so that's how it works, so that's how movies get monetized. So that's what audiences want to pay for and how they want to pay for it.

But right now here's our chance: the mega-suppliers have forgotten they're in the movie business -- or maybe they've just decided to abandon it for the branded entertainment experience business. And we don't have to.

Part 3.

Part 1.

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.

Make It Tasty: Part 1 of 3

Today's guest post is from producer Cotty Chubb. Film-makers talk a lot about film-makers and distributors. There’s a lot of the former and not half enough of the latter. But what about the third leg of the stool, the independent film audience? Who are they? What do they want? Where the hell did they go? And how do we get them to come back?

When I was coming up, in the mid-eighties, working for Ed Pressman, independent films were hard to make, but at least the infrastructure was there.

Fueled by the roll-out of the video-cassette, a healthy eco-system developed of audience, distributor and film-maker, with a business model that relied on well-capitalized foreign sales companies, healthy home entertainment divisions, specialty theatrical distributors and a banking system that translated contracts into cash for production. Over twenty-five years, that's all eroded.

Easy access to capital led to a glut of product. The immutable truth of Gresham's Law prevailed. Bad movies drove out good. Distributors and financiers vanished. The audience, overwhelmed by mediocre pictures, lost its taste for the new.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Lots has changed since then, a time before fax machines. Who can even play a VHS cassette anymore?

And one of the changes, regrettably, is that the audience for independent films has declined. It’s still there. The Coens can reliably earn out for the financiers of their movies and they can keep making more movies. There are other film-makers, many of them, who have their fans and can stay in business, but the zeitgeist has changed. DVD sales have dropped across the board, but nowhere so sharply as in the independent sector. Independent exhibitors, those brave few, know their audience is graying, balding, dying off.

And kids don’t care so much, not the way they used to, when a new Abel Ferrara movie was an event, or the movies from Good Machine, or Pressman, or Propaganda or Killer were anticipated.

Why don’t they care? Why don’t movies matter so much? Is it because of the many alternatives? Is it because the younger audience is used to getting things free, or on the screen in front of them? Yes, sure, probably, all of that.

But I think it’s that the companies that make movies, and have controlled distribution for those twenty-five years, have forgotten about the audience, and maybe, just maybe, the film-makers have too.

I hope it's good.

Towards the end of my run with Ed Pressman's company, we made a film with a first-time director (then and now an experienced and successful writer). Late in the post process, before picture lock, I booked a recruit audience screening for him.

A paid recruit screening is one of the great favors a producer can do a director, a chance before the picture's done to show it to people who don't care about his feelings or his intentions.

I told him you're going to learn something from the research cards, and you're going to learn something from the focus group, but you'll learn the most if you just sit in the audience and tune in to their feelings as the picture unreels. But he was too nervous, said he'd disrupt a great swathe of the audience by his legs bouncing, and he sat in the back. I understood. It's nerve-wracking to leave the editing room where it's quiet and dark and nobody judges you.

"Excuse me, ma'am, is that seat taken?" I sat down next to a heavy-set woman who had the aisle. She and I chatted pointlessly for a while but the conversation dwindled away as it should, and we waited for the movie to start. Just before the lights went down, amid the muttering of the rest of the audience and into the stillness between us, she heaved a heavy sigh and said, to herself (but I was next to her and heard her clearly), "I hope it's good."

Yes, we feel all that, as the lights get ready to go down, although it's harder to notice now with the din of the ad-laden pre-show. What does it mean, that we hope it's good?

That it feed us somehow, that it repay us our money -- and money's tight these days – that it be worth our time -- who spends two hours doing anything today that we don't have to? -- and most importantly, that it respect our willingness to be naked before the screen, to open up our psyche and let a story be told to us.

Scratch an itch I didn't know I had, heal a wound I can't name, take me out of my travails with laughter or shock, show me how to triumph -- or even simply to survive -- when my problems are so large. Give me something that sustains me. Feed me. I hope it's good.

Film-makers who don't understand this are lost. If you think it's all about your vision, forget it. It's not. Yes, you have to have a vision and, yes, you have to sustain it through terrible times, when well-meaning people give you bad advice, when the money's not there unless you cast someone obviously wrong for the part, when all the world is arrayed against you and you're losing the light.

But that's the responsibility that goes with the job. We put up with the travail for a reason. You’re in it, I’m in it, for the astonishing thrill of making something remarkable, something unique, something personal and hand-made by a temporary community of artists and artisans.

But don’t forget to pay attention to our partner, the people who pay to see the movies. What’s in it for them?

Part 2. Part 3.

Cotty Chubb is a producer and manager working in LA. Movies he's proud of range from Eve's Bayou to The Crow toPootie Tang to the upcoming Unthinkable with Samuel Jackson and Michael Sheen.

In This Digital Age, What Is A Filmmaker?

Today's guest post is from Chris Dorr. Isn't it curious in this age where more moving images get created and distributed digitally that there is this group of people who still call themselves "filmmakers"?  It seems a term that is so archaic, so analogue, so yesterday's news. But is it any of these?

I think filmmakers look for three opportunities that truly define them as filmmakers.

They are:

1.  The ability to tell a visual story from beginning to end, without any interruption, as a complete, continuous experience.  This is what separates them from people who create stories for TV as most TV series are produced with commercial interruptions or different viewings (episodes) in mind.

2.  The chance to have an audience gather in a theater and watch this visual story together, as a shared experience in time and space.  In the course of a film's distribution it may be seen in a lot of different settings, public or private, but the filmmaker is making the film with this key audience in mind.  This is the primary target of all his/her imaginings.

3.  The opportunity to see his/her film with an audience.  Filmmakers want to physically experience the film with an audience. The filmmaker wants to see if they laugh or cry when he/she intended, if the audience got the point--to see if their film really succeeded at reaching another human being.  As every filmmaker knows who has done this, it is a genuinely scary moment.

So each of these opportunities really goes to the heart of what is most essential about calling yourself a filmmaker.

Think of them as a set of principles about the relationship between the creator of a film and the audience for which it is intended.

And here is what is most surprising as we move from the analogue past to the digital future.

These opportunities are not disappearing into the analogue past.

In fact, they are just beginning to open up.

Chris Dorr has been a movie producer, studio executive and creator of online and mobile services. He consults on digital strategy and business development. Find Chris at www.digitaldorr.com.