Valeria Richter, Lena Thiele • TFL Audience Design Tutors
"Why Audience Design? Because we want films to be seen"
by Vittoria Scarpa
- Valeria Richter and Lena Thiele, TorinoFilmLab tutors, talk about Audience Design, their new book and strategies to attract audiences to cinemas
"A logical, passionate and complete exploration of how to build connections and relationships between your film and someone wanting to see it." That’s the definition of Audience Design, according to the Danish Valeria Richter and the German Lena Thiele, tutors on the pioneering Audience Design programme at TorinoFilmLab, launched back in 2011. After eight years, it was time to reflect, so Richter and Thiele have launched a book called Audience Design - An Introduction on the occasion of the annual TFL Meeting Event in November, which is downloadable and freely available to read here. The book is an initial attempt to reflect and talk about experiences gained and knowledge learned during their years of development and research at TFL in the field of audience engagement.
Cineuropa: How did the Audience Design programme come about and how did it evolve over time?
Valeria Richter: When exploring the world of transmedia and the various platforms in more depth with the Writer's Room programme, we began to become more aware of how audiences were changing, and where they spent their time and money. We wondered how we could integrate all of this into TFL. We brainstormed and somehow the word Audience Design came up. At the time, we had started working with Script & Pitch projects, during the very first stage of development. The producer usually thinks of the film in relation to the market, but more from the point of view of the distributor or finance, not so much from the audience's perspective. We therefore looked for ways to create a new profession and also to find the right point at which to intervene. S&P was actually too early on in the process. When you're writing your story, thinking about the audience as well is too much. We therefore established that the best starting point was the final draft, because you are more confident with your story and can see it from different angles.
Does thinking of the audience during the development of a film not risk conditioning the work of the artist?
Lena Thiele: That's a question we've been asked since the beginning. When we started working with S&P projects we found that writers were very concerned, wondering how something could be produced for an audience while remaining faithful to the artist’s story. But we were more wanting to encourage discussions with a script consultant during the development process, so that you have a sort of guide, can stay faithful to the authenticity of your art but also look at the potential content in it, taking this potential and guiding it towards an audience that maybe would not otherwise come into contact with your work. We don’t work for the market, we just want to reach the people we believe might be interested in the film.
In concrete terms, how do you create awareness and involvement of a specific audience around a film?
VR: These days, audiences are looking for stories in very different places, not just at the cinema. Everyone has a mobile phone, uses social media, has friends, interests, maybe they are even fans of something.... How do you go about intercepting and attracting their attention? Often projects have something about them that can inspire, perhaps an actor who already has a fan base. Crew members also have an online presence. It's about making everything more organised and enabling the people you work with to share things in order to reach as many people as possible. The other question is about how to turn this work into actual viewers going to the cinema. You can start to build a community around a project. A distributor will tell you that the film will attract a certain type of audience, and you can tell him or her that during the pre-production and shooting stages, these other communities have been activated, and that there is potential there. Sure, you can have a big marketing campaign, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people will go to see the film on the big screen. We work on really bringing people to the cinema.
What assessment can be made after eight years of Audience Design?
LT: The programme has changed continuously over the last eight years. We have tested new formats, shaping and refining the programme. Today we have a concept, a solid base from which to start further discussions and developments. Rather than presenting case studies and results, which are still difficult to define, this book is more of a starting point to know what should be done. An initial theoretical section is followed by an 11-step guide on how to apply theory concretely to a film project.
VR: Ultimately, it's all about time and money. Audience Design doesn’t require a lot of money at the beginning, it's about creating awareness. It's important that the whole film crew is aware of the project's goals. As for time, as for producers, when the final draft is complete, they can take one or two days to contact an audience designer for a chat. So you can create this package of ideas that a sales agent can send to local distributors in order to inspire them to create something more special around the film. Why Audience Design? Because we want films to be seen!
(Translated from Italian)
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