5 Tricks The Professional Studios Use to Steal Your Audience
It takes more than just tons of money to have an audience like a film, and Hollywood knows this. Although big budget films certainly have more visual effects and higher clout talent attached to them, many of the unavoidable realities of why Hollywood movies are liked more than independent ones are found in the 5 simple revelations put forth below…and they can be done with little to extra money spent.
Hollywood has done the research. They know how the brain works. Your neurology can process up to 7,000 impulses a second and focus on any 3 or 4 of them. This means that the brain is predominantly tuning things out far more than it is tuning things in. As filmmakers, our paramount responsibility, even more than telling a story, is that we suspend the disbelief of the audience. So if we’re able to supply audiences with the feeling that our content is providing the impulses the brain should tune out (instead of the real world), audiences have no choice but to believe their reality is a part of your film. Once this happens, the subconscious generally “goes to sleep,” because it no longer has to deal with deciding what is real or not. Once there, it is easy to create subconscious suggestion and have an audience believe, like, jump into fight/flight or any number of other manipulations that a skilled filmmaker can concoct. Creating killer immersion is the filmmaker’s critically important task, and many neglect to realize its importance. Without creating excellent immersion, audiences will be in disbelief, and a disbelieving audience will never be able to accept your content as entertaining. Your number one most facile and prominent tool for creating this immersion is the proper use of sound effects. If you or your team lack the knowledge to utilize sound effects to this degree, you’ll never get your audience to connect with your story fully.
For whatever reason, the human brain likes loud audio better than soft. It doesn’t just think it sounds better, it actually LIKES the audio better. On the Sound Advice Tour we do an exercise where 19 times out of 20, an audience likes the louder program material better; even when it’s only louder by a small amount; even when it’s the same program material we compare against. Scientists have also discovered there’s a gland in the human ear mechanism which actually triggers dopamine in the brain when louder volumes are heard. So, shouldn’t we be committed to delivering internet mixes of our productions which are louder than our competitors? Until they regulate loudness, and it may be coming any minute, our mixes need to be so loud, that people feel like they like them better. They won’t know why they do, but they just will. This is a secret that Hollywood uses on us all in commercials on television and, indeed, on the web. Learn to use the tools which are required to make your mixes louder than your competition without distorting, and you’ll have an unfair competitive edge over everyone else.
Hollywood understands that human hearing is super sensitive to the consonants in the human voice. If you don’t take that into account, your audio mixes will seem awfully tinny, and you’ll not be able to get the loudness or fullness which big budget movies appear to have. Big budget mixes literally carve out those frequencies which human hearing is sensitive to. Doing so allows for better headroom and allows sounds to be heard in a way which draws audiences into the program material. This extra headroom also allows allow other sounds to live in a place in the mix they otherwise might not be able to – giving more power, body, or dynamics to a mix. Having the ability to create more headroom, have fuller sounding mixes and lessen frequencies which our hearing are naturally sensitive to causes the audience’s built in system of “like better because it’s louder” to kick in. And, of course, it all just sounds bigger and, well, more Hollywood.
One of the craziest things I see is indie filmmakers using not just the wrong music in their films, but they use as the barometer of good music for a scene whether they like the music or not. Now, music you like might be the right choice, but the chances of getting your audience to have the desired reaction to your project should never be determined why whether or not it’s “your kind” of music. It all must come from your demographic research. Why? Well, just like story telling must use different tools to reach different audiences, we must use the appropriate music which best connects with our audience if we are ever to move our audience into the three or four things their brains can focus on. For example, if we’re producing a documentary on the story of three African American women in South Central Los Angeles, would we be wise to use giant orchestral underscore? Perhaps not, since our demographic probably won’t resonate with that genre as much as something else. It behooves us to do our research and discover what that music might be. What music causes your audience to want to purchase? What has them want to believe your story? What has them resonate with their past? These are all questions which a filmmaker needs to have answered in order to have a chance at competing in the creative media scene where big studios have these answers backed by millions of dollars in research. Don’t just put music in your project because you like it. Be able to defend your decisions with researched and proven genres of music which resonate with your audience.
In Western Civilization it’s rare to have a conversation where people are actually listening to what their counterpart is saying. Instead, we’re mainly trying to figure out what we’re going to say next. Then, while you’re speaking, the other person is doing the same. Instead of having a dialogue with someone, it is much more reasonable to expect that you’re having two monologues. Moreover, it is rare when people speak about what they really want. They will speak around what they want in the hopes they’ll find some advantage or some way of protecting themselves from vulnerability while trying to get what they want. People rarely speak about what they’re really thinking or feeling. As a result, “real life” dialogue is more of a deception than truth…and it’s certainly never, never exposition. Hollywood writers, on the whole, have mastered the art of “showing not telling” – and when the tell, they’re dialogue is rarely the truth of the characters or situations. Just like in real life, dialogue should be audience deception. It should never reveal what the character is really feeling, or what they really want. Even when they’re telling someone what they want, it shouldn’t be what they really want, because, honestly, most people don’t really know anyway. Writing dialogue in this way has audience members connect with characters in a way which feels so much more natural and easy. Avoid forwarding story, plot or reveal character qualities from dialogue. It will wake people up in the audience, and we never want audience members to be awake. We want them asleep subconsciously, and although audio is the best way to keep audience members asleep (and subsequently able to be manipulated easily to focus on what we want them to), bad or “unreal” dialogue is a very easy way to wake them up. Hollywood moviemakers are masters at keeping audiences asleep, and you’ll want your dialogue to be that deceptive sleeping potion which has your viewers dosing through the realization that they’re watching the same kind of “quality” and “feeling” in your project as a $50 million movie.
Hollywood has spent the last 100 years perfecting the art of psychologically and biologically forcing its audiences to like its movies better than anyone else’s. There are many aspects around this which an independent filmmaker can discover from various gurus, but there may not be a more concentrated number of such pieces of wisdom than what is found in the Sound Advice Tour.
There are less than 15 shows left. Dedicate yourself to getting to one of the last workshops of this groundbreaking and revealing course, and change your filmmaking career forever.