I spent most of this past Tuesday (twice “good”) trawling through several hours of behind-the-scenes features for a pair of clients. Different sorts of stuff, actually, in each case. Some slicker than Dan Draper’s comb-over in Mad Men, some rawer than a case of virulent psoriasis breaking out in the middle of an Arizona scorcher. But for the most part I’d say it was all sehr interesant. I wouldn’t have shut down any of my windows during playback, believe me, and that’s what counts most when it comes to the BTS-age.
The other day I spoke about the critical importance of extra-diagetic content, ranking the various kinds of it into lists of priority (BTS still #FTW, IMO), and yesterday’s session at the 1s and 2s proves to me — yet again, Sam — that I’m not so far off in my assessment.
There will of course be differing opinions on the subject, yet I still think there are lessons to be learned from sitting through a good batch of the stuff. My experience proves that behind-the-scenes is where the bulk of the fan engagement and learning comes from, and here’s why.
Here were several things I’d considered during my recent session:
- actors aren’t “in character:” what you won’t typically observe during formal portrayals is how an actor behaves between-takes as they speak in their “normal” accent, whatever that means. Par example, most of the players on hit HBO TV series, Terence Winter’s Boardwalk Empire aren’t American, even though they play classic hoods from the 1910s gangster era. Watching them do interviews in “civilian mode” is one of the more delectable discoveries, I find. Actors like Stephen Graham (“Al Capone”) or Anatol Yusef (“Meyer Lansky”), Brits who landed pivotal roles in the series, are beyond talented in this regard; though I guess it’s really because I remain in semi-permanent thrall of the magic actors conjure up doing that thing they do. Also, having this experience could potentially increase audience admiration for particular actors and boost viewership as the looser interview format of BTS affords your actors chance to lean back and just be themselves. Some actors you’d think would be opinionated – given their bold on-screen performances – clam up right the hell up when the cameras aren’t trained on them. <—I find this to be even more fascinating than the fictional stuff in the frame. You?
- on-set dynamics: finished products insulate a viewer from the agony prevailing on the average film shoot as part of the creative process. As a fan, you don’t usually get to see the multiple takes, the flubbed lines, the accidents, the botched stunts and the like. But since the advent of DVD Bonus Features, the public has now come to expect that peek behind the curtain and demand to see all the grisly flaws. In fact, today it’s something of the reverse: filmmakers who ban behind-the-scenes crews from documenting behind-camera antics are doing their project a huge disservice. Refusing to allow the BTS teams to do their job isn’t only potentially revenue-suppressing but result in a negative feedback spiral you’ll have difficulty extricating yourself from. Besides, audiences lap this stuff up. Now it’s up to you to provide.
- raw footage shot on gonzo cameras: and not color-corrected! Shaky framing, frenetic movements, poorly focused or lit scenes…all of this are the indie filmmaker’s playthings. Being unafraid to expose less-than-stellar quality (read: gonzo) footage publicly – rather than damage your ultimate end-product – will actually increase the respect audiences have for your work and get them chatting, sharing, and — moreover — redirecting traffic your way. Counterintuitive, I know, but try it once and you’ll be forever be hooked.
- discovery of hidden talent: back to actors again for a moment…there are cast members, given their secondary roles in films where they’re not part of the principal cast, who don’t have much room to take off. However, given the chance to opine freely off-the-record, they tend to shock you with how much they really have to say. If you don’t have cameras hovering around and lying in wait for those precious gems to emerge, your audience will never know and the potential discovery of hidden talent vanishes into the ether.
- getting to know the producers, directors, and writers: what you see on-screen is all about actors and below-the-line crew, the people who conjure up the screen magic (egs. costume designer, art director, lighting crew, subordinate camera people, etc.). Since directors, producers, and screenwriters are almost always behind-camera (except for helmsmen like M. Night Shyamalan, who actually act out scenes for his players), we rarely get to interact with them directly, save for when they do press junkets or run festival gauntlets. Yep, you’ve read my mind…with BTS, fans can now establish equally-strong relationships with other above-the-liners besides the men and women who make the screenwriter’s lines real. Directors and producers are now as familiar to an audience as the actors and characters fans have come to know and love over the course of an entire season. They become public celebrities in their own right, not just amongst Hollywood inner circles.
Look, I’m sure if I was pressed to do this for the less-glittery items in the extra-diagetic canon, I could hammer out a series of bullets for each, though none would come as simply as they have for BTS.
What do you think? Did I miss anything?
ps please don’t forget to LIKE the page. :-)
Adam Daniel Mezei, PMD | Producer of Marketing and Distribution
Indie Audience Engagement Services for Independent Feature Films and Documentaries
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