The Audience-Director Disconnect: How to Exert Control Over Viewers’ Mindset

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There have been many instances where a film before its release had sky high expectations but upon its release, fails big time. Why does this happen? Is it because the people had too much hopes? Can we say it is their mistake of having high hopes on the film? Or is it because audience weren’t served with what they had ordered from the film. Or can anyone conclude the audience were too dumb to expect so much from a bad film.

Well let’s start by saying that in such cases there is a clear disconnect between the creator and the audience. With the former being held responsible for it.

Why does this disconnect occur at all? Its because the creator doesn’t make sure that he/she and the audience are in the same wavelength. It’s like not having a control over the viewer’s mind set while watching the film. Now, Like what happened with Anjaan where the director clearly couldn’t predict the outcome. It could be out of many reasons but even a pro like Lingusamy could not understand his audience. In a supposed to a mass scene for the hero, people were literally laughing. Not just Lingusamy, you could see this creator audience disconnect in many films. so, how as filmmakers can we tackle this disconnect.

How do filmmakers avoid disconnections with the audience?

With kabali, there was a huge disconnect with respect to the fans of Rajini. This could’ve been avoided clearly. From the teasers and trailers, what was promised was Baasha like experience but what was delivered is an emotional drama. And as expected much to people surprise, Kabali is not an outright hit. Another recent example would be Vivegham. What was promised is an international spy thriller. What was delivered, I don’t know…

Many filmmakers lower the expectations of a film, thinking that this would  increase the success rate of it. Lowering the expectations is how Murugadoss after the failure of 7ham Arivu, played along for Thuppakki. Similarly, even the team of Kaala are adopting it due to the aftermath of Kabali. The Kaala team are literally hiding under the shadows avoiding most of the buzz about the film. Many films with big stars have gone through similar strategies after a big disappointment.

Like you have done a film with big stars, but then you know it is not good as we thought so you decide to tell people this is going to be ordinary and so when people come and watch, they  feel this is actually better than ordinary and so they would go about telling others this is in fact good and soon the film would go on to become a hit. One such example is the Vijay starrer Velayudham. But is this the best way to manage your audience expectations?

Better tune one’s audience!

Before a film releases, it’s better to tune in one’s audience on what kind of a journey the film has to offer them with. When tuned in correctly, the creator and the viewer are on a similar wavelength but the creator slightly ahead. The creator being ahead is quite significant. We’ll discuss that later. How the makers of Aval tuned in the audience on what to look forward from the film.  The makers of Aval clearly mentioned that it was going to be an out and out serious horror genre which is quite different from the usual Tamil horror comedies. This was them actually calling out the viewers that are interested in this genre. So they were tuned even before the release of the film.

Now, let us see during the watching experience of a film!

Taking control of the viewer!

During the course of any film, the viewer does two things all the time. He is thinking and feeling about the film. If a filmmaker would know what the audience would think/ feel at any point of time during the film, then imagine the amount of control the director can exert over the viewer’s mindset. One  can manipulate the audience between these two aspects. Like in Aruvi, where the director manipulates us into a conclusion of Aruvi indulging in sex but gives us something else as the film proceeds. This is because the director clearly took advantage of us while we were feeling due to which we didn’t think much. He literally controlled our mindset.

Recently I happened to see Hail Caesar, I tell you once a viewer becomes a fan of a master, the reverse is bound to happen. The viewer will try to understand what the director thought and felt during any placement of a scene. Why did he keep this dialogue?  What is he trying to convey? What is the meta narrative of the movie. That’s for masters anyway.


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