What Makes a Movie an Audience Favorite?

Some random thoughts about successful films

In my many years of sitting though Frameline screenings, to the tune of about 30-35 screenings of shorts and features per year, I’ve seen the successes and the failures.  I seen short films with $250,000 budgets flop while in the same shorts screening, a short that cost $2,200 (mostly food and beer for the team) win as an audience favorite.  We’ve seen several features shot for under $10,000 given prime-time screening slots, then later to the distributor.

Three key elements

Elements for success that the team needs to consider before embarking on the project:

One – every film should have a purpose.  Why make a film if there is no objective.  Most of the shorts submitted to the festivals seem to have “I need to do a film for my MFA degree” as the purpose.  Fortunately, there are a few talented students that can provide some creative work, but most is crap.

Two – every film needs an audience.  Just like the falling tree in the forest.  If people cannot relate to your film, it is DOA.

Three – the audience needs to hear the story.  If dialog is critical, then the audio needs to be awesome (it always hold be, but is frequently not).  But even without audio and subtitles for foreign language films, a well acted, directed

Narcissistic movies with don’t fare well.  See Kill the Monsters as an example.  Written by – directed by – staring = disaster.  The purpose was to self-centered and the audience was the mirror.

What Makes a Favorite

Then there are the traits that tend to make films favorites:

Gay audiences like happy endings, lesbians seem to like (a lot of) controversy where the heroine wins.

Gay audiences like characters to which you can either adore (want, crave) or can personally relate (the viewer thinks to themselves “I was there, too”).

Gay audiences like a “bit of magic” (for a lack of better words) i.e. surprises that contribute to the happy ending.

Some Favorites

Here is a developing list of shorts that have done well in the festival circuit:

I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone  – Written, directed and produced by Daniel Ribeiro.  Ribeiro nails it.  Has ever element of success.  A great story, perfect audio, shot well, good audio, characters with whom you can adore or relate to, and most importantly has that bit of magic and a happy ending.

There was one about a Japanese woman returning to her home after leaving her abusive husband, I’ll look for it.

Trêmulo – Written and directed by Roberto Fiesco.  Also nails it.  Did well but not as well as it should have (¿bias against mexicans, or was it the age difference?) – particularly good about this were unexpected changes in plot.  I can’t find a version with English subtitles, but even without, the visual is good enough that you can get the story.









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