Monday, August 2, 2010

Staying connected with the public...



On Tuesday I had an interesting and unforgettable experience, a friend of mine, who belongs to the Producer’s Guild, will frequently invite me to free industry screenings of Hollywood features. He asked me to join him for a screening of "Toy Story 3" in 3-D, and naturally I brought along my mother, who is an avid fan of animation. What neither of us realized was that the screening was at, none other, than Pixar Studios in Emeryville. So, it was quite an experience to have access to the secure complex for a few hours, the grounds of the complex are laid out like a very sleek, 21st Century university, and the very history of the studio is laid out within the massive lobby.

Another perk of this screening, after the film, was an industry Q&A with Producer Darla K. Anderson, while I won’t reveal the bulk of the exchange; she did have some interesting answers regarding how Pixar stays connected with the Public. One of the general points she raised was that while an animated film is in production, it will be screened for family members of employees, as well as selectively screened for segments of the general public, and the film will be adjusted according to reactions. It is known that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas will go to movies along with the paying public, which I have always considered a very wise decision. After all, the public is spending their hard earned cash to attend a feature film at a Theatre, or Multiplex, and they have a right to expect value for their dollar.

Within Hollywood, it is common for industry people at attend free screenings, and it is an understandable perk: but it is also a two edged sword as well. Producer’s run the risk of becoming so insulated, and by doing so, losing touch with what a paying audience is connecting to. Often the entertainment media, and Hollywood is obsessed with the 'secret' to Pixar’s success - and the answers might be rather simple. Many Studios will, and can, cynically sound the notes without playing the music, of the Pixar formula, that is, to digress, if there is such a thing as a formula, which I personally doubt. The various production teams for Pixar have stressed the quality of the stories, as well as the care, and investment that goes into the characters they create, but a third secret to their success might be a willingness to stay connected with the paying public. In essence, they have found a way to follow the example of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, through their low key screenings, while astonishingly avoiding the scoops of on-line spoilers, that is, to my general knowledge, I don’t recall any revelations from the countless on-line movie news sites that exist, and circulate spoilers at a heavy rate in many cases these days.

So, how is this relevant to The X-Files, you might ask, The producers at 1013 Productions shared a similar savvy, in the mid nineties, of staying connected with the fans, and were accessible in a way, thus setting up a template that other television series use today, that was unusual for the time. One can still find examples of the forward thinking approach that Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter took with the public, while managing to not reveal plot points for the series. It was, indeed, a delicate balance. These are lessons that industry people need to continue to apply when considering the commercial material they release to the public.

4 comments:

Sonia said...

Excellent observations :)

Christopher Knowles said...

Unfortunately I think Chris and Frank's accessibility backfired later on in the series. So you're right- it IS a delicate balance.

The X-Files Lexicon Blog said...

Hi Sonja, and Chris, thank you for your comments, appreciated.

Kimon said...

Toy Story 3 at Pixar Studios, wow! *Jealous* Now that was a perfect conclusion for one of the greatest trilogies in existence!

Yes Pixar's creative process is a subject worth applauding! As far as special screenings for the crew and family members go, I remember 1013 used to do this as well -- or at least I think they did it for Fight the Future and I Want To Believe. The sense of family is very strong in Chris Carter, and that shows in the way he surrounds himself with long-time professional associates.