Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I love start-up companies.

There is a sense of excitement and camaraderie in taking an idea and turning it into a valuable resource for others to experience. It is full of ups and downs, but well worth the effort. At the end of the day, I believe every film is a start-up company. After all, you have a story idea, a budget, a marketing plan and a team. And you have a lot of risks.

With a significant percentage of films losing money, there are two questions we try to answer for any film project we are potentially considering in order to reduce this risk. These two questions come from Peter Drucker, a leading management thinker of the last century.

Who is your customer?

What does your customer value?

I get excited when we discover a great story, wanting to get it out there as soon as possible. However, in addition to telling great stories, a second part of our goal is to give away our profits, something that requires buy in from audiences. I believe that effectively answering Drucker’s two questions will help us choose projects that lead us toward that goal.

Who is your customer?

I have attended several panels where leaders reference the “faith audience” as if it is one large group of similar people. However, this pie consists of different denominations, ages, cultural views, marketing outlets and entertainment desires.

In picturing a film as a start-up, we want to hone down the audience to a persona of the ideal viewer.

For example, Sally might be the persona. Meet Sally. Sally is a 28-year-old Millennial, single, shops at Anthropology, attends a nondenominational church weekly, and is working her third job since college graduation. She goes to the movies three times a year, and one of those films will definitely be the next Nicholas Sparks film.

Is this persona the only customer for our film? Of course not. However, it helps us narrow down the focus so we can quickly assess if the project could be interesting in the eyes of the target audience. This leads to Drucker’s next question.

What does your customer value?

In using our new persona, we must confidently answer, “Why would Sally want to see this film? Why would she be willing to give up $10 to $15 of her hard-earned money, along with two hours of her time, when she could use that money and time elsewhere?”

There are various reasons why Sally would say “Yes” to our film and say “No” to all the other opportunities she could use her money and time on. Some of these motivations include:

Entertainment: Perhaps Sally wants to step away from reality, get caught up in a story and follow a character she loves. She wants to laugh, cry, be surprised and she feels the trailer, poster and messaging promises this.

Inspiration: Perhaps Sally wants to find hope and inspiration, as life is hard and can be confusing at times.

Validation and encouragement: Perhaps Sally wants to see her beliefs validated on the screen and receive encouragement.

I have noticed that various segments of the faith audience want different experiences out of films. Some want films that offer validation; others want inspiration, and yet others want films that leave them with open-ended questions.

These motivations are not mutually exclusive, and there is no right answer to what value a movie should create for its audience, as long as that is what the target audience actually wants. However, if what the target audience wants and expects is not satisfied by the film or trailer we create, then there will be a disconnect and a potential for limited market acceptance.

We spend a lot of time and energy in developing a story and team for a project. After all, it is a start-up. We all want that effort to pay off and believe that it can — if we put the same time and effort into identifying our customers and the reasons they would want to see our film.

Harrison Powell oversees the development for Giving Films and is actively looking for and developing projects. Giving Films exists to fund the production and marketing of entertaining stories that spark life conversations. Giving Films donates all of its profits to charity. Giving Films recently wrapped production on “An Interview with God,” (see image above) a provocative mystery-drama starring Oscar nominee David Strathairn (“Good Night, and Good Luck,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Lincoln”) and Brenton Thwaites (“Maleficent,” “The Giver,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”).

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