RESEARCH RESULTSWHAT MAKES A BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILMS SUCCESSFUL?
INTRODUCTION• During this research project, I wanted to find out what makes some British Independent films successful in the box office while many do not make any money.• I looked specifically at the top 10 highest grossing British Independent films of 2011 as well as 10 of the lowest grossing films. These films were analyzed and compared in a number of ways in order to look at what aspects effected their box office performance.
METHODSThe methods I used for this project include:-Secondary research - The secondary research formed the basis for my whole project. For this research I mostly found out information on the films such as budget, actors, release date etc. which was all used within my content analysis. I also looked at reviews and articles to find out more qualitative information on the films and more detailed personal analysis on what added or took away from their success.-Content Analysis - I then took much of this secondary research and placed it all into a table so that I could find similarities in the two groups of films.-Questionnaire - The questionnaire was used to target audiences directly and find out what impacts their decision to see a film and also what makes them enjoy film. I also wanted to find out how effective the advertising was for the 20 films I am looking at. I distributed these questionnaires both online on Facebook and by paper in class resulting in 23 questionnaires being completed.-Focus Group - Similarly, I aimed to find out in more detail how people decide what film to see in cinema. However, the main purpose of this focus group was to look at some of the films I am researching and ask respondents whether they would go and see them and why. The focus group contained five 17 -18 years olds.
SUB QUESTIONS• In order to go about this research, I had to break the topic down into several categories to explore. The two main things I wanted to find out were:- Which independent films are successful?- What is the reason for their success?The second category was then broken down into several other questions as follows:- Which aspects of a film are important in drawing an audience in?- Which aspects are important in making the film enjoyable?- Do these things contribute to the films success through reviews and word of mouth?- Is a film’s success partly down to marketing, advertising and distribution?- How important is the budget?- Are there any other factors which contribute to a films performance?
WHICH BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILMS ARE SUCCESSFUL?Before I began my research, I needed to find out which filmswere most successful in 2011. For this I looked at official statisticsfrom the BFI who provide a yearly report on box office figures.One section gave the top 20 successful British Independent filmsof 2011. I took the top 10 of these as follows: (Source 1) From this information, we can1 – The Kings Speech (45.68m) already see that the genre and2 – The Inbetweeners Movie (45.03m) types of films here vary from3 – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (14.14m) comedies, family films and dramas, and there is no obvious4 – Horrid Henry (6.62m) connection between them or5 – Jane Eyre (5.07m) clear reason for their success.6 – The Three Musketeers (3.48m) Therefore the rest of the7 – My Week With Marilyn (3.05m) research aims to find similarities between these 10 films and the8 – The Eagle (2.88m) overall reasons for their success.9 – West is West (2.69m)10 – Attack the Block (2.47m)
WHICH BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILMS ARE SUCCESSFUL?I then found out 10 low grossing British Independent films tocompare with these other films. To find these films I went toBoxOffice Mojo and looked at all film releases of 2011 in order ofbox office gross. (source 2)I had to research each film in orderto find out where it was made and whether they wereindependent . The 10 films I found are as follows:1 – Retreat (£2,838)2 - Break My Fall (£1,497) As you can see box3 - Treacle Jr. (£1,418) office figures for these4 - Wake Wood (£1,266) films are considerably5 - The Tapes (£555) lower and drew in a6 - Big Fat Gypsy Gangster (£475) very small audience.7 - This is Our Still Life (£367)8 – Travellers (£227)9 – Turnout (£210)10 - 7Lives (£32)
WHICH ASPECTS OF A FILM ARE IMPORTANT IN DRAWING AN AUDIENCE IN?I wanted to know what about a film draws in an audience. This isuseful as the initial drawing in of an audience will have a largeeffect on a films box office success.As part of my questionnaire I asked the question; ‘Please rank thefollowing in order of importance when making a choice to see afilm (1-10 with 1 being the most important)’ with the followingoptions:-Actor/s-Director-Reviews-Word of mouth-Genre-Plot-Advertising campaign-Setting-Franchise/adaptation-Awards
WHICH ASPECTS OF A FILM ARE IMPORTANT IN DRAWING AN AUDIENCE IN? I added up all of the results from this question using a tally table and found the average rating of each aspect. From this I found that plot was generally rated as first or second most important variable in deciding to go and see a film. This was followed by reviews and word of mouth, then actors and genre followed by director and advertising, leaving franchise/adaptation and awards as the least important aspects. Actors Director Review Word of Genre Plot Advertising Setting Franchise/adaptatio Awards s mouth n 1 | | || ||| | |||||||| | | | ||||| 2 |||| | ||||| |||| || ||| | | || 3 ||| | ||||| ||| ||||| | | | | | 4 ||| |||| || || ||||| | | || || | 5 |||||| ||| | |||||| | || || | | 6 | ||| | ||| ||| ||||| ||| | ||| 7 || ||||| | | || | |||| | |||| || 8 |||| || | ||| ||| |||| | ||||| | | | || |||||||| ||||| ||| || 9 10 ||||| ||| | ||||||||| |||| Average 4.6 6 3.6 4.1 4.7 2.3 6.5 7.3 8.1 7.2 However, as you can see above, there was not much between each factor in terms of averages with the exception of plot. Although this does show that the plot is the most important deciding factor, it doesn’t really help to determine which of the others have the most impact as results varied greatly from person to person. It also didn’t allow respondents to specify which factors may have been equally important or not an effecting factor at all.
WHICH ASPECTS OF A FILM ARE IMPORTANT IN DRAWING AN AUDIENCE IN?In order to gather more useful results, I should have eitherasked an open question – ‘Which aspects of a film areimportant to you when deciding what film to go and see?’,allowing respondents to give their own, more accurateanswers or asked the same question but asked therespondent to rate each individual factor out of 10according to how important they are when making adecision. An ‘other’ option should also have been added tothis question to allow respondents to specify factors which Imay not have thought of myself. The questionnaire shouldalso be done on a much larger scale so that it reflects alarger number of cinemagoers. All of these improvementswould have given much clearer results and allowed me toanswer the question above which much more clarity andstatistical basis.
WHICH ASPECTS OF A FILM ARE IMPORTANT IN DRAWING AN AUDIENCE IN ?However, also as part of my questionnaire, I asked a similar question: How do youdecide what film to see at the cinema?This was an open question and I found that the most common answer for this wasgenerally through trailers or advertising followed by recommendations/word of mouthand reviews.Although this question is different in the sense that it doesn’t show what about thefilms specifically draws people to it, it does show how most people will find out aboutfilm and the main things they will base their decision on.This table shows all of the answers received from this question and how many repliedsimilarly. Answer No. of answers Examples Recommendations/word of 7 ‘From reviews and asking friends’ mouth ‘Influences from my family and what they want to see’ Reviews 6 ‘Reviews on radio, word of mouth, trailers’ ‘By watching a trailer on TV or feedback and reviews’ Advertising including trailers 14 ‘Whatever looks good on Apple trailers’ Genre 4 ‘Depends on what I’ve seen advertised, which actors are involved and the type of film’ Cinema Listings 2 ‘If it fits a genre I like’ Ratings 3 ‘Cinema listings and ratings’ ‘Looking at their ratings and plots’ Plots 2 ‘Adverts’ Actors 1 ‘Reviews/word of mouth/genre ‘Depends on the film - I like action & good soundtracks’ Friends/family influence or 2 ‘Look at cinema listings, ratings and reviews. Or go and see decision a film I have seen advertised.’
The importance of Advertising & DistributionI felt that this question along with other parts of my research highlights the importance of advertising and distribution as well as word of mouth/reviews and recommendations which I will explore later on.As part of my secondary research, I found the following graphs created by Neilson’s as part of their own research, which show that most people find out about films through advertising and word of mouth. This along with my own research, shows me that advertising, particularly trailers, are extremely important in drawing in an initial audience for the film which then brings in a larger following through word of mouth. (Source 3)The second graph also show that different age groups hear about films through very different sources. This means that placing advertising in the right places for the target audience will be very important for distributors and getting their strategy wrong may effect the films performance.
The importance of Advertising & DistributionMore extensive research carried out by the BFI on 440 films, found the following:• Among mass (TV-advertised films) films, a 1% increase in TV advertising spend is on average associated with a 0.11% rise in box office receipts, while a 1% increase in press advertising expenditure implies a 0.16% rise in box office.• Among niche (non-TV-advertised) films, a 1% increase in press advertising expenditure was similarly found to imply a 0.16% rise in box office takings.• Average advertising expenditure was equal to 14% of box office receipts for the films in this study, this suggests that an extra £1000 in advertising is associated with roughly £6400 extra in box office receipts. This graph, completed with information from this research, shows a positive correlation between advertising spend, particularly television advertising, and box office performance. I feel that this research supports the idea that advertising is an extremely important factor in a films success. However, I will need to explore this idea further and apply this research to my own 20 films. (Source 4)
The importance of Advertising & DistributionTo apply this to the 20 films I am looking at, I asked in both my focus group and as part of the questionnaire which of these films people had seen advertised.For the questionnaire, I included a multiple choice question which specified all 20 films and asked the respondent to tick all of which they had seen advertised. Which of the following films have you seen advertised? No. of replies 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 West is West With Marilyn Tinker Tailor Wake Wood 2 Jane Eyre The Kings Travellers Soldier Spy Turnout 7 Lives Big Fat 0 My Week Gypsy Speech FilmsAs this table of results shows, all of the 10 successful films had been seen advertised by a majority of respondents whereas only one of the unsuccessful films had been seen advertised and by only three respondents. This also shows that the two most successful films had been seen advertised more so than any of the others. However, you can also see that Attack the Block also had a large number of people who had seen it advertised. This could be largely down to the film’s target audience as the majority of questionnaire respondent were aged 18-24 and are therefore more likely to see and notice advertising for this type of film. The secondary research graph shown in the slide above, highlights the fact that younger demographics will see films advertised in different places to an older demographic. Therefore, this shows that the results gained through this questionnaire largely depends on the demographics of the respondents and a more balanced variety would give more useful and reliable results. Saying this, at least 7 of the 10 unsuccessful films have a target audience of 18-24 year olds and at least 5 of the successful films, the majority of people taking part in this questionnaire.
The importance of Advertising & DistributionThis piece of research therefore shows that the unsuccessful films have much less advertising, or less effective advertising. I believe this to be a large contributing factor to their success which is supported by some of the information given through the focus group.As part of this focus group, I presented the group with 3 of the successful films; Jane Eyre, The Kings Speech and The Inbetweeners Movie, and 3 of the unsuccessful films; Travellers, 7Lives and Treacle Jr, through the use of their official posters and a brief synopsis. I found that generally people had heard about or seen the successful films advertised whereas they were not aware that the others existed at all. For some of the unsuccessful films, the group even said they would go and see these if they had seen some form of advertising such as a trailer.Example of quotes which support this from my focus group include;- ‘Mainstream films will have more publicity and posters so you’re obviously going to hear more about it and the films will stick in your mind’.- ‘I think one of the major things is publicity, a lot of people were talking about it (Kings Speech/The Inbetweeners), this lot I’ve never heard of (Travellers, 7Lives, Treacle Jr.)’- ‘I would go an see it because I like the promotional material, it looks quite arty (Jane Eyre).- Because I havent heard anything about it I wouldn’t go and see it (Travellers).’However, before making conclusions on the impact of advertising and distribution to the films success, I need to look at the wider picture and explore reasons why the advertising was low in the first place.These reasons could be down to the inability to secure an influential distribution company due to the quality of the films themselves which means that it is important to look at reviews and ratings of these films to find out whether there are different reasons for the failure of the films. Budget will also have an impact as less money will be available to spend on the advertising and distribution of the films.
HOW IMPORTANT IS A FILMS BUDGET?By looking at the film budgets of all 20 films (some of which were unknown) Ifound an average budget for the 10 successful films and an average for the 10unsuccessful films. (Source 5)Successful = £14.4 millionUnsuccessful = £420,000This shows that the films budget probably has a large impact on a films success.However, as I was unable to get a full breakdown of the budget, I cannot saywhere the budget has an impact. For example, the budget could impact itssuccess due to the amount spent on production or alternatively how much isspent on distribution and marketing or more likely, a combination of the two.Although these results clearly show that the successful films have much largerbudgets which is likely to be a large contribution to their success, there is onefilm particularly which doesn’t completely conform to this rule. The ThreeMusketeers had a massive budget of £43 million. Although this was the 6th mostsuccessful British independent film of 2011, making £3,48 million, the film madean overall loss of almost £40 million. Therefore, spending a lot of money on a filmwill not always make it successful in terms of profit. However, it will impact thefilms success in terms of statistics as the film received very negative reviews, withlow ratings and winning no awards yet still ranked 6th out of all the BritishIndependent films released in 2011.
The importance of Advertising & DistributionAlthough I was unable to gather a break down of the budget to see how much of this was spent on advertising and distribution, it is clear from the slide above that the budgets of the less successful films are considerably lower than that of the successful films and will therefore have much less to spend on distribution. Most mainstream films with major distributors will spend an average 50% of the production budget on marketing and distribution alone (Source 29). However, independent films can be picked up by these major distributors or similarly large independent film distributors who will be able to promote the film in the same way as these mainstream films with an equally large budget. This means that by looking at each films distribution company, we can gain some idea on the budget, scale and power of their marketing campaign. (Source 6)
The importance of Advertising & Distribution
The importance of Advertising & DistributionAs you can see above the majority of successful films have a well known distribution company behind them who have also distributed mainstream films, with three of these films having main distributing companies such as Weinstein behind them. This will mean that the marketing and distribution of these films will have a much larger budget allowing trailers, posters and other forms of advertising to be high quality and be distributed on a larger scale. This also means that more copies of the film can be made and released in a larger number of cinemas across the country. The distribution companies reputation will also allow access to more press advertising and possibly even under line advertising by being able to book interviews and television appearances. The less successful films however, are generally distributed by independent distributors or specific art house distributors. Break My Fall for example, was distributed by Peccadillo Films; a distribution company specialising in lesbian, gay, and bisexual film content. This will mean that these distributors will have a limited amount of money available for advertising and distribution and may have to rely much more heavily on free forms of advertising such as on pirate radio or online, which will reach a much smaller audience. However, there are exceptions to this as several of these films have large distributors with some even having the same distribution company behind them as some of the successful films. Retreat is the most obvious example of this as they are distributed by Sony, one of the leading distribution companies. Wakewood, 7Lives, Turnout and Travellers were distributed by leading independent film distributors.Because previous research explored above showed that advertising for these 10 films were not seen by the questionnaire or focus group respondents, there must be reasons why advertising was not as large scale for these films as they were for the successful films. This could bring us back to the films budget as even though the distribution companies themselves may have money and influence, they are unlikely to spend much of their own money but will instead rely on the films production budget. These factors also depend on the films themselves and how much the distributors believe in them. Again they are unlikely to put much money into a film if they do not believe they will get much back. Another factor to consider is how many distributors a film is able to secure. Again the majority of successful films have several distribution companies working with them and therefore several sources of money and support for their advertising and distribution. All of the unsuccessful films however, all have only one distribution company.
The importance of Advertising & Distribution Questionnaire Quotes Supporting the importance of advertising – in response to the question ‘Would you go and see a mainstream blockbuster over a British independent and why?’‘The likelihood is I wouldn’t have seen many British Independent films advertised’‘Mainstream are publicised better’‘You hear more about it through advertising’ (Mainstream)‘I tend to find the blockbuster trailer more appealing. More often then none, I’m disappointed though.’‘They are more popular’ (Mainstream)‘Would get my attention more’ (Mainstream)‘Because you hear about it more through advertising’ (Mainstream)I believe that these quotes completely support the idea that advertising and distribution plays a massive part in a film’s success. By these quotes we can see that many people would see a mainstream film over an independent simply because they have seen mainstream advertised more. If independent British films were equally advertised, these respondents may chose to watch them over some of the mainstream films.
The importance of Advertising & DistributionThrough the research carried out within this sub category, I believe advertising and distribution to have a large impact on a films success due to the fact that the film needs to be seen through advertising in order to draw in an initial audience.However, this research does not simply show that the less successful films were not so due to their small amount of advertising. We have to consider why some of these films were unable to secure a large distribution company. This could be due to the film makers not having the right contacts, time or ability to contact distributors, not having the budget to pay them or this could be down to the content of the films themselves. If the films do not appeal to distributors due to plot, style, actors etc. then the film will not be taken on by them. Most distributors will want to take on films which will appeal to a large audience and make them money so aspects of the films will have to show them that this will be the case. The following quote by Charlie Brooker, sums up this idea; ‘No one sets out to make a box-office flop. The problem with British films isnt a failure of ambition – its the challenge of getting the damn things seen in a world filled with chain multiplexes programmed by monolithic distributors. Without distribution, no one sees your film. And without a huge marketing engine behind you, without a cookie-cutter similarity to the last big thing, the distributors often aint interested.’ (Source 7)Many of these films however, did secure a distributor and to find out the reasons for this, we can look at reviews, ratings, target audience and other aspects of the film such as actors involved in order to determine whether or not these things will appeal to a mass audience and therefore the main distributors.
Quality of the filmsThe underlying factor to the level of these films success, should rely on the quality of the films themselves. This means that the successful films should be well made and have strong components such as acting, plot, soundtrack, techniques, style etc. Having all or many of these components should mean that the film is able to secure a strong studio and distributor, have good reviews and positive word of mouth, all important contributing factors to a films success. In order to establish whether the successful films are of higher quality, we can look at ratings and reviews. Source 8From these graphs we can see that a higher percentage of critics and spectators enjoyed the successful films over the failing films. The majority of critics and audience members enjoyed the successful films while the majority of critics did not like the unsuccessful films. However, it is difficult to look at averages rather than looking at figures for each film separately. If we do so, we can see that the successful films generally had higher ratings with over 50% of critics liking seven of the ten films while there was only two unsuccessful films with this statistic. However, there are at least 3 successful films with poor ratings and at least 2 unsuccessful films with good results with one being liked by 100% of the critics. This therefore shows that the quality of the films will have an impact but not in all cases.However, this information is not as useful as it should be as the films did not have the same amount of critics rating each film. There were also some unsuccessful films which had no ratings at all. This means that it is impossible to make accurate statements from this information.
Quality of the filmsTo gain a deeper understanding of the quality of each film, it is important to look at a number of reviews and pick up common points made by several critics. (Sources 9 and 10)
Quality of the filmsAs you can see, 6 of the 10 films rated quite highly with the critics and received positive reviews. 2 films received average ratings and mixed reviews while 2 others rated badly and received negative reviews.This information does show however, that the majority of these films were made to fairly high quality receiving praise for acting, script, visual style and directing. This should therefore mean that these films will draw in an audience through reviews and word of mouth particularly due to these aspects which have proven to be important in my questionnaire (as shown on slide 8).Horrid Henry and The Three Musketeers on the other hand, were poorly acted and badly written. Yet these films still made a box office success which proves that quality is not always essential to bring in money if other aspects are strong.In the case of Horrid Henry, I think it is fair to say that its success was much more down to its target audience, among other factors. Horrid Henry is a children’s film based on the extremely popular children’s books. Children of this age will not be judging films in the same way as critics and are likely to enjoy most children’s films particularly comedies and particularly if they are already fans of the books. Therefore parents will be taking their children to see Horrid Henry knowing this and may be interested themselves due to the famous cast.In the case of The Three Musketeers, the film is part of a franchise and will have a massive fan base already established. The action/adventure genre is hugely popular and the actors are well known. The film had a massive budget of £47 million which equals that of a mainstream film which also means that advertising would have been high. If we consider the budget, the film seems much less successful making a huge loss of £43 million and bringing a much lower gross than many mainstream films with similar budgets.
Quality of the films
Quality of the filmsYou can see here that these reviews are much more mixed and the highest critic rating is only 6.8. Although this shows that critics rated 5 of the successful films higher than the top rated film in this category, we can see that there are some quite positive reviews for several of these films. However, we can also see that each of these films with positive comments have something missing from a plausible premise in the case of Retreat, to not enough impact in the case of Wake Wood.I believe this highlights the important of each aspect of the film and being strong in all of these areas will allow for a much more successful film.Saying this, some of these films received higher ratings and more praise than some of the successful films. Treacle Jr. for example, received mainly positive reviews and a rating of 6.2 which is equal to the rating of The Inbetweeners Movie and higher than 4 of the successful films. This shows that there are other factors which have been explored in this research which in some cases may be more important and have more impact of a films success than the quality alone.
Reviews and Word of MouthInformation shown in slides 10 and 11, highlighted the importance of reviews and word of mouth in drawing in a cinema audience.As mentioned previously, I asked the question; How do you decide what film to see at the cinema? This was an open question and 7 of the respondents answered with word of mouth and 6 with reviews making up the second and third most common answers. The secondary research graph shown on slide 11 also shows word of mouth as the second most common way people hear abut film.Film reviews are usually available before a film is even released and initial audiences on the opening weekend may base decisions to see a film on reviews they’ve read. Word of mouth then has a big impact following the open weekend as many people will trust the opinions of friends and family. Word of mouth will also reach people who may not have much access to other forms of advertising such as internet and television. Word of mouth may also encourage people to see a film which didn’t appeal to them through marketing. In my focus group for example, one respondent said that The Kings Speech didn’t appeal to her but everyone was talking about it positively and she only watched it for this reason, but when she did watch it she really enjoyed it.University Graduate Joel Hewett commented in an article that; ’success is not down to mass marketing, or down to trips all over the world promoting the film, but simple, old fashioned word of mouth. This is important in many ways, but mainly as the films success is based upon whether or not those watching it enjoyed it. This is often not the case with major studio films; the rule of thumb seems to be that if you attach a major star, you have a major hit. (Source 11)By looking at all of this information I believe reviews and word of mouth to be a massive factor in a films success. Saying this, positive word of mouth and reviews will have to be generated due to the films themselves and qualities that make people talk about them in a positive way.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR THE FILM TO HAVE KNOWN PEOPLE INVOLVED? Unsuccessful Films Big name actors Known actors UnknownAs these pie charts show, the successful films have much more known people involved either as director or actors than theunsuccessful films. Although my questionnaire showed that famous actors and directors were not the most important factors fora films success, according to the respondents, there will be fans of these actors and directors who will go and see a film for thisreason. A few responses from my survey supports this idea as I gained replies such as ‘depends of what actors are involved’.If we look at these results in more detail, we can see that four of the top 10 films had famous actors with names such as GaryOldman, Colin Firth, Channing Tatum and Helena Bonham Carter who have all starred in mainstream films, building up a fanbase through this.Three of these films also had a known director such as Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) and Paul W. Anderson (ResidentEvil, Alien VS. Predator). Having these people involved in a film may not only attract fans but may also sway cinemagoerschoices when deciding between several films if they know they will enjoy watching an actor or have enjoyed previous filmsfrom the director.This is supported by replies given as part of my focus group with comments such as ‘I think it helps if you’re trying to chosebetween two films and one of them has people that I know of’ and ‘for me the director heavily weighs whether I see a film ornot because I’m really interested in the way it’s crafted and made.’We can also see that 5 of the 10 unsuccessful films had known actors such as Thandie Newton, Danny Dyer and Eastendersactor Ricky Grover. Although these actors are not as well known and some of the previous names, they will still have some sortof fan base and should help attract some viewers to the films. In my focus group for example, one participant commented thatin 7Lives; ‘Having a name like Danny Dyer makes it more interesting.’ However, the audiences and fans of these actors willhave had to have heard of these films and be interested in seeing them, bringing us back to the importance of advertising.(Source 12)
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE?One of the most obvious factors I found during this research project, was the fact that the majority of thesuccessful films already had an established fan base. Through my content analysis, I found that six of thetop 10 films were adaptations or carry-ons of novels or television shows, one was a sequel to a previous filmand two others were based on real people and real events. Attack the Block was the only film which wasnot based on anything already in existence.To support this research, I carried out some more secondary research into audience figures for these filmsorigins.-The Kings Speech has been based on King George VI and real historical events in the King’s life. This willtherefore draw in an audience interested in British history, culture and the royal family. The royal family isvery popular in both the UK and across the world including America which can be seen through thepopularity and press around the Royal wedding which happened only 3 months after the films release.-The Inbetweeners - this film was a carry on from the E4 comedy series. In its third series, The Inbetweenerspulled the highest ever audience for an E4 original commission with 2.247 million viewers watching theopening episode. (Source 13)-Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – this film originates from a book of the same name, published in In 1974. The year itwas published alone, 154,647 copies were sold. Since then thousands more books have been printed andsold worldwide. The book was then made into a short television series shown on the BBC and later adaptedinto two BBC radio dramatizations in 1988 and 2009. Although I was unable to find official audiencestatistics for these, it is fair to say that the story had a large following because of these things. (Source 14)-Horrid Henry originates from a collection of 21 childrens books. The Horrid Henry makers have also made 6joke books, 13 activity books and a 52 episode television series. The combined sales of all the Horrid Henrybooks and audiobooks now stands at over sixteen million copies. (Source 15)-Jane Eyre – Jane Eyre is a 1847 classic which has been adapted into 16 films, 9 musical versions, 3 radioversions, 11 television adaptations, 1 graphic novel and 23 pieces of literature ranging from spin offs,retellings, prequels and sequels. Because of the age of the original book, it is impossible to know the exactfigure of copies sold. However, it can be assumed that this number will be in the millions. The large numberof adaptations clearly shows the massive fan base of this novel. (Source 16)
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE?- The Three Musketeers is another 1844 classic novel which has been adapted into 40 films, several musicals , several games, 5 television adaptations , one comic and has influenced many others. (Source 17)- My Week With Marilyn is based on two books which depict a time in actress, model and singers Marilyn Monroe’s life. Therefore this film is not only based on books but a real and iconic person with a large fan base. Marilyn starred in 34 films during the 40’s – 60’s and was not only famous at the time but continues to be appearing on posters, art work and clothing to this day. (Source 18)- The Eagle was adapted from the 1954 novel The Eagle of the Ninth. I could not find any sales figures for this book and I do not believe it was a massive seller. However, the film is not only based on a book but is also based on the Romans and set in 140 AD. The Roman period and films with this historical basis, have their own fan bases. (Source 19)- West is West is a sequel to the film East is East. East is East made £36.2 million in cinema and a further £12.3 million on rentals in the UK. These figures show that West is West will already have an established fan base brought in by the prequel. (Source 20)- Attack the Block is the only of these 10 films which has an original idea and script.Out of the 10 unsuccessful films, only one of these was based on something already in existence. Big Fat Gypsy Gangster takes its basis from Ricky Grover’s television character Bulla from The 11 OClock Show. The 11 O’clock show however, was considered to have failed ratings averaging around 400,000 views and a low 2.4% audience share from 10:30pm. Because of the nature of the show, this would not have guaranteed a fan base for this character as he only plays a small part of the show which already has a small audience. (Source 21)This point was also picked up in my focus group with one of the respondents commenting on the fact that the three successful films I presented to them were based on something and have therefore ‘already got their foot in the door’ and ‘they’ve already got fans’.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE? The ‘high concept film’ The idea of the high concept film refers to films with a simple, understandable plot, a strong match between image and music, simplified characters, high production value e.g. strong special effects and parts which can be easily transferred into other platforms such as soundtrack or a montage of images to be used elsewhere. This type of film should appeal to a mass audience and most mainstream or popular films will follow this format.For independent films, this idea could be extremely important. As independent British films have less overall appeal to audiences, the high concept will help draw in an initial audience particularly if they appear similar to mainstream films. Audiences may feel that due to their low budget and lack of large production support, independent British films will be unable to pull off complicated storylines. This was shown in my focus group. When presenting, unsuccessful film 7Lives, one of the participants commented that ‘the more unrealistic the storyline, the more people won’t become interested’.I found this idea from the following website which explored how films such as Titanic followed this idea and became a massive success in the box office.http://www.medienabc.org/page32/files/page32_6.pdfI believe this article particularly highlights the importance again of plot, storyline and character suggesting that simplicity is the best way to go. If we look at the 20 different films I feel that the 10 successful follow this ‘high concept film’ idea much more than the other 10. (Source 22)
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE? GenreBy looking at the genres of each film, I found there was a fair bit of variety in the types of films found in both categories. However, I found that in the most successful films, drama was the most common genre followed by comedy. According to the following graph, created by ddunlop with figures from The Numbers (official box office figures), comedy is the most watched film genre followed by action and adventure. Drama and thriller account for a small amount of films watched and horror and documentary along with others, make up a very small percentage of films watched. These statistics suggest that at least six of the top 10 films fit into 72% of the genres of films watched, and only 1 unsuccessful film fits the category.(Source 23)
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE? GenreThere is a much larger amount of thrillers and horrors in the unsuccessful film category. These genres only amount to 11% of films genres watched by audiences. This is already a low statistic and if we look at this in relation to the types of films we are researching; British Independent, this factor may be even more of a contributing factor to the films failure. Thriller and horror films tend to rely quite heavily on special effects and production value and it could be argued that independent films will be less able to meet audience standards when making a thriller or horror. This was again picked up during the focus group where one respondent commented that they would ‘only watch a thriller or horror if it was a big Hollywood film otherwise it’s just unrealistic and looks budget’.Although this is only one opinion, it can be assumed that many others will feel this way and will only go and see a thriller or horror if it is well executed and a large budget or experienced production team may be the only way to do this.We can also see that the majority of the top films fit into the drama genre. This could be due to the drama genre being much more versatile and having the ability to be made on a lower budget due to the reliance on narrative and characters opposed to special effects. But again only assumptions and ideas can be made with this information rather than hard facts.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE? AwardsAlthough the questionnaire showed that having awards wasn’t particularly important in the decision process of what film to see, I found that almost all of the successful films had a number of awards and therefore this would be important to look at in more detail. From this table we can see that 4 of the 10 films were nominated for Oscars with The King’s Speech winning 4 and Attack the Block being holding 1 BAFTA nomination. There was a total of 124 awards given between the 10 films and 216 nominations.Results from my questionnaire, showed at the beginning of this presentation, found that awards was the 7th least contributing factor when deciding to see a film. However, there were some people who rated this factor between 1st and 5th most important and one focus group recipient commented that he wanted to see The King’s Speech ‘because it had won so many awards.’I believe that awards had a large impact of The King’s Speech particularly as the large number of awards won and the achievement of winning 4 Oscars, really heightened the amount of publicity and word of mouth surrounding it even before its release. The Oscar nominations were also used as part of the marketing, being displayed on posters as part of the films USP.This is a massive contrast to the 2 nominations and 2 wins within the unsuccessful film category. Although I believe that awards will have some effect on the films success by drawing in an audience and raising publicity, I feel that the number of awards are more of a comment on the quality of the films. (Source 24)
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE? Target Audience/Age RatingTarget audience will also be a contributing factor to a films success ifthey are able to appeal to and target the largest cinema audiencegroups. According to ‘The Role of the Distributor’ educational DVD, 18 –24 year olds and families are the two groups which make up most ofcinema audiences. (Source 25) As you can see in this table, the majorityof top films fit into one of these two categories.There are also many unsuccessful films which fit into the 18 – 24 agecategory yet to be really successful, the film will need to appeal to otheraudiences as well as its main target audience.The King’s Speech for example, had a target audience of over 35’soriginally. However, the large amount of press surrounding the film drewin a much wider audience with people going to see it from all age groupsand enjoying it.7 of the unsuccessful films have an age rating of 15 and two have an agerating of 18. This immediately cuts off under 15s from seeing these filmsas well as families with children under this age. Even families withchildren over 15 or 18 are more unlikely to watch one of these films dueto the content they are likely to contain. This means that one of thelargest groups of cinemagoers is cut out immediately and this will resultin a decrease in possible box office sales.Although the successful films also contain a large amount of 15s, thereare no 18s in this category and an equal amount of 12A’s, and PGs,offering a much wider cinema audience. (Source 26)
ARE THERE ANY OTHER FACTORS WHICH CONTRIBUTE TO A FILMS PERFORMANCE? Other Factors Release dateRelease date is another factor I looked at as part of my content analysis. However, I found that the release dates of all 20 films differed throughout the year and there was no distinction at all between the two categories. On the other hand, an article I read by NME journalist Owen Nicholls on the success of The Inbetweeners Movie, (source 27) used its release date as a factor for its huge box office success. The Inbetweeners Movie was released in August, the beginning of Summer Holidays, opening on an Orange Wednesday on the week of A-Level results where students may be celebrating possibly by going to the cinema, and parents may be awarding their children financially. Because of its teen and young adult target audience, this could have had an impact as the film relied largely on this one target audience grouping. Saying this, there is no clear way to distinguish whether or not this did have an effect on the films success and this idea can only be implied rather than proven without talking to the audience members directly. Film nameDuring my focus group, I found that the film’s name could put off possible audience members. When I presented the idea for the film Treacle Jr. a couple of the recipients said that they would not go and see it simply because of the name commenting that ‘they would not be taken seriously’ if they said they were going to watch a film called Treacle Jr. The name is generally the first thing someone hears or sees and having an appealing and memorable name may help during the decision process when going to the cinema. However, I did not find that this was a massive deciding factor or had much
ConclusionDuring this research project, I have found that there are many factors which contribute to a British Independent film’s success. The most successful films will have a combination of these factors although I also found that if one or two factors was particularly strong, a film can become successful based on these alone.I also found that a lot of the factors which I have explored are linked, and one factor will lead on to the next.From this research I believe that the following factors will contribute to a films success;- Plot- Budget- Marketing and distribution- Acting- Actors & director- Genre- Target Audience- ‘High concept’- Franchise/established fan base- Quality- Reviews- Positive word of mouthI believe these to be the most important factors. In some cases the following will also have an impact;- Awards- Age rating- Release date- Film nameIf we look at the most successful film, The King’s Speech, which made £36.18 million making it the highest grossing British Independent film of all time we can see that the film has all of these factors. The film had a strong plot, a fairly decent budget, strong marketing and distribution, highly praised acting, well known actors, a versatile genre, appeal to a massive audience, followed the idea of high concept film, had historical basis, received excellent reviews and generated a large amount of positive word of mouth. The film then won a high amount of awards including four Oscars and had an age rating of 12A making it available to a wide audience. The film also had a worldwide appeal due to its basis on the royal family which is a popular subject in many countries across the world.This film was a massive success due to the fact that it had all of these factor working for it. However, several of the successful films did not meet all of these factors. The Eagle for example, did not have a particularly strong plot, the acting was not particularly praised, the reviews and word of mouth were average and in some cases quite mixed and it won no awards. On the other hand, the film had the second highest budget of the 10, well known actors and a fairly well known director were attached to the film, the genre is largely popular, the target audience was large and the films subject matter, historical basis and novel basis, will have appealed to an already existing fan base of not only the book but also of films based on the Roman period. The film was also highly praised for its visual style and techniques. I believe that this shows that having some of the most important factors can still make a film successful.
ConclusionIf we then look at a couple of the unsuccessful films in more detail we can see that 7Lives for example, had a complicated storyline, a very low budget, little marketing and distribution, an only slightly known cast, a less popular genre, no established fan base, an unknown director and poor reviews with little word of mouth. The only positives about this film was the quality of acting which alone is not enough to make the film a success.Treacle Jr. however, received a lot of praise for acting and storyline winning two awards and rating an average 6.2 with critics. Despite this, the film was not a success showing that these factors alone are not enough. The film again had a low budget, an unknown director and cast, little marketing and distribution, no established fan base and did not target the largest cinema demographic audience.Therefore, making a successful independent film is all about getting the right combination of factors. However, if it was that easy to establish which of these factors are most important or how to reach these factors, then more people would be making successful British films like The King’s Speech. Filmmaker Ken Loach (Wind that Shakes the Barley) quotes ‘If everybody knew what would be successful before it was made, there would be no problem’.
BIBLIOGRAPHYSource 1 - Top 20 Independent UK Films 2011 (out of 169 independent films) By the BFIhttp://www.bfi.org.uk/filmtvinfo/stats/UK_box_office_2011.pdfSource 2 – Box office figures of all films made in 2011 in order of gross. By Box Office Mojohttp://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/chart/?page=6&view=releasedate&view2=domestic&yr=2011&p=.htmSource 3 – Graphs showing how people hear about filmhttp://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/news-and-features/features/cinemas/e3ie3cb96740c26f800a294d7506ba771daSource 4 – Graph showing the positive correlation between advertising costs and box office grossAdvertising Effectiveness in UK Film Distribution - A report for the UK Film CouncilSource 5 – Budgets for all 20 filmswww.boxofficemojo.comSource 6 – Distribution companies for each filmhttp://www.imdb.co.uk/Source 7 – Charlie Brooker quote http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jan/15/charlie-brooker-british-filmSource 8 – Percentage of film critics who liked each film•http://www.rottentomatoes.com/
BIBLIOGRAPHYSource 9 – Critic ratings for 20 filmshttp://www.rottentomatoes.com/Source 10 – Quotes from reviewshttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/film+tone/reviewsSource 11 – Quote from an article by university student Joel Hewwithttp://www.graduatetimes.com/gt2/2011/06/23/independent-cinema/23rd June 2011Source 12 – Names of actors/directors in each filmhttp://www.imdb.co.uk/Source 13 – Inbetweeners TV show figureshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/sep/14/inbetweeners-e4-tv-ratingsSource 14 – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy book figureshttp://people.lis.illinois.edu/~unsworth/courses/entc312/s99/search.cgi?title=Tinker,+Tailor,+Soldier,+SpySource 15 – Horrid Henry figureshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horrid_HenrySource 16 – Jane Eyre figureshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_Eyre
BIBLIOGRAPHYSource 17 – Three Musketeershttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_MusketeersSource 18 – Marilyn Monroe factshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Week_with_Marilynhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marilyn_MonroeSource 19 – The Eaglehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Eagle_(2011_film)Source 20 – East is East figureshttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0166175/businessSource 21 – Big Fat Gypsy Gangsterhttp://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/28/ten-oclock-live-ratingsSource 22 – Article on high concept filmhttp://www.medienabc.org/page32/files/page32_6.pdfSource 23 – Graph showing popular film genreshttp://ddunlop.com/2008/12/recapping-2008-most-popular-movie-genre/December 31, 2008
BIBLIOGRAPHYSource 24 – Film Awardshttp://uk.imdb.com/Source 25 – Largest cinema demographicsThe Role of the Distributor DVDSource 26 – Age ratingshttp://uk.imdb.com/Source 27 – Article on success of Inbetweenershttp://www.nme.com/blog/index.php?blog=131&title=why_has_the_inbetweeners_movie_been_so_s&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1Source 28 – Ken Loach quote on Independent filmhttp://www.periscopepost.com/2012/01/david-cameron-plans-to-make-british-film-industry-more-lucrative-by-only-funding-blockbusters/Source 29 – Distribution costs figure‘The Role of the Distributor’ DVD