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Time Speaker Audio
Presenter What an informative and inspiring programme, we have all just
witnessed. Script consultant, Marilyn Milgrom continues to offer
creative advice to the next generation of scriptwriters.
Coming up in thirty minutes, presenter Charles Newman will be
talking to award winning short film director, Alicia Duffy.
If you have just tuned in, then you are listening to Radio Beacon
and I am David West.
Last year I had the pleasure to interview student writer and
director Candice Russell about her debut, short, Limbo and this
year I’ll be interviewing her again, to establish why it is essential
to listen and learn from your audience’s feedback, in order to
shape, create and even clarify meaning. Mouse, is Candice’s
second short, which successfully conveys a coming-of-age story,
in our multicultural society.
(Fade in music from Mouse)
Good evening Candice, and welcome back.
Candice Good evening David, and thank you for having me.
(Fade out music)
David Mouse, has a carefully planned narrative, which depicts
Aristotle’s three-act structure. Was this storyline planned, from
Candice No, to be honest when I commenced with my A2 course, I had no
idea, what my storyline would be.
David What plan of action did you take to commence this course?
Candice Individually and collaboratively as a class, we commenced with
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David Why was it necessary to commence with secondary research
Candice Well David, in order to produce a short film, I had to research the
different areas that relate to the short film context. I underwent
research into articles, funding, screenplay writing, training,
distribution and exhibition. Incidentally, Marilyn Milgrom’s The
Script, acted as my guidebook throughout the whole project and
I heavily relied on her knowledge and experience. For instance,
her ten-point plan was the outline to several primary audience
David That sounds quite extensive. I notice that Limbo reflects the
social realism genre, but Mouse is a thriller sub hybrid of that
genre, what influenced this?
Candice As a focal point and before I commenced with any primary
research, I concluded that I would take forward my AS level
knowledge of the social realism genre, but instead of viewing
features I viewed short films from the professional domain,
enjoying all sorts of genre’s. One that really appealed and
influenced me was Room 8, directed by James Griffiths. To
improve my understanding of how different directors’ effectively
incorporate micro codes to produce a macro level of meaning, I
completed several comparative textual analyses, including one
for Room 8.
David Please can you elaborate, what you mean by micro and macro?
Candice Yes David, micro codes are the small individual aspects that link
to produce the macro level of meaning. For example, combining
small micro codes, such as props, lighting, costume and setting
from a mise-en-scene will produce a macro level of
David Thank you, but how did your secondary research actually help
you with your primary research?
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Candice Audiences have high expectations and my secondary research
highlighted the essential criteria needed, in order to develop and
challenge my own creation. This was always on my mind when I
conducted my primary research.
David What was your first piece of primary research?
Candice I produced a paper based quantitative questionnaire and
decided to use audience segmentation, which was selective of
age. The age group I referred to was between 16 and 19.
Consequently, the reason for this age sector was that I could
conduct this particular research at school and access their
comments, almost instantaneously.
David What was your objective?
Candice My objective was to measure different variables that related to
the students personal demographics, their knowledge of the
social realism genre, their viewing tastes and preferences.
However, most importantly, I wanted to discover what types or
groups they considered to be under represented in film, what
aspect of the British social culture could be explored and what
particular themes would attract them to view a social realism
David What did you learn from their responses?
Candice Well David, I discovered that pregnancy, teen relationships,
transgender, disability and ability were the most popular theme
choices and I was offered social topical suggestions in which to
explore, such as gender inequality and terrorism. The feedback
also emphasised that young adults were the most under
David What did you do with this data and what impact did it make?
Candice To store the statistical analysed data, I produced an electronic
booklet. The electronic booklet was the best form of
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presentation, because it enabled me, to quickly and easily
reference my audiences’ feedback in a text based or graphical
format. The question relating to what theme would attract my
participants to view a social realism film stayed with me; in fact,
it was the main objective of my next questionnaire.
David Let me just clarify, the feedback you received from your
audience responses helped you to proceed with a different
Candice Yes, but this time I produced an online qualitative questionnaire
that did not include any form of audience segmentation and
uploaded this questionnaire to a public like page on Facebook
that, I had previously created in order to entice and stir general
David Why didn’t you want to include audience segmentation?
Candice I wanted to attract participants from a wider geographical and
age spectrum to offer their opinions and preferences.
David What did this online qualitative questionnaire include?
Candice The online questionnaire, included questions relating to a
screening of two award winning, short social realism films. These
shorts contain several themes and issues that were previously
outlined as an attraction in the quantitative questionnaire.
David What were the short films you screened?
Candice Sorry David, they were Brian Pericval’s 2001 production, About a
Girl and Simon Ellis’ 2006 production Soft.
David What was the objective to this questionnaire?
Candice I wanted to use the audience feedback from this questionnaire
and combine it with the statistical data of the quantitative
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research to essentially guide and help me to produce my first
draft of a synopsis.
David How did you proceed to analyse and evaluate your responses?
After uploading the automatic generated responses from Google
doc, I began to analyse and evaluate my audience’s feedback
into another electronic booklet, which incidentally can be view
on my blog for those who may be interested. I received a vast
amount of detailed feedback it was quite overwhelming.
David How did your audience react to the screenings?
Candice My blog had recorded thirty-seven visitors, within a two-hour
duration of the questionnaire going live. There was a mixed
reaction when it came to which short they preferred. The
females chose Soft and the males preferred About a Girl, with
only one female suggesting she could not chose between them.
David What did you learn from this feedback?
Candice From my audience’s feedback, it was quite evident that males
are inclined to view a film that have a female protagonist, whilst
in comparison females are drawn towards films that contain a
male protagonist. With this in view, I began to realise that in
order to attract both sexes as a potential audience; I would need
to consider casting two main characters from the opposite sex. A
couple of participants also enjoyed the unpredictable ending of
the films, positively commenting on how the twists evoke an
emotional response. Immediately, I began to brainstorm
possibilities to incorporate an unpredictable ending, but there
were still other areas to consider.
David What specific areas did you need to consider?
Candice It was evident from the feedback I received, that a successful
short should contain an intriguing opening that dramatically
contains a character, a problem and a world. Analysis depicted
that the males preferred the action of Soft’s opening, whilst the
majority of the females found the character in About a girl’s
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opening intriguing. The clarity of this specific area was an
essential one to consider. Consequently, both gender types were
drawn stereotypically to the themes that are typically gender
typed. For example, the males to the violence in Soft, and the
girls to the issues and the vulnerable predicament of the
protagonist, in About a Girl. I knew then that in order for me to
entice a mixed gender audience, I would have to stimulate their
immediate attention, with a significant and common theme.
However, I also learned that issues relevant in today’s society
had the greatest impact, as they were more relatable.
David The feedback you received from your audience, certainly gave
you a good insight, but what other forms of research did you
Candice The next form of research I conducted was a focus group with
David Why did you conduct this focus group?
Candice I had written my first draft synopsis, for Mouse and I felt that a
group session would help me to establish my weaknesses and
strengths in accordance to Milgrom’s script writing principles.
David What were the weaknesses identified by your audience?
Candice I wrote this synopsis from a third person’s perspective and this
caused some confusion between students trying to identify who
my protagonist was. Some identified my deuterogonist as the
actual main character. A male participant also bought to my
attention, that the heart of the film was unknown until the
David Was their feedback valid and if so how did you rectify this?
Candice Absolutely, when I redrafted the synopsis I took on board their
valid comments and rewrote it, using the third person
perspective, but this time I made sure it reflected the
protagonist’s point of view. However, apart from the first scene,
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I developed and rewrote my final synopsis to include an even
spread of suspense and dramatic tension. I did this to help a
potential audience identify the problems faced by my
protagonist, in the pivoting heart of the production.
David Was there any strength’s identified?
Candice Yes, My audience clarified that the stakes in my synopsis were
very high as the protagonist’s life or death situation was very
intense and the key issues surrounding drug abusive and the
practice of safe sex were clearly communicated and represented.
David Did you conduct any form of post-production research?
Candice Yes, David I conducted another focus group, but this time it was
a screening of my rough-cut.
David What impact did the audience’s feedback have on you?
Candice Overwhelmingly positive, David. My participants classified the
genre as a thriller hybrid of the social realism genre, because the
short contained suspense of a thriller, and the general
conventions that emphasis the social realism genre. They felt
that key areas of representation relating to the individuals and
places were clearly communicated through the use and
positioning of props. One female remarked how suspense built
on different levels to reflect Logan’s personality.
David Often, at this stage of editing, a reshot is necessary. Did you
receive any feedback to suggest this?
Candice No David, but I did take the opportunity to show them the
reshoot sequence of my first scene. Editing my rough-cut
highlighted the fact that the characters should have been
shouting over one another in order to be heard over the
instruments being played in the practice studio. Instead, they
were having a casual conversing.
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David What did you learn from their responses?
Candice Well, to begin they totally agreed with me that the reshot
sequence of frames in the first scene were far more true to life.
However, it was suggested that I should try to depict Sweetah
the protagonist in natural light and Logan in low-key lighting as
this would instantly emphasis the characteristics of the individual
David Did you follow your audience’s advice?
Candice I could quiet clearly see, why my audience would suggest this
particular aspect, but in reality and due to the location of the
music practice room, I would not be able to comply. However,
during editing, I was able to semi-improvise with their request
and slightly adjust the lighting, just enough to portray my
protagonist in a positive light to reflect her innocence. I did
however, try to film using artificial lighting, but the shadows on
the walls were so obvious, the whole scene lost its naturalism,
and consequently there was not enough room to reposition the
lighting in the small corridor.
David I understand... Did you conduct any audience research for your
ancillary tasks, to support your short?
Candice Yes David, I conducted a brief paper based survey in support of
Mouse’s promotional poster and I compiled an online
questionnaire that was inclusive of both quantitative and
qualitative questions to support the film magazine review.
David How did the feedback from the poster survey, influence your
Candice I had taken seven individual photographs that I could visualise as
being a promotional tool and I was primarily, torn between two
of the photographs. As audience research had proved to be a
valuable insight during the planning, development and
production of Mouse, I decided to show the seven photographs
to a mixture of media and non-media students to establish their
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preferred photo and asked them to explain why. The photograph
that proved to be the popular choice was my protagonist sitting
on the car bonnet, which incidentally was one of my favourites
too and therefore, I used this photo to produce my promotional
static film poster.
David Your motion posters are quite impressive too, were the images
on them original photographs?
Candice One was David, but the other one was not. The one I used was
also a popular choice from the original survey. The other motion
poster had to be produced using specialist software and it relied
on a combination of video and photography.
David What did you learn from your audience with respect to your film
Candice I based my film review to take into consideration several formal
conventions found in the Sight & Sound magazine, whilst
developing and challenging others. After completing draft four, I
based my online questionnaire on these factors to see how
effective I had achieved, what I had initially set out to do. I
compiled all my participants analysed feedback and critically
attempted to evaluate it. I was pleased that the participants all
thought that my chosen typography throughout the magazine
page was appropriately, sized and aligned, However, having said
this, one female even alerted me to a simple spelling error and a
couple of males made suggestions on how I could effectively
reorder some of the credit section. I learned a great deal from
this questionnaire as several other recommendations were
offered such as, the title needs to stand out more, and the
background colour may need lightening.
David Did you implement any of their suggestions?
Candice Yes David, subsequently after evaluating all the generated input,
I did take on board many of the suggestions in order to improve
the magazine film review.
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David How did your audience react after reading the actual film
Candice One positive factor I received from this audience feedback was
that two thirds of my participants suggested that they would be
inclined to view the film after reading the review and one third
conveyed that they might like to consume Mouse.
David Thank you Candice, can you please tell us why an audiences’
input, is important to you as a filmmaker?
Candice Target audience research produces a communication link
between you and a segmented audience. This link provides an
insight to your audiences, attitudes, their knowledge, interests
and preferences and by essentially listening and learning from
them, will enable you to receive useful information on what
actually works and what elements need revising. All in all, an
audiences’ feedback will inevitably help you to make the right
creative decisions in order to drive your project through the
planning, development and production stages.
(Fade in music from Mouse)
David Thank you Candice, you have shared an immense insight on what
you have learned from your audience feedback and I am sure
your production of Mouse will be equally as successful as Limbo
Candice You are welcome David, it was a pleasure
(Slowly fade music out and cut)