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How to grow your audience

Data is the key to box-office success

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By Rica Arevalo

how to grow your audience

“Ano ba tong showbusiness? Malas, swerte, minsan malas, malas, malas!” (What is with showbusiness? Sometimes, we have bad luck, good luck then lots of bad luck!), cries film director Mark Meily during his masterclass lecture on “How to Grow Your Audience,” held last week (June 19) at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, SDA Cinema.

Meily is chair of the Film Program, DLS-CSB and is currently taking up Master of Arts in Digital Management in Hyper Island, Singapore.  He rose to fame with the 2003 Metro Manila Film Festival Best Picture winner, Crying Ladies. He brought to Philippine television the French version of Camera Café that won the Best Comedy Program at the 2008 Asian Television Awards in Singapore.

“You think you have learned so much, but after so many years, wala ka pa rin alam.” (You don’t know a thing), reflects the Ecole Supérieure d’Etudes Cinématographiques scholar.

After some hits and misses, Meily realized that gathering data was very important for content creators.  When do you gather data?  “Ideally, before you start the project, which was how House of Cards did it, and all the other Netflix programs,” he muses.  “It’s not supposed to stifle your creativity but helps you get clarity.”

The audience is the king.  They give the ratings, box-office hits and the millions of ‘likes’ on social media.

“I always believe that a content creator owes his audience something,” adds the Baler director.  “Nagbayad yan e (They paid a fee). The fact that they volunteered, ‘I would give five minutes of my time to hear you out, to listen and see what your content is about.’  Then you owe them something,” stresses Meily.

He thinks:  “If we can measure the people, gather enough information, there is a magic bullet, an algorithm then we can use this to predict or gather as much audience as we can, when we’re doing films or content.”

There is this misconception that no one watches a horror film alone. They always come in with a group of friends. With this in mind, he produced and directed the horror film, Elemento. “The audience would like to experience a thrilling ride. Ayoko mamatay, gusto ko lang parang sumakay ng roller coaster (I don’t want to die. I just want to experience riding a roller coaster).”

The ending of Elemento created hopelessness and it was Meily’s biggest lesson. The movie did not do well in the box-office. “It was a tragedy, there was no hope.  The audience did not like it,” he confesses. “In most successful horror productions like Get Out, there is a thrill ride and redemption in the end.”  Most importantly, the character lives.

As a filmmaker and content creator, what should be his future ace?  “I would find out how relevant the content that I would create for my audience,” says the 2008 MMFF Best Director winner.  “Make something that the audience wants.  What you want them to feel, they will feel it,” he winks.

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