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Awards Smackdown! The Jury vs the Audience

AudienceWhile doing some research I came across this entry on the Environmental Defense Fund blog:

At the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, the jury of film experts chose Forty Shades of Blue as the best dramatic film.  The Audience Award went to Hustle & Flow.  I don’t know which was a better film, but I do know Hustle & Flow went on to earn $20 million in wide release in the U.S., while Forty Shades of Blue topped out at $75,000.  I’m sure it doesn’t always happen that way, but it goes to show that the experts don’t always know what will succeed in the marketplace of ideas.

We at Environmental Defense Fund just finished something a bit like a film festival — a competition that challenged participants to make a 30 second ad that explains how capping greenhouse gas pollution will help cure our national addition to oil.  This week we announced two winners, one selected by our staff and another chosen by thousands of voters online.  Like at Sundance, the voters and the judges chose different winners…in fact, the video chosen by us "experts" came in dead last in the online voting.

This in essence, is the guiding philosophy behind distributor (and my employer) B-Side Entertainment: the audience is never wrong. When putting together your own festival and distribution plan, polling a wide audience (who doesn't know you) through test screenings is essential. Even when you can't trust yourself or your friends to evaluate whether your film is good or bad likely to appeal to festival audiences, your test audiences will tell you.

(Edited after Alex Orr rightly pointed out that sometimes "audience-pleasing" doesn't always equal "good.")

Read Climate 411 » Video Contest: Your Choice vs. the "Expert" Choice - Blogs & Podcasts - Environmental Defense Fund.

Photo by Till Westermayer.


alexorr said...

40 Shades of Blue is an amazing film.

Christopher said...

A fair point, Alex -- I have edited the entry to reflect that point.

Ingrid said...

I agree that 40 Shades of Blue is an amazing film. I have to say that I personally believe that audiences, like customers (and mobs), are often wrong. Just because lots of people like something, doesn't make it good, although it may well make it successful. But if making money is the only yard stick then I guess they may be right. What worries me is how the difficult but incredible films (which often have very small audiences because they are difficult, weird, hard to market) find their audiences. I believe those audiences are out there too, but they may not shout so loud.

Saskia said...

the article above makes an interesting point, but i suppose it comes down to how you measure success. As Ingrid mentioned, films that are box office successes are not always all that great (by 'great' i mean something that educates, inspires and/or enriches).

Is box office success really success, then? for me, it's not.