Angelo J. Bell: The Audience is Texting

audience texting Capture

by Angelo J. Bell

I read a very interesting post on blcklst about how scripts, scenes and movies are getting shorter called “The shortening of movies.” I too have seen anecdotal evidence that scripts and scenes are getting shorter. When I write I’m careful to trip my scenes to no more than 2 pages and preferably 1 1/2 pages. I think it’s simply the way the movie universe is unfolding right now. All behaviours are circular (circle of life). This too will change. It will only take another Academy Award(TM) winning movie likeThe English Patient to turn heads and minds. Let us also consider Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, which ended 5 times, before the move ended — and we loved it!

What strikes me is that I often hear many script and film pundits theorize that, the evolution of the film is dictated by the fact that audiences are getting smarter. I wholeheartedly disagree. I don’t think audiences have necessarily gotten smarter when it relates to watching a film. Audiences weren’t dumb back in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, they were smart and intuitive. I say this to everyone 40 and older who loves movies: Even as a grade school kid, after watching a few rom-coms you would guess what the next line the protagonist would utter to his love interest. Even as a teen you knew that it wasn’t smart to walk into a dark room when you know there’s a hockey mask wearing psycho out to gut you like a fish. We always knew who really “dunnit”? The difference was, the audience accepted how the film went about its business or entertaining us. We were patient and waited for the big reveal even though we saw it coming fifteen minutes earlier.

Audiences aren’t necessarily smarter now (albeit I guess intellectually there may be some general merit to that belief). I think audiences are simply less patient, overwhelmed with distractions and they are much more vocal about it. It used to be that the only way to comment about a poorly received film was to: 1) tell a friend, 2) post an op-ed column or 3) write to the newspaper where the critic reviewed the movie.

Today there may be a few thousand ways to instantly comment on a movie — even as it’s happening. Now audiences use text messages, blogs, blog comments, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Places, TVtag, Tumblr, Instant Messenger, Kik Messenger, etc to vent their frustrations and impatience with movies. Geeks, fanboys and hackers seize movies before they are released and comment to the world. We often forget that the general audience also includes authentic news reporters and real (as in paid) critics and they own Smartphones too. And let’s not forget the rude Facebook friends who drop movie spoilers in their status updates without warning anyone.

Audiences haven’t gotten smarter, they simply have more access, in annoyingly greater numbers, I might add.