Imagine being able to determine the outcome of a film after simply viewing the trailer. Would Ferris Bueller have gotten a day off? Would Leonardo DiCaprio have survived “Titanic?” It’s audience input such as this that the UCLA Movie Research Experience is exploring in order to improve filmmaking.
UCLA’s Movie Research Experience is a research project associated with UCLA’s Anderson School of Management that will work with input from the audience to shape a film. The project has recruited participants who will respond to surveys in order to shape the decisions made during the filmmaking process.
“The future of successful film production lies in finding ways to get the crowd involved in the production as early as possible,” said Nadine Escoffier, a current research scholar at the Anderson School of Management, who founded the project along with Professor Bill McKelvey.
After reading an article about reducing the risks of developing new projects, Escoffier and McKelvey started the Movie Research Experience, which began its first “season” in fall 2009 with the idea that the audience could predict the success or failure of a movie after watching its trailer. After obtaining results that showed the audience’s ability to accurately predict movie success at the box office, the Movie Research Experience moved forward to this more complex second season, according to Escoffier.
As a participant and filmmaker, UCLA graduate student Ben Wagner said that the surveys given by the Movie Research Experience are not a major time commitment, but they are something that people can do to be involved in the creative film-making process.
“For me, the concern is that (as a filmmaker) you need to have the influence and feedback and have audiences respond to what you are doing, or you’re really just making a story in a vacuum,” Wagner said. “All stories need to connect with somebody on some level in order to be fulfilling and interesting.”
As part of the experience of the current second season, the audience will have the power to change the film as it evolves from the basic “potential material” into a short film, according to Escoffier.
“We will give guidelines to the audience and then we will see what they are going to give us, and according to this we are going to make a movie,” Escoffier said.
After showing that the audience is capable of predicting a movie’s success, the second season hopes to take the research further by having the audience involved from the beginning to create better movies at low-risk costs, Escoffier said.
Nicolas Simonin, the film director participating in this season of the research experience, will work with audience feedback to produce a short film.
“We are in a time … where the audience is more active and you have to consider that, as a filmmaker, you live in a world where the audience wants to be part of the process,” Simonin said. “I think there is a very interesting way to collaborate with the audience and still be the own master of your movie.”
According to Simonin, the Movie Research Experience will be a way to collaborate with the viewing audience and produce a better film that still has an original voice.
“I think we are in a very interesting moment in the entertainment industry, and the Movie Research Experience is a research project that is going to tell a lot about the future of the industry,” Simonin said.