A Very Basic Question –
“Why do we care about our customers’ experience, especially our auditorium’s sound and picture quality?”
Someone had an idea for a story to tell. Somehow that story met a producer and a director who found the money to be able to tell that story as a movie.
There was that intention – to communicate something to a group of people in a particular manner. In particular, since this was for cinema exhibition, there is that particular element; To communicate the story to a group of people, in a dark room, surrounded by other people.
How that story gets told is called Artistic Intent. And because it is the Director who has the job to carry the vision and purpose forward, it is often called the Director’s Intent.
The Director and Producer hire the Cinematographer team. These are the people who can cleverly make a camera capture the light reflecting off the actors and the scenes, into the lenses.
Audio people and many others are hired to capture the sounds and make the scenery and perform clever stunts during Production. When the final edit is made, the music can be recorded and edited and mixed with the dialog and effects. This is done by Post Production teams that they hire to manipulate and balance the sound and pictures.
Then, after a great amount of labor, a Distribution group puts the finished movie onto hard disks or satellites. Someone also has to market the message. And after all that work, the finished movie somehow gets it into the equipment of the cinema facility. And there you are, with customers and the last lens that transmits the Director’s Intent to those customers.
In a different Lesson, we learn how Engineering is the Art of Compromise. Actually, we find out that The Art of Compromise is everywhere. There is only so much time, only so much money. The technology and the people can only do so much. Eventually the movie has to meet a delivery date.
After all that work, there it is, illuminating the final lens at the front of the projector. Just in front of that is a little piece of glass in the back wall of the theater – the Port Window. The movie shines through them both, into the room and onto the screen and sound – music, dialog and effects – play through the speakers.
The Director’s Intent wasn’t to spend money for technique or tools at a clever production set, or in a post-production room. The Director’s Intent wasn’t to keep a lot of people employed or to make the camera sales people happy. The Director’s Intent wasn’t to sell a lot of popcorn – even though all these things happen and are important to a lot of people.
The Director’s Intent is to create an effect upon your mutual audience. Your job is to help create the effect that the Director is transmitting. You participate in the Artistic Intent by making certain that the tools in your facility are operating at the optimum level possible.
Now, you may think that you are only there to pop popcorn, or direct people to their chairs. Fine. Good job. Did you check the chairs to see if they are safe? Did you make the person feel good about choosing your popcorn?
Did you look into the room and see if the movie was playing correctly and that there were no rattles or hums from the air conditioning to make the sound poor? Is there more you can learn, so you can see if that movie is playing the best possible?
Of course, a bubble of the Art of Compromise surrounds the cinema sound and picture projection equipment. It surrounds the auditoriums with their design, their screens and their seats.
Movies want to be shown in a perfectly dark room – but safety requires that there are exit lights and illumination on the stairs and walkways. Movies want the screen and speakers to be perfect, but speaker parts get older and less flexible every day, and screens get a little darker. How often are they changed, or adjusted? Speakers and screens (and seats and air conditioning and, and, and…) all cost money, so they get replaced when they reach some compromise level…not perfect, not horrible.
Nobody ever says,
“I think I am going to present ‘Horrible’ today.”
Unfortunately, the opposite: “I think I will present ‘Perfect’ today,” is unrealistic and is not going to happen no matter how hard we try.
Perhaps the best description might be “Appropriate Compromise”.
“I’ll project the best I can with what is available.”
Who decides what “Appropriate” is? Some might say it is the big boss of the cinema who balances the requirements and dreams and ability of the audience to pay.
Some might say it is the audience who is the boss, who the big boss has to respond to, but most will agree that the audience can’t define perfect or acceptable. They expect us to be the experts, to know what to look for, and listen for. Maybe an audience member will figure out what is irritating and – if you are lucky – they may care enough to find you and tell you. If you are very lucky, they may even know how to describe the problem well.
If they are lucky, you will understand them and the problem well enough to be able to communicate it efficiently to someone who has the job of fixing the problem.
In any case, it is your responsibility to deliver the best you can with the assets and policies that the big boss has given you. We all like the idea, “Deliver more than you promise”, so go for that if you can. People seem to appreciate that.
What you certainly want to do is remember – You are part of the Artistic Intent.
The purpose of all these lessons is to give you the training and the tools to help you find problems in your auditoriums before the audience finds irritation. (“Wow! That must be irritating. Can you tell me more about it? Was it constant or intermittent? Let me write this down so I can be particular with in the report to the tech. …and thank you for this, by the way.)
If an audience member does find a problem – you want to know enough so that when they describe it to you, that you can make them feel comfortable that you understand them and will pass on the information to get it taken care of. People are usually forgiving the first time. The second or third time? …not so much.
And that is our job with these Lessons and Checklists and other tools – to give you tools and information so that you can do these things easily and well, before the customer notices the problem.
Let us know what we can do for you, so when that magic day arrives when a director or cinematographer or sound editor comes up to you and says, “Thanks, that was just right”, you know that you did something to make it that way. Now, when someone asks what your job is, what do you say?
I help create a better experience for audience members. I am the last person in a long chain of people who delivers the Director’s Intent.
Maybe we need a t-shirt contest for this idea.
Here’s what Kevin Costner has to say about it.
Two people have the responsibility for taking the concept of the movie across the finish line. One of those people work in the background, fitting the financial pieces of the puzzle together. That person is the Producer, and for many reasons, there are often more than one producer.
But there is only one person in charge of the artistic decisions. That person is the Director. Should the look be somber or casual, should we hit the audience over the head with the message or should be be subtle? What is the intent?
Many thousands of decisions later, it is back to the original intent – to get something to the audience in a very professional manner. And then, without even a cue, it is over to you – the Director’s Intent is for you to be responsible for the audience intent – to get something from the presentation.