Feature Article: We Have Lost Our Audience, How Do We Get Them Back?
The Ghanaian audience has become very difficult to please and it is affecting the business of filmmaking. It appears as though we do not have the numbers to attract investment into our space. But our population alone is enough to keep our film space vibrant and attractive to any investor. Provided that we have an audience base or a market willing to patronize our films.
Our biggest competition now is Nigeria’s formidable Nollywood which is continuing to make huge strides. The recent being Netflix, the biggest streaming service, setting up shop officially in Nigeria and announcing plans for two yet to be named Netflix Original series.
For many, this should be something that the Ghanaian film industry should be envying. Our challenges are many and our film space is evolving. But the evolution isn’t complete without a paying audience who are the primary market for our films.
A lot of our filmmakers seem to have forgotten that there is no film industry if there isn’t an audience ready to consume the films they make. Over the years we have lost that audience and it is through no fault of theirs. We failed to read the signs early enough and now there appears to be a dwindling sense of pride when it comes to Ghanaian films.
The distaste for Ghanaian films by the masses has reached an all-time high and it has become almost a huge gamble to invest in this space. You are left wondering if there is a ready market for the films. It has gotten to the point where some Ghanaians won’t go see a film even if it is for free.
For Netflix or any like structured big spender to be interested in our film industry, there must be adequate proof that there is enough demand and an existing market for our films. A market reminiscent of the days where people would queue at our now extinct cinemas or when VHS and VCDS would runout at opera square a few hours after release.
Sadly, we have lost that audience.
How Do We Get The Audience Back?
I believe it is not too late to turn things around in our favor. If this was a race, we are underdogs yet equally formidably competition. Our opponents might have gotten a head start but we are still in the race. And to stay in the race, we must be willing to adapt, think and act smart.
Even before the obvious need for more cinemas and exhibition centers is solved, I believe filmmakers can take these suggestions into consideration to win back our lost audience.
- IMPROVING ON OUR STORY TELLING
For a very long time we have only succeeded in only telling the same kind or stories. We failed to be daring and mediocrity took a better part of us. The audience grew tired of seeing the same faces in almost the same roles and the same situations on their screens. The stories became monotonous and almost always predictable leaving no room for excitement.
It is time we get more daring and creative enough to explore other themes and genres even if that involves taking inspiration from the rest of the world. A few of our filmmakers have attempted to do this in recent times but unfortunately the unforgiving audience didn’t give them enough attention.
For things to change, we need more than just a few attempts. It should be a collective conscious effort for us to win back the audience gradually with an improved outlook on our storytelling. Stories that would emotionally suture the audience and reignite their faith in the Ghanaian film industry by creating characters and situations that generate sympathy, jeopardy, and relatability. We have a wealth of diverse hard hitting and catchy subjects that need to be captured in our story telling. Maybe if our films in any genre, start to communicate the viewpoint of the masses, we would be able to win them over.
I have seen enough Nigerian films to know that we have the potential to tell better and well packaged stories. But sadly, we are yet to fully tap into that potential.
- DROP THE SHENANIGANS AND GET TO WORK
To most Ghanaians our film industry and its performers are a ‘joke’. We seem to have lost sight of the ‘work’ needed to grow ourselves and are rather focusing on needless clout chasing. Our creatives are generally seen as not serious enough to be given any attention especially where and when it matters the most.
We have people parading as ‘actors’ on social media with mass following but can’t be associated with any movie character or notable production. Talents are busy seeking social media validation instead of allowing their crafts to do the talking. Drowning out the few that are actually committed to putting in the work and attempting to make a difference.
The audience have fed on this ‘non seriousness’ for far too long to care about anything exceptional.
I believe once we decide to shift the focus from the clout chasing to the actual art and business of filmmaking, the masses might consider taking us a tad more serious over time. It doesn’t have to be our individual projects only, once its good enough and conversation worthy, we should all rally behind to give it all the attention it deserves.
The talk seems too much when we should actually be working. We have so much to complain about that we seem to have forgotten that we are still capable of achieving great results with all our limitations provided that we set our minds to it.
The audience would have no choice than to rally behind the goods works.
- ENGAGING THE AUDIENCE
Marketing film all over the world has proven to be tricky. Some big budget films have tanked at the box office because of poor marketing. Other bad ones became hits because of how well they were marketed. In both instances the audience and their impact is never left out of the equation.
Every film has its specific audience and they should be the immediate target for all marketing and promotion. To those outside the target audience, it might seem like noise or a waste time to them. And they could be loud enough to drown out your marketing and promotion activities that could help the film.
It is necessary that we find ways to engage the audience even beyond the films. I believe this would allow you to get direct feedback on their views about the films even after they have seen it. It is the conversation about these films that can lead to interesting other people to go see this film.
I am yet to see any of our actors asking their social media followers for their thoughts on a character they played or a film they starred in. Although some internet trolls might take advantage of a situation like this, it would still be a healthy attempt at giving the audience a chance to feel appreciated for taking time to go see a movie.
Engaging the audience leads to conversations and discourse about the films which is very much likely to reel others in.
These are no quick fixes that can solve the problem overnight. It would realistically take us a while for these suggestions to have any momentous effect on the current state of the industry. Only if we are willing to try.
I chose to write this piece not from a critic’s or consumers perspective but from the angle of a filmmaker. Because indeed, I am one by heart. 2020 really does feel like the come-up year for the film industry and we all must join hands to make it work. This starts with us attempted to win back our audience #fortheloveoffilm.