This trailer is something that I’m really excited about – the new film by the wonderful Pedro Almodovar. Okay, so the film didn’t get the rave reviews he was probably hoping for at Cannes earlier in the year but, despite that, I’ll still be at the front of the queue to see it when it comes out. After all, a second rate film by Almodovar is still better than a first rate film by most other film makers. My own excitement about “Los Abrazos Rotos” got me thinking about how as artists we can create a sense of anticipation for the work that we are making.
Some of the best shows that I’ve seen over the last couple of years have been pieces that have managed to create a buzz about them before they hit the stage, or very early on in their life on stage. Recently I watched the wonderful “Adventures of Wound Man and Shirley” by Chris Goode that was staged as part of Queer Up North in Manchester earlier in the year. There was something about this piece of work that captured the imagination of everyone who saw it and sent a ripple of excitement running out ahead of it that drew new people in to see it (me included!) But how does this work? How can we create this elusive sense of expectation about work that we are making?
I think the first rule is that people are funny things and they can read straight through it if you are trying too hard to promote your work. Obviously you need to put some work into this but people don’t tend to like the hard sell so if you go at it too assertively you can end up creating the opposite reaction to what you might have been aiming for. There have been really great examples of this in the West End over the last couple of years of big shows that have had huge amounts of money pumped into their promotion only for them to fall flat on their arses once they have opened their doors to the public. I also think that audiences like to have a sense of having discovered something themselves that they can then pass on to other people and the real hard sell can make this process of discovery impossible.
Of course, this sense of anticipation can be a source of disappointment for audiences as well. Everyone must have experienced that feeling of disappointment when you’re really looked forward to something that has been really well reviewed and received but it just doesn’t meet up to your expectations. Of course, there’s a great deal of personal taste at play here but if a piece of work doesn’t meet up to the hype that has been created it may be in the danger of creating an audience that won’t come back again.
We live in a modern, digital age where it is possible for small companies and artists to create a real buzz about their work through the use of free and easy internet resources. My last show “Fugee” by Abi Morgan was a great success largely through the web based marketing that the young people in the cast did to promote it and I’m hoping that we will be able to use similar methods to generate interest in my latest show “The Red Shoes”. That said though, once we’d sold the tickets, “Fugee” was a huge success because of the quality of the work and the relevance of the story that it was telling, and I suppose that integrity and belief in the work that we are creating has to always remain the most important factor to motivate any artist. But don’t think just because something is a really amazing piece of art people will flock to see it! They won’t, but in the times that we live in there’s no excuse not to use the resources that are at everyone’s finger tips to get the work out there and seen by as many people as possible.
Even Almodovar had to work really hard at the beginning of his career to create his identity and build confidence in his reputation. Of course he’s a mega star now but it his passion, conviction and imagination that has got him there and that is something we can all aspire to and attempt to recreate in our own work.