Film’s DevelopmentThe source of a film’s funding can largely depend on that particular film’s overall structure and vision, including the vision of who its potential audience members will be. In looking at British films (films that are set in Britain or that follow British characters as they travel elsewhere), we can divide films into three categories: specialist, conceptual, and Anglo-Hollywood. In this article, we will briefly consider the intended audiences for each of these types of film and the consequent sources of funding.

First, it is beneficial for us to review the various types of audience members that a film might attract. There are four main types of audiences:

Mainstream audience – People in this category (the majority of the potential audience in the UK) will rarely watch any movies other than major blockbusters following the Hollywood style. Their motivation for film watching is primarily escapism, a momentary diversion from the stress and struggles of real life. As such, this type of audience is extremely unlikely to watch any films that would remind them of their real lives. As such, they will avoid specialized or foreign films.

Mainstream plus audience – This type of audience shares much with the mainstream audience, but it will also attend more specialized films at least a few times each year. They may attend the cinema as infrequently as once per month. A mainstream plus audience member may however, choose to see a ‘must-see’ film in the place of a typically mainstream film. In this case, the type of ‘must-see’ film that a mainstream plus person will watch is generally English or US; upbeat while still offbeat, and cast with familiar names. The plots of these films will be accessible to the average film-goer. Some examples of ‘must-see’ films that mainstream plus audiences have opted to see in the past include: About Schmidt (starring Jack Nicholson) and The King’s Speech (starring Colin Firth).

Aficionado audience – Aficionados generally watch a mixture of film types, including major titles in foreign languages, and they may tend to be more exploratory in the films they choose to watch. They may consider themselves to be more discerning in their film tastes than the average audience member and thus describe themselves as “anti-Hollywood” with some pride. Despite their self-perception however, aficionados do still primarily  watch mainstream US films. Aficionados are more likely to want to seek out specialized and foreign films which have caught their eye, in addition to seeing all the films that the mainstream plus audience members will see. They will not limit themselves to films with familiar casts. They will however, still tend to avoid those specialized films which are more extreme in their material.

Avids / Film buffs – This is the category that includes most university film studies students. These audience members will avoid the mainstream fare and prefer specialized films with more difficult subject matter (including esoteric and extreme subjects). If they do see a mainstream film, it will be for a different reason than the escapism of the general audience population. For example, they may go to a mainstream film in order to appreciate the special effects, or to study the underlying cultural implications of that film. Avids and film buffs will analyze the films they watch and discuss them with each other. They are frequent cinema attendees, seeing films more than once a week. They go to film festivals, follow the work of specific directors and actors, and collect rare DVDs.  This category of audience member can also be further broken down into three sub-categories:

Summit avids – These people will usually work in film education or journalism, or they will otherwise work in the film industry itself. They are the most knowledgeable of the three subtypes of avids, likely due to their professional link to the film industry.

Specialist avids – These are the obsessive audience members who take great pride in their abilities as collectors. They will be highly dismissive of any film that doesn’t appear to be worthy of their personal attention, and they will tend to be quite obsessive about those films that they do deem worthy of their time and consideration.

Scattergun avids – This type of avid considers film to be just one component (albeit a very important component) of a diverse cultural diet.

Having identified what the potential audience groups for a film might be, let’s look at the initial development of films that fall into each of the three major categories (specialist, conceptual, or Anglo-Hollywood) and consider how their projected audiences play a role in that development.

Specialist / Auteur Films

The expected audience for these types of films are mainly avids and film buffs, sometimes aficionados. Mainstream plus audiences will usually only watch these films when there is a cross-over success (a relatively rare occurrence), or when the film is Anglo-Hollywood specialist (specialist in content but funded by a major US studio).

The idea for these films usually originates with the director or the director-writer. In cases where the idea is originated with the writer, broadcasters will need the right director to be on the project before they will agree to fund it. The writer will almost never be replaced on projects like this, nor will specialist films tend to use anonymous script polishers. Development funding usually begins as a spec script or an adaptation.

Alternatively, there may be a small investment from the film’s producer which will then be followed up by funding from public subsidy or broadcaster development. The development budget for specialist films is usually low, and the writer or director can sometimes work for a long time on spec. When the film has bigger names attached to it, the budget can go up as high as £10k to £50k, rarely reaching £80k in the cases of very experienced talent.

Conceptual Films

These films aspire to gain a mainstream audience, but usually their primary audience will be mainstream plus. There will be a few aficionados who watch conceptual films.

These script ideas are usually either writer-originated, producer-originated, or already existent in a book, play, or life story. The director will be chosen to match the international marketplace, especially in regard to pre-sales. In-house development executives are likely to provide lots of input during the film’s development, and replacement writers are a distinct possibility. It is unusual for conceptual films to use anonymous script polishers, but script editors are frequently used.

Sales agents’ notes get taken seriously, because those agents are part of the financing process. Development usually begins as a spec script or adaptation, funded by broadcaster development or public subsidy. Budgets tend to be mid-range (£25k to £100k).

Anglo-Hollywood Films

These films are first and foremost geared toward mainstream and mainstream plus audiences. There may be a few aficionados and avids in the audience when the film is a “must-see,” but usually these types of audience members will avoid Anglo-Hollywood films and view them as sellouts to the US market.

The ideas for these films are usually producer-originated (on rare occasions they are writer-originated). There will be significant input from development executives, distributors and marketing departments. It is standard practice to replace the script writer and to use anonymous script polishers. Development funding usually comes as a large investment from the studio or the major production company. The budgets of Anglo-Hollywood films will usually be much higher due to their expected returns (£75k to £200k).