STORY + AUDIENCE with Jill Golick & Annelise Larson

Episode 108: Listener Mailbag & Season 2 Teaser

June 09, 2020 Jill Golick & Annelise Larson Season 1 Episode 8
STORY + AUDIENCE with Jill Golick & Annelise Larson
Episode 108: Listener Mailbag & Season 2 Teaser
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STORY + AUDIENCE with Jill Golick & Annelise Larson
Episode 108: Listener Mailbag & Season 2 Teaser
Jun 09, 2020 Season 1 Episode 8
Jill Golick & Annelise Larson

In this last episode of Season 1, screenwriter Jill Golick and digital strategist Annelise Larson answer some great listener questions like how does creating kid's content affect the STORY+AUDIENCE approach & what are the biggest mistakes made in both story and audience development. They also share some of their ideas for Season 2 and invite others to join their conversation.

Mentioned in this episode:

Find more about Jill at http://jillgolick.com/
And more about Annelise at https://veria.ca/

Or reach us both at STORYplusAUDIENCE@gmail.com
 
Please rate, share, like, follow & subscribe and let us know if you want to be a part of the  STORY+AUDIENCE conversation in Season 2!

Show Notes Transcript

In this last episode of Season 1, screenwriter Jill Golick and digital strategist Annelise Larson answer some great listener questions like how does creating kid's content affect the STORY+AUDIENCE approach & what are the biggest mistakes made in both story and audience development. They also share some of their ideas for Season 2 and invite others to join their conversation.

Mentioned in this episode:

Find more about Jill at http://jillgolick.com/
And more about Annelise at https://veria.ca/

Or reach us both at STORYplusAUDIENCE@gmail.com
 
Please rate, share, like, follow & subscribe and let us know if you want to be a part of the  STORY+AUDIENCE conversation in Season 2!

Jill Golick :

Welcome to STORY+AUDIENCE, a podcast about creating stories that connect deeply with audiences.

Annelise Larson :

And using that connection to build a long term career as a storyteller.

Jill Golick :

I'm Jill Golick. I'm a screenwriter and digital creator.

Annelise Larson :

I'm Annelise Larson. I work in digital marketing and strategy for media. In today's episode, we're looking back over our first season and answering listener questions. But I wonder if we should start first about the things that we've learned from each other over this past seven episodes. Jill, what's something helpful that you're taking away?

Jill Golick :

I think I'm taking away the importance of connecting emotionally with audiences. I've really taken that to heart. We've talked a lot, we've had a lot of conversations and homework around, reaching out through the social media to our audience and our followers. So I tried an experiment. I'm working on a new pilot. I'm working through the first draft, I was feeling quite frustrated, and I decided to give voice on Twitter to how I was feeling even though it felt a little bit dangerous. But I put out this tweet: "Writing a first draft is a long process because of all the self loathing breaks. Every line of dialogue I have to tell my ego to shut the "F" up and recite my mantra: A first draft doesn't have to be good, it just has to be finished." And I've got a lot of likes on it, a couple of retweets and comments. So I felt like yes, by revealing the emotion and the truth of who I am, I really did connect. So Annelise, what about you? What have you taken away from our conversations?

Annelise Larson :

You know, I've really learned to value and appreciate the writer's process, especially in that development phase. And the real aha of a lot of the stuff that you're doing in terms of character research and story research is very aligned with the audience research that I do. I think if anything, it's empowered me to push back with writers to at least point out to them that a lot of this research that they're doing early on is actually something that they can repurpose, and use to start to understand and develop an audience at the same time as they're working on their story.

Jill Golick :

We all as writers, and creators, we don't want to take on new work. So it's really exciting to discover this is the same work.

Annelise Larson :

It's so important. So let's start diving into some of these great questions that we have received from listeners. So the first question is: "Is articulating a film genre a thing of the past? With the technology and tools needed to determine then reach audiences, is genre an antiquated concept to which production companies, distributors should be thinking more broadly now, instead of narrowing your choices from the start?" What do you think, Jill?

Jill Golick :

It's a hard question. I think we're at a time of a great deal of change in our industry. I always lean toward the instinct of abandoning old structures, or at least re-examining them in a modern context. But at the same time, it's undeniable that certain structures that we all understand in a certain way are shortcuts to audience.

Annelise Larson :

There are clearly genres that come with built in fandoms, like horror, sci fi, fantasy, so I don't think there's anything wrong with thinking about genre or even sub genre or sub sub sub genre. But I never would say just put all of your eggs in one audience basket. I always try to start with at least three very specific audiences, one of which could be a genre audience of some sort. And then hopefully you have a couple more to support and expand that audience.

Jill Golick :

Well, and also genre offers you channels for reaching people, you know, where to find them, as you say, with Comic Con. They're tuned in to sort of specific channels and networks that you can use to reach them. But at the same time, you know, you can't start with this kind of cynical approach, "I think I'm going to do sci fi because there are big audiences there." You have to have that natural inclination to that form of storytelling.

Annelise Larson :

Yeah. Which I think leads to our next question, which is "how do you choose a genre/sub genre to work with?" You can't just do a cash grab and do a horror movie because you hear that you can do it for really low budget and people just flock to it, if you don't like horror. You know, when you're looking at breaking down genre into these sub genres and sub sub genres which can get quite specific and quite exciting actually. And we have mentioned TVTropes.org, if you don't know where to start, it's a good place to start segmenting down to more specific sub genres. But it has to represent an audience and a group of people that matches the story that you want to tell. And I would say also the audience that you want to spend time with. Because the goal is at the end of the day to create an audience around one story that you can bring, at least partially with you to the next. So hopefully, these are people that you're going to be interacting with for a long time. And if you don't like horror and can't walk the walk of a horror fan, then you're going to be really miserable.

Jill Golick :

It's that other word that we say a lot, which is authenticity. If you're going to create in a genre, you need to live in that genre and have some ownership of it. But on the other hand, you know, I also think that I don't have to be pigeonholed into one genre as a writer.

Annelise Larson :

Well, it's those throughlines. We've talked about that too, like really thinking and trying to recognize the through lines across the stories that you want to tell. Ultimately, that is what you are going to build your audience development plan around, because hopefully it gives you some flexibility which could be manifested as a sci fi story one time or the next time maybe it's a it's a tween detective show. We've mentioned Phoebe Waller-Bridge a lot. And the differences between Killing Eve and Fleabag are very different. But there's also her voice is very clear in both of those stories, and the protagonist is very flawed and female and awesome. There are other through lines that can carry you through genre to other work. Let's move on to our next question, which I think is a really good one: "What if I am writing films and series for kids? How does that affect the STORY+AUDIENCE approach?"

Jill Golick :

It's a very interesting question. Kid audiences can be very avid audiences, but the internet doesn't offer you the same tools for interacting with them. A lot of the sharing and interacting tools are turned off when properties are aimed at child audiences. So how do we work with our audiences when we're creating kids' properties?

Annelise Larson :

There are laws, the biggest one is the COPPA law. It's a protection law through the states. Besides those COPPA laws, I think it's really important when we talk about kids they're not just one big monolith because of different kinds of relationships that they're going to have with accessibility and with technology. And often when they're really little, there's some really big gatekeepers between you and the end audience, which is of course the parents or other kinds of caregivers. As they start to get into school then we add we add teachers into the mix. The Canada Media Fund has actually done some really great curation of some of the research into the different age groups of children on their CMF Trends site. I've done a lot of audience research and digital strategies for children's properties over the last couple of years. And there's some amazing research out there that can really give you insight into how children are interacting with technology, with content, with experiences, how much freedom they have to do that on their own in terms of curating for themselves or their friends. So that starts to really happen around 10, 11,12 years of age that they get a lot more autonomy. Under that you're really going to have to quite heavily factor parents into the mix. Again, it really boils down to understanding who your audience is, really thinking about the subgroups within that audience. And then how do you reach them through the specific things that they care about, whether it's dinosaurs or mysteries or video games, whatever is their thing. Just like grown ups, they're going to have found the places online where those conversations are happening. Again, the littler they are, the more the parents will be part of that conversation. So I think that's something to really keep in mind.

Jill Golick :

But specifically things like hashtags are they still relevant with like a school age audience like six to nine?

Annelise Larson :

Probably not six to nine, but their parents would. Definitely kids are using hashtags as they get older than that, and are on Instagram, which is a huge platform for for young people where there's a huge culture around hashtags.

Jill Golick :

The other thing that the kids audience kind of goes against some of the stuff that we've been talking about is the demographics of the kids audience are still age based. Those still drive the distribution and acquisition of programming. Although I'm not sure if it drives audience in the same way.

Annelise Larson :

No. Again, there's a disconnect there, right? The reason for those divisions is because it had to fit into a broadcast schedule, which is kind of out the window now.

Jill Golick :

Yeah, I see some of the trends sort of moving with the trends that have happened with adult programming, but slower, so it's still a little bit behind. Okay. "I've listened to the podcast episodes, I love them." Thank you very much. I'm going to synopsize it now. This writer loves the idea, loves the homework, but is really busy and just doesn't know if they can take on all the work of audience development all the time. So the question is, "can I just hire someone to do this for me?"

Annelise Larson :

Well, sure, there are people like myself who get hired to do some of this work. I think it's always important that you are taking on some of this yourself because you are the one who will have the insider knowledge of the story and storyworld and characters to be able to answer questions that an outsourced person probably does not. But I think at the very, very least, walking through this process and having this kind of understanding will allow you to know what support and help and services you actually need. So you can write the right questions, you can contextualize it in the right way in your request for proposals for the scope of work. It's really important that when you're working with someone like this, if you are outsourcing it, that you have a very clear idea of what goals you have, and hopefully your own audience at the point that you bring someone else on. At the very least you need to have this understanding so that you can strategically and effectively hire someone. What do you think Jill?

Jill Golick :

It's useful when you're thinking about this to make a distinction between audience development around a specific project and around your entire career. So on a specific project where you're working and doing your job as creator, as showrunner, as producer, and you really want someone who is an expert at this to build the audience around the property, yes with your direction, because you understand these elements. But when it comes to your whole career, if you're making stuff and you're on Twitter or you're on Facebook or you're on Instagram or whatever, people are going to start to follow you. And they want to hear what you have to say, they want your leadership and eventually you're going to want them to come with you to your next project. You know, think about JK Rowling, the author of Harry Potter, who has used this opportunity to really express her deep feelings and she's been concerned about how kids are doing during the pandemic and has been using her platform to provide tools and activities for kids. So I think there's an opportunity to further not only your career goals, but your world goals and that's stuff that only you can do, your team can do that for you.

Annelise Larson :

Next question: "I've started to look at my data embarrassed to say it's the first time and I'm totally overwhelmed." Lots of other people today. "How do I make sense of all these numbers and which ones I should be focusing on?" The great thing is that we have access to all of this data, which is also the terrible thing. The thing that I always tell people is to really figure out right from the beginning, which groups of numbers are going to help you track how close you are to accomplishing your goals. So really aligning the data with the goals that you're trying to accomplish can help sift out which are the most important numbers. It's also important to understand that this data is a kind of narrative unto itself. And so think about what is the story in the data that you need to communicate: Do you need to tell investors that you are getting more reach and more exposure or more press mentions? Or do you need to in your internal team need to keep track of which are the pieces of content or experiences or experiments that you're running that are performing the best? That granular data may only be of interest in of importance to an internal team, where as more of a high level, big picture in terms of growth, all of those numbers can be really important for funders or investors. Really thinking about what your goals are and who is the audience for this data story helps distill and simplify those those numbers.

Jill Golick :

You know, when I was pitching my web series, Ruby Sky PI trying to raise funds for the second and third season. The data I had was really useful to me to go to funders and say "Look, you know, we know when we look at this project with our television point of view on, we think this is a show for tween girls. But look at my demographics. I have equal numbers of males and females watching my show. I can show you that the age range is much more than we would expect." So there are lots of ways your data can inform your choices as a producer and as a creator. The next question is very hard one: "What's the name for the STORY+AUDIENCE fandom?"

Annelise Larson :

Well, I'm gonna pass the buck to the audience and say usually, it comes from the audience. The name of the fandom is usually a self declaration of some sort. Mostly because I have no idea.

Jill Golick :

Well, I think we have to give this one some time. Okay, maybe another season.

Annelise Larson :

There you go. And if you have any ideas, let us know.

Jill Golick :

Okay, so one of our listeners alerted us to like the weirdness and controversy in the Outlander fandom. Which actually, as I was doing some research into it, I discovered that William Shatner had gotten quite caught up in. So Outlander, if you don't know is a sci fi time travel TV series. I think that the series might be in fifth season now and it's based on a book series so it had an opportunity for quite a large fan base to develop. This fan base is noted I guess for infighting, bullying, especially around who "ships" who. So it's a very it was very interesting for me to do a little bit of investigating about this. And I discovered that among the features of this fandom, is that there's actually an anti bullying website devoted specifically to Outlander. It's called outlanderbullying.wordpress.com. It seems to have been set up by Shatner and his assistant specifically. And it defines a lot of the terms that are used in fandoms and also offers tips for avoiding bullying in fandoms. It's worth checking out.

Annelise Larson :

I definitely will do that. Okay, next question: "What are the mistakes you see people making over and over again in story development and in audience development?" Why don't you start with this one Jill?

Jill Golick :

Well, in story development, there are a few things The first and the perennial is the people who stick with their first idea and fail to develop. So they have an idea and through development, they just stay in the same place. They don't make changes. It's called development because you continue to think and develop ideas and change them as you go along. The second is giving up. And you have to kind of complete a phase of development in order for things to get to your to a stage where you can actually make things good. And then the third thing I think is failing to find your own vision or to believe in your own vision. There's a lot of a lot of people will kind of take in other people's ideas and go with those ideas. But you have to develop a vision know what you want to do, and sort of push that through. Yes, you can take input, but your job really as a creator is to convince everyone else that your idea is the right one and push it through. And you will not have the things that we're talking about authenticity and specificity if you don't find your voice, find your vision and stay loyal to it and and fight for it.

Annelise Larson :

In terms of audience development. Remember that it is a strategy, right that you're learning about and developing this audience so that you can have an audience-led strategy. So maintaining that strategic thinking and paying attention to the data to come back to you to help you get smarter and better and more efficient at growing and developing audience. You know, keeping an eye on the audience really listening. And, again, that specificity piece, like don't think of it as a weakness. Being specific in targeting and developing an audience is a superpower because it allows you to speak very articulately about the audience that is attracted to your work. Which in turn helps support some of the things that Jill was saying. You know, it will, it will help reinforce your confidence that this is a story that this audience in the world will be excited about and can actually help you protect your story better because it comes bundled with this audience. Just don't forget the audience. As you're doing development, really try to listen and learn as much as you possibly can, because bundling them together in this STORY+AUDIENCE approach is just going to help you go so much further, wherever you want to go.

Jill Golick :

In development, you're trying to have a vision to be authentic, to be specific in order to attract that audience. And then there's a new phase in which you're carrying with them. So it's hard for creative because you do have to share later on.

Annelise Larson :

Well, I think like, as we've said, part of the research that is done for story development is also part of audience development really. Even if it is that lurking and learning stage. Even if you aren't actively trying to attract and engage an audience. So being specific in that way and then finding a balance so that hopefully, this understanding of audience not only sparks inspiration for your story but also can help you protect it as you move forward.

Jill Golick :

And you do mention finding the audience that you want to serve right?

Annelise Larson :

Yep, and spend time with.

Jill Golick :

And there will be people out there who enjoy, who are audience for your show, who might not be the core audience that you were seeking and wanting and and choosing.

Annelise Larson :

Yeah, well, sometimes an audience can come totally out of left field. And that's why you need to pay attention. Once you start doing that audience development, it's really important to pay attention. Okay, we have one last big question: "How do you think the pandemic is going to change things for film and television? Are there ways STORY+AUDIENCE can help us figure out what comes next?"

Jill Golick :

Well, I mean, you know, just looking at what's going on in the world right now. I think people are much more connected to their social media and to their entertainment properties than they were before. They have much more time. It's a way of being less lonely to bring things in. And it's, so I think that STORY+AUDIENCE connection, we're going to come out of that, with it being even deeper.

Annelise Larson :

The reality of the pandemic has stripped back a lot of illusions that we've had about life or things that we've learned to ignore about reality for a long time, in some of the most brutal, awful ways. But in terms of film and television, I think what the pandemic has done, because people have had to embrace and meet audience in digital ways. Because we can't, especially with film, for instance, congregate physically together to watch films in a movie theater. The reality is, is that especially for smaller films, anything that's not a Disney film, practically it's been much, much harder to draw people to the theaters anyway. So that's actually been a huge part of the equation for a really long time. So on the industry side, there is a necessity in trying to find new ways to connect stories to audience using all these digital tools and openness to it that hasn't necessarily been there in the past because change is really hard. We don't tend to change unless we have to and the pandemic has forced that change to happen really quickly. So I think there are going to be some lingering long term effects, the longer this physical distancing part of the pandemic goes on, to changing the ways that we connect stories to audiences. All the things that we've actually talked about extending the story experience into the online world in different ways. Go beyond just the linear whether it's virtual q&a's with the filmmakers, or it is actual creative narrative story extensions. I think there's all kinds of ways that people are doing these grand experiments right now and some of them are going to end up being quite successful. And so I think that that is definitely part of the long term effects for our industry.

Jill Golick :

Necessity is the mother of invention. So we're seeing a lot of experimentation, live readings, live tape, live stream table reads of script, new ways of bringing old properties into your living room. Reunions have cast members on zoom and so on. And then also the things that the audience are creating. I know a bunch of young women who are dancers and they like to take a dance class and so they meet together on zoom to take a dance class on Instagram. So they they're all watching each other dance with the sound turned off as they're watching the dance leader on Instagram, which is so interesting. Like audiences are finding new ways to share experiences.

Annelise Larson :

And create collective experiences.

Jill Golick :

So the collective experience you know. And we we've seen TV over the last few years turn into a solitary activity as you get it on your your computer on your personal device. And yet we've talked about the way audiences are connected to each other on the internet. Through that we see that craving of the collective experience now finding new ways to collect and consume. It's what you say at the end of every episode. This is a time of listening, going and watching how the audience behaves and learning from them and following their lead in creative ways they're finding to consume properties and enjoy them.

Annelise Larson :

Also the audience values story and other art more right now. That's what we're using to get by, to fill our hours if we have hours to fill, or to distract us from some of the terrible things that are going on, or to participate in collective action in some way. The valuing of it, the valuing of our storytellers is is higher at this time than it's been in a long while. And that is really good to see. I find that very heartening.

Jill Golick :

I think you're you're right. I mean, people are soothing themselves with art. And one of the things I saw yesterday on Facebook was a friend of mine who was saying, in response to the issues around racism, particularly anti black racism in the US, I want to immerse myself in black led art. And particularly this is someone who's interested in musical theater and was asking, was offering recommendations and asking for recommendations. Like, again, you know, people are also expressing their values and beliefs through their consumption of art. And again, specificity, authenticity are the keys to reaching them.

Annelise Larson :

So we're hoping you know, this is wrapping up our first eight episode season, but Jill and I are already starting to talk and plan for the future. Our goal is to launch a Season Two of this podcast in the fall, but it would be quite different. We really want to start inviting other people into our conversations in very specific ways. So part of it is to have storytellers, creators of one kind and another join us to talk about their STORY+AUDIENCE led approach, whether they've been aware of what they've been doing or not.

Jill Golick :

I think that there's a lot of kind of case study work to be done to talk to creators, showrunners, producers and so on in the film and television industry and in other industries, about their experiences and how they've interacted with audiences and how it's influenced the way they work.

Annelise Larson :

I would love it if we could get some gatekeepers, broadcasters, distributors, funders to come in and discuss what they think the potential is of a STORY+AUDIENCE approach. I think there's a whole bunch of different directions that we will end up going in in our season two. If we have any homework for this last episode is if you know of anyone or are someone yourself who would love to be a part of our conversations, we really would love to hear from you. And you don't have to be from Canada. We want to talk to people from all over the world.

Jill Golick :

So you can reach us at storyplusaudience@gmail.com we'd love to hear from you.

Annelise Larson :

And I guess that's all for not just this time but this season. So please subscribe, rate, share these podcasts wherever you are listening to podcasts, and whatever social networks that you're using,

Jill Golick :

And stay healthy and stay creative. If but you want to reach out to Annelise or know more about her, you can check out veria.ca

Annelise Larson :

And you can as always check Jill out at JillGolick.com

Jill Golick :

And as I said before, you can reach us both at storyplusaudience@gmail.com. I'm Jill Golick.

Annelise Larson :

I'm Annelise Larson. Thanks so much for listening. Now, go listen to your audience. Transcribed by https://otter.ai