Creative Har­mony

The new game-chang­ing process that brought fan­tasy thriller Har­mony: The Five Fre­quen­cies Part One to life

Empire (Australasia) - - PREVIEW - JAMES JEN­NINGS

CON­SID­ER­ING MOST FILMS and TV se­ries cost a mint to pro­duce, the golden ques­tion in­vari­ably must be this: can you ac­tu­ally make a project flop-proof?

De­ter­mined to prove it pos­si­ble is Aus­tralian “Au­di­ence Pro­ducer” Peter Drinkwa­ter, the CEO of au­di­ence-driven stu­dio Cowlick En­ter­tain­ment and its off-shoot Screen Au­di­ence Re­search Aus­tralia (SARA), a re­search body that aims to bring to­gether art and science by test­ing au­di­ences at the de­vel­op­ment stage be­fore the megabucks start get­ting spent.

“The net is bring­ing cre­atives and their au­di­ence closer to­gether and you can’t be scared to in­volve them in co-cre­at­ing,” Drinkwa­ter says. “That ap­proach plus re­search helps mit­i­gate risk, and in­vestors love the fact you’re so close to the au­di­ence all the way through, shap­ing it to­gether.”

Putting their money where their mouth is, Cowlick’s first fea­ture Har­mony: The Five Fre­quen­cies Part One – a Ya-style fan­tasy thriller about a girl with the abil­ity to ab­sorb fear from the peo­ple she touches – has been put through the SARA process.

“We be­gan by test­ing the ti­tle and the con­cept to en­sure they were as strong as pos­si­ble, and then sur­veyed peo­ple here and in the US to find out who our tar­get mar­ket was,” says Drinkwa­ter. “Once we had a script we were happy with we did table reads with ac­tors and had mem­bers of the core tar­get au­di­ence in there – it’s like get­ting an au­di­ence pass on the script and do­ing a sense check with the peo­ple we want to spend their money on see­ing it. You quickly learn what they like and what they don’t, which re­ally helps every­body at ev­ery level of mak­ing the film.”

It doesn’t stop there: once Har­mony’s core au­di­ence of teenage fe­males were en­gaged, their voices were heard on ev­ery­thing from cast­ing to mar­ket­ing to the rough edit of the film. “It’s been a di­a­logue with them the whole way through,” ex­plains Drinkwa­ter. “They love it be­cause they can have a real sense of own­er­ship over it. Young peo­ple don’t want to be served stuff – they want to be part of it from the be­gin­ning.”

Is there a worry that some creative folk won’t be as open to such a rad­i­cal ap­proach? “Pro­duc­ers, writ­ers and di­rec­tors are start­ing to re­alise the ben­e­fits,” says Drinkwa­ter. “TV is used to writ­ers rooms and be­ing very col­lab­o­ra­tive al­ready so they’re more open, whereas with film it’s more of­ten a sin­gle writer, so there can be some ini­tial re­sis­tance. Ul­ti­mately though it builds their con­fi­dence and en­hances the creative process.”

With the im­mi­nent re­lease of Har­mony, the first round of re­sults will soon be in. Drinkwa­ter is op­ti­mistic: “It’s up­ping the chance for suc­cess and it makes sense on ev­ery level, par­tic­u­larly from the per­spec­tive of an in­vestor or a dis­trib­u­tor. You can’t af­ford to have a flop – there’s not enough money in the ecosys­tem any­more!”

Clock­wise from main: Jes­sica Falkholt as Har­mony (the film is ded­i­cated to the late ac­tress, who trag­i­cally passed love in­ter­est away Ma­son last year); (Jerome Meyer) hits the bench; Har­mony washes off the black goo she gets cov­ered with from ab­sorb­ing other peo­ple’s fear... ; ...which can be an ex­haust­ing process; Cowlick En­ter­tain­ment’s Peter Drinkwa­ter.

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