Find Your Built-In Audience



If you’ve been reading my articles on Film Courage, you probably see a theme emerging.  Almost every article I write boils down to the issue of finding shortcuts.

There aren’t any.

Listen.  If you are looking for a built-in audience, then your project doesn’t have one.  “Built-in” doesn’t mean “easy to sucker”, it means built-in.  The Avengers has a built-in audience because people have been reading those comics since the ’70’s, and because it’s Marvel who’s been selling the comics to readers in the first place – along with cartoons, the previous Marvel films, and everything else.  Back in the ’70’s, that audience didn’t exist… but because Marvel has spent the last 40 years building a relationship with the people who read their comics, that relationship now fuels every major motion picture release they come up with.  Marvel built that audience into their business over four decades.

Listen to Tennyson E. Stead tell his ‘Arriving in L.A. story here.’

In fact, that’s why Disney bought Marvel… and now that I consider this detail, I must confess my haste in stating in absolute terms that there are no shortcuts.  Disney acquired Marvel for $4 billion, and they got a built-in audience out of the deal.

If by some chance you are capable of spending $4 billion to strengthen your hold on the film market… then I’ll give you exclusive rights to my consultation services for a measley $80,000 a year.  Stop reading, and pick up the phone.  My needs are specific, but very reasonable.

Check out (from Quantum Theory) America Young’s
Film Courage article

Every Short Film is Too Long

For those of us who can’t afford to buy a 40 year old company to produce our film project, the trick is building one.  Do you know how many years it takes to build a 40 year old company?

Come on.  Guess.

So what’s my story, then?  What qualifies me to act like I know what I’m talking about? In brief, I worked in film finance for ten years and I’ve been telling stories on stage and screen for twenty.  I’ve raised millions of dollars in private film financing, I’ve helped to build two film companies, I’m a produced screenwriter and I’ve already worked with some of my most legendary heroes.  In fact, my next Film Courage article should probably be about some of those experiences!

Check out more videos from this interview series
with Tennyson

What I’m most proud of, however, is my ensemble’s science-fiction web series “The Starmind Record” and the development of Quantum Theory and our other upcoming feature films.  What makes these projects so important, when I’ve already been working on bigger movies?

People are watching my stories, is what.  Some people even love them, and that group of people is growing for three reasons:

1.    I keep telling stories,

2.    those stories are great and getting better every time, and

3     I’m always around for the people who watch.

My audience is as important to me as the people I work with.  Some of them are people I talk to every day.  Others watch from a distance, but I go out of my way to make sure they know the doors are open with me, my cast, and my crew.

So, do I have a built-in audience?

After two years of actually putting content out there, it’s not a big one – but it’s growing. At this point, we are able to command a limited theatrical release.  All of my ensemble’s efforts are geared towards making sure that when Quantum Theory does hit theaters in LA and New York, that the film is something folks will want to share with the world… and just as importantly, that both theaters have lines around the block. That’s how our audience will grow!

Seems sensible, right?  Just the same, people are always suggesting shortcuts:

Wouldn’t attaching someone super famous to Quantum Theory make marketing the film easier?

Maybe. Maybe not.  Certainly, it would make the film too expensive for us to generate an audience if this famous person didn’t work REAL hard to rally the troops on our behalf.  When people talk about having big stars to mitigate financial risk, they’re talking primarily about the value those people bring to the pre-sales market overseas – which doesn’t have a direct connection to who’s watching what here in the states. Sometime soon, I should probably write a Film Courage blog about how pre-sales development works.  For now, I’ll just say that it doesn’t necessarily help us build an audience.  We’re working on bringing some recognizable talent into the film, of course. It could help, but it won’t define our success. Remember, there’s no shortcuts.

What about a famous producer?

We’d love for someone to come on and act as an ambassador to the industry. Are you kidding?  Someone like that could open doors at agencies and whatnot, for sure.  We might get some press that we’re not getting now. Again, it would help.  That said, help is neither conclusive nor necessary to our success.  Two things that are indisputably necessary to our film’s success include the work of making our movie great, and the work of getting it out there.

Make a horror movie!  Everyone knows that horror movies have a built-in audience!

No. They don’t.  Sure, I’ve got horror movies in development – but a market trend is not the same thing as a built-in audience.  Just because horror movies perform more consistently than other kinds of films doesn’t mean yours will.  Those horror movies that make the most money are often made by people who have been working in the genre for a long time.  They’re applying the Marvel strategy.  You should do the same thing!  Tell the stories you want to tell, and bend over backwards for the people who love it when you tell them.

Just make a comic first!  That way you KNOW you have a built-in audience!

It took Marvel 40 YEARS of writing comic books to make The Avengers! You think you can do that in ONE COMIC?!!  Good luck with that!

Ok… but what about a novel?  It worked for J.K. Rowling!

Wow.  Even assuming that what happened to J.K. Rowling will EVER happen again… she wanted to be a novelist, you guys.  She loves writing books, and she’s not crazy about the process of making movies.  For her, writing books wasn’t a get rich quick scheme.  What little I know about publishing suggests it takes a lot of commitment and a lot of work to even get a novel into print.  From there, you need to write and publish a best-seller – and then you need to make a movie.  Then, you need to make that movie successful with the understanding that there have been PLENTY of movies based on novels that aren’t.  All this work, need I mention, comes AFTER you write one of the very best books of any given year!

Movies based on novels do not “automagically” have a built-in audience.  In fact, there is only one kind of movie that does:

Any film made by someone who has built an audience themselves can be said to have a built-in audience.  Whoever they are.  However they did it. No other film has that distinction.

Stop trying to rush this process.  Instead, try enjoying it!  Start small.  Reach out.  Never forget the people who are out there who are waiting for your next story, and never let them think you did.

Who knows where you could be in 40 years?

If you’d like to find out more about me, my ensemble, and my stories, we welcome you to our online community at and please, please support our upcoming feature, Quantum Theory.  Quantum Theory is the story of two brilliant, goofy, passionate women of science who invent a technological means to alter and shape the very universe itself… until a defense contractor with unlimited resources steals it right out from under them.  Their struggle to get it back will literally change the world.  You can find out more at here and at


Tennyson E. Stead is a writer, director, and producer of film and transmedia.  In his childhood, he spent all his time building cardboard spaceships and rescuing his sister in them. These days he does basically the same thing.

For any production to realize its full creative and financial potential, every creative element must reflect the overall goals of the project. Every great collaborative work was produced by a team of talented people, united by a common intent.

8 Sided Films
and the 8 Sided Forum represent our collective stewardship over the stories born from intent too multifaceted, specific, or unique for studio production, and our commitment to honoring that intent as the foundation for a more personal relationship with our audience.

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Check out Tennyson’s prior Film Courage articles:

Why Nothing In Film Has Changed in 1,000 Years & Why Anyone Who Say Different is Trying to Sell You Something.’

A Screenwriter Prepares

Ten Things They Don’t Teach You About Actors in Film School

‘Never Ask For Money’


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