chapter  8
11 Pages

Spectatorship and Audience

As you can see, the issue of spectatorship is central to film theory. While such academic work seems to stem from purely theoretical concerns, an understanding of spectatorship can also enable you, the filmmaker, to either produce films that appeal to the conscious or unconscious desires of spectators, or to challenge those ‘safe’ positions of spectatorship. Think of it as follows: every filmmaker, regardless of the nature of his or her film, wants people to watch his or her films. Thus, the filmmaker, whether intentionally or not, makes films that will mean something to other people. Even the most obscure or avant-garde films use cultural or filmic codes that will somehow make sense to the spectator, even if they are wrapped in a difficult formal or aesthetic system. Therefore, the spectator has a particular relationship with the screen image that will allow him or her to decipher, identify with, decode, and understand the screen image and its representations. This is, in fact, the contract between filmmaker and spectator. The filmmaker will produce a certain filmic experience that the spectator can enter into a relationship with. Judith Mayne summarises the experience of spectatorship as follows:

Spectatorship is not only the act of watching a film, but also the ways one takes pleasure in the experience, or not; the means by which watching movies becomes a passion, or a leisure-time activity like any other. Spectatorship refers to how film-going and the consumption of movies and their myths are symbolic activities, culturally significant events.