The Film Audience's Awareness of the Production Process

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Christian Metz once argued that, of all the arts, film is the most capable of creating an illusion of reality in the audience's mind.l It is certainly true that any movie whose chief aim is to provide vicarious experience whether of romance, adventure, horror or whatever-depends precisely on the medium's ability to make the viewer forget about scripts, directors, production crews, and all other elements of "behind-the-scenes" manipulation. On the other hand, there are many circumstances in which a viewer's obliviousness to these aspects of a film probably contradicts the intentions of the film's creators. For example, a director who lavishes special attention on visual composition would no doubt be disappointed if viewers treated the images on the screen as random slices of reality. More seriously, perhaps, a viewer who loses sight of the deliberate ordering behind a movie's sequence of events is also likely to have an incomplete understanding of the implications of that movie. For these reasons, it is important to know what kind of interpretive frame of mind viewers typically bring to movies. To what extent can the filmmaker assume that audiences will be aware of his or her presence, and what kinds of circumstances are likely to heighten or diminish this awareness?

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Journal of the University Film Association
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