Have you ever seen Buster Keaton’s movies? You haven’t?
Well, I would like you to remedy that right now. It’s Friday, and there are few better things to do on a Friday than brew some tea (or wonderful coffee, if that’s your bag), bake some scones, and settle down to some classic Buster Keaton.
And if you have seen Buster’s movies before, you’ll know why I’m enthusing about them. They’re simply wonderful.
Partly because of his amazing stunts, for sure. But that’s just the obvious reason his films are fabulous.
Buster Keaton was also a master storyteller in an age when movies were silent and it’s because of that I really love his films. It’s simple enough to tell stories when you have pages to write on or sound to record… but to captivate your audience with your story when all you have is action and a few intertitles is impressive.
After all, although Buster’s stunts were then – and still are today – incredible; without context that’s all they are. Stunts and tricks.
But weave them into his stories, as Keaton did, and they become something else. They become beautiful illustrations, highlights, exclamation marks to the tale itself. They become the reason you watch again and again, because you every time you watch his films, you see something new. The story changes slightly because you’ve changed slightly.
Part of the reason Buster Keaton — and his contemporaries like Harold Lloyd — were so popular was because they and the studio bigwigs understood something crucial: movie success was a partnership between filmmakers and fans. If that partnership became one-sided, the film would fail.
This was particularly important to the studio bigwigs because many of them used their own cash to fund projects (this was before the banks recognised the potential and started making loans).
So what did Keaton and his fellow filmmakers do to make sure fans kept coming?
It was very simple: they discovered what the fans wanted, and made sure they gave it to them.
In Keaton’s case, it was making sure the audience got as many laughs as they could. His background in Vaudeville meant he was already an expert at this — but that didn’t mean he took for granted that his films would work. They screened the movies for test audiences, in much the same way they do today — and used the results to edit out scenes and put new scenes in based on the audience reaction.
This extremely simple premise – find out what your prospective clients and customers and fans and audience want and need… then give it to them – should be at the heart of everything you do in your business.
If you keep that in mind, and actually get stuff done, you will do well.
And if you don’t know quite where to start, well – I can help you with that. It’s exactly what my book, Business For Superheroes is for. You can buy a copy here.
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.