Audiences and happiness

What do you, as a viewer, want from the TV shows and films that you watch? How important is it that the script give it to you? Some smart people have been looking into this, and here’s what they’ve found:


by (Sorry, but we don’t know whose name belongs here. If you do, fill us in!)

The originator of the hottest theory in Hollywood today is Lindsay Doran.

Who’s that? you ask.

Production executive on This Is Spinal Tap and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Executive producer of The Firm,Sense and Sensibility, Sabrina, Nanny McPhee, andStranger Than Fiction. President of United Artists Pictures. And, these days, an independent producer.

She comes from a Hollywood family. Her father was a studio executive for nearly 50 years, who worked on films like Sunset Blvd. Her mother typed scripts for Preston Sturgess. Her brother was the publicist on 2001: A Space Odyssey. She says she “grew up listening to people talk about story. There was always the sense that the story was the thing that mattered, and that was always the thing I loved most.”

After reading the book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing, by Martin E. P. Seligman, she began watching films with one eye on what Dr. Seligman calls “the five essential elements of well-being”:positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment.

She analyzed critically-acclaimed movies on the American Film Institute’s favorites lists and discovered that these five factors were embedded in films as far-flung as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (characters who displayed positive emotions throughout), The Godfather (characters fully engaged in what they’re doing throughout) and The Karate Kid (a character completely focused on accomplishment).
She says, “It’s no surprise that American movies specialize in stories of accomplishment. When Jennifer Grey finally dares to make the scary leap at the end of Dirty Dancing, when the Karate Kid performs the impossible kick that wipes out his opponent, or when King George VI gets through his wartime speech without stammering — those accomplishments are among the great pleasures of cinema.”

But when Lindsay Doran consulted a veteran market researcher about the five elements of well-being, he told her that audiences don’t care about an accomplishment unless it’s shared with someone else….

Read it all at Adelaide Screenwriter