Eyeballing your value

eyeballs-multicoloredDo eyeballs matter? Short answer: yes. It would suck to edit without possessing eyeballs.

So if I was actually talking about the number of eyeballs watching your project, would that matter? Well, that depends.

As of this writing, I’m editing on American Ninja Warrior, a wildly popular obstacle course competition show that airs in the US on Monday nights on NBC, watched by millions (5.74M this past Monday). A producer and I were recently chatting about the show.

“Let’s face it,” he said, “the number of eyeballs on this show is more than the last 11 shows we’ve both worked on.” Somewhat hyperbolic, but closer to being true than not. Implicit in his statement: a higher number of eyeballs on your show is automatically better.

I used to think that was the case. Early in my career, I wanted to edit bigger and more popular shows simply because they seemed more prestigious, more likely to get an Emmy, pay more money, etc. Then I got to my first network gig and realized, “Yeah, this show is being watched by 8 million people instead of 800,000, but it’s pretty much the same thing I’ve been doing.”

eye on tvSince then I’ve spent a good chunk of my editing career cutting smaller TV shows that air on small cable channels, maybe getting recut and repurposed all over the Internet. I’ve found that those jobs have much lower overall stress, and higher probability that producers will trust me with a deadline, some content to cut, and just let me do my thing. Ahhh… yes. Fewer eyeballs, but definitely higher quality of life.

Oh, and what about all those projects that don’t get seen by hardly anybody? I’ve been hired over and over to cut presentation and sizzle reels that are never seen by anyone outside a TV exec’s office. Or maybe a screening room with a 30-member test audience. Hardly blockbuster ratings in terms of eyeballs.

Stop worrying about how many eyeballs are on your projects. Sometimes it matters, but far more often it just doesn’t.

Focus more on what you want your piece to say. Who you’re saying it to. What you want those people to know or do after they experience your piece. The kind of things we talk about here.

Why? Because those kind of questions are the ones that will bring powerful reactions from audiences of any size.

One of the most treasured pieces I’ve ever edited was created for the sole purpose of asking one question to one person.

She said yes.

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