Brand · Creative · How To · Marketing Strategy · Media

Movie Trailer Focus Group


Finding the right audience for your creative work can be extremely difficult. Who are they and where are they hiding? Tools like Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can help your audience find you, but how do you find your audience?

Conduct a Focus Group!

Buzzfeed quizzes are one way to collect information from your audience, but of it is not exactly appropriate for everybody. In these situations, you can start by asking your friends, family, colleagues, and / or the general public questions intended to give an idea of “the public” perspective.

Why Focus Group?

The intended purpose of conducting a focus group, poll, or collecting data through online quizzes is to gather accurate data. Once you have accurate data, you can begin to form an understanding of the situation at hand.

A friend of mine is having trouble identifying the audience for his documentary. After consulting with him about what information was most important to him – and framing the questions in a way that was appropriate for his intended audience (based on my personal experience) I created three different sections of very simple questions.

As a focus groups is relatively easy to put together, and the data collected should be relatively accurate, they have long been the bread-and-butter of market research firms. I, personally tend to conduct a lot of research before I invest in ventures, and so I helped my friend create a 30-minute interactive activity that he could conduct with friends, family, neighbors, or the underemployed artists in his apartment building.

Focus Group Questions:

Section One: DATA

In this section I put together 5-6 “multiple choice” questions. These answers can easily be put into an Excel spreadsheet and turned into graphs. Questions pertaining to age, sex, and location work really well in this section.

Sample Question:

Where do you watch movies?

  • Cinema
  • Television
  • Online
  • Download

If you know that most of your audience streams documentaries online, I have an idea of where you can find your intended audience!

Section Two: Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended quesitons give your audience an opportunity to express their opinion to the artist directly. Perhaps there is a disturbing shutter flicker, or perhaps your audience would like to know more about the woman who adaantly insists that Reggaeton is the only type of music.

Sample Question:

Did you ever get confused by the film — if so when, and why?


It is a lot cheaper to receive this kind of feedback from a test audience while you are still in the “editing phase” of production than it is to watch your profits fall and not fully undstand why. An artist has spent so much time with the subject matter that their perspective will be different from the audience’s.

Section Three: Observations

This is the most time-consuming part of a survey, and arguably the most important. An audience will not be truthful with you. Among other things, this could be because:

  • They don’t realize they are not being truthful
  • They want to spare the artist any hurt feelings
  • They don’t understand the task at hand

If you want accurate information, you have to find a way to appeal to the “animal brain” as much as possible. This activity is structured with the intention of doing exactly that.

You will divide your group into two separate groups:

Group 1:

Receives a piece of paper with ev-er-y-thing that happens in the trailer clearly written. If doors open in “scene one” and the man comes out shooting his guns, write about it.

Scene 1
Doors open
Man breathes
Woman screams
Man looks
Man pulls gun

In the section on the right, ask your audience to describe their reaction by writing + (positive) – (negative) by the “actions” they remember seeing.

The audience will watch the trailer two – three times, marking their reactions as they go along.

Group 2:

Watches the trailer and writes their observations of the trailer as it goes along (with a couple of minutes afterwards to finish their thoughts)

They will watch the trailer two – three times.

Analysis and Reporting:

If you have conducted a successful focus group, you will be able to gather data about your audience, their opinions and personalities, and about what parts of your trailer stand out in a positive / negative / neutral manner.

This information can be used to understand who your audience is and what they think is important. If you know that – you have a much better chance of finding a market for your creativity!

Have you ever done this? Were you successful? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?


What to do next?

1. Create something that you want to sell

2. Conduct an audience poll

3. Condense your findings, and collect accurate data

4. Come to an understanding of your audience


If you’d like to continue this conversation – leave a comment.

If you have suggestions for future blog posts – let me know.

If you want to keep updated with business, legal, and artsy news… follow this blog!


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