I watched four very different films this past weekend.
The Adam Project (Netflix) is a big-budget time-travel flick with an impressive cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, and Mark Ruffalo. I'm a big Reynolds fan, I like sci-fi films, and I love funny movies... so the fact I really enjoyed this film should come as no surprise. My expectations were high, but the film met them.
CODA (Apple TV+) tells the story of Ruby, who's the only hearing person in her deaf family. (That's where the film gets its name: CODA stands for "Child of Deaf Adults".) After a music teacher recognizes and encourages her incredible musical talent, Ruby decides she wants to pursue post-secondary studies at Berklee College of Music, but she's afraid of abandoning her parents and the family fishing business. I didn't know anything about this film except that it's an Oscar contender, but after finishing it, I completely understand what all the buzz is about. My expectations were low, but this delightful film skyrocketed past them.
On IMDB, Fresh (Disney+/Hulu) is tagged with "Comedy", "Horror", and "Thriller"... a somewhat unusual combination, but one I'd say is accurate here. Fresh is about... actually, I can't tell you much about this film without giving away the surprise. What I can say is that if you're the squeamish type, it's unlikely you'll enjoy this movie. I'm not, so I did. Like CODA, I didn't know what Fresh was about before I started watching it; I only knew it starred Sebastian Stan, and after his various performances as "The Winter Soldier" and his recent performance as Tommy Lee in "Pam and Tommy", that was enough for me. My expectations were medium, and the film surpassed them.
Turning Red (Disney+) is Pixar's latest film and tells the story of a 13-year-old girl named Meilin who turns into a giant red panda whenever she gets too excited. I had sky-high expectations for this film because it's Pixar... and I can't think of a single Pixar film I haven't liked. Well, until now. It's not that Turning Red was a bad film, but it wasn't what I thought it was going to be: it failed to meet my expectations.
There are two simple takeaways from my weekend film fest.
1. What you like and dislike is often relative to your expectations.
If you're a movie, that means the trailer is critically important: tease enough to get people excited, but not so much that their expectations become unrealistically high.
If you're a brand, that means if you want people raving about you, then "meets expectations" isn't going to cut it... you need to find a way to go above and beyond.
2. Not everybody will like your work... and that's okay!
If you were to watch these four films this week, you might agree with all, some, or none of my views. But can you name me a single universally loved film... or brand, or anything at all?
You're not going to love everything, and not everything you create is going to be loved by all. So don't worry about making everyone happy... because that's an impossible task.
Do your best work, exceed the expectations of your target audience, and don't worry about what anyone else thinks.
It's good advice for both filmmakers and brand owners, don't you think?