Does A Filmmaker Want The Audience To Clap After Their Movie? by Daniel Stamm
Film Courage: And I think who you watch a movie with in a theater plays a big role [in how you see the movie]. I remember watching a film and the only other person in the theater (and it was at night) was a celebrity (I won’t say who it was). But they were there to support the filmmaker and that person was laughing and I found myself laughing quite a bit, too. And then I thought “Wait a minute. Am I just trying to join in with this person? Is this why I am laughing?” However, it was a great experience. And it was surreal being in this huge theater with the one famous person watching this film.
Daniel Stamm: Was it Quentin Tarantino?
Film Courage: It was not. I can say that.
Daniel Stamm: [Laughing] Because I have seen him laugh through a movie of mine that wasn’t supposed to be funny! But he had such a good time. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or bad thing? But he was laughing from the first to the last minute. And I was like “What does that mean?” And you could tell that the rest of the audience was confused because he has a very succinct laugh. You can tell it’s Tarantino.
“So I can understand the mindset of not clapping after a movie. And I actually have that when the movie was really good, I can’t clap or worse…even talk to people afterwards. Like if you are really affected by something, it goes so far. You’re in a different place. You’re not clapping. Like if you’re clapping, the movie hasn’t 100% gotten to you. Maybe if it’s a comedy, that’s a different thing. But if it’s Lars Von Trier’s ‘Breaking the Waves.’ If that got you afterwards, you would not clap”
Film Courage: Right…
Daniel Stamm: So if he thinks it’s funny then people are probably wondering “Should I think it’s funny?” and there is a weird energy throughout the movie. And it’s just really interesting that it probably has to do with that dynamic again, the group dynamic…that there is a desire to be on the same page with your fellow human beings, kind of thing. And I think that is why everyone an audience is kind of trying to have the same experience and not be too far off from the tribe. That is maybe why comedies work so much better with a big audience rather than a small audience because there is less confusion. So it’s like everyone else is having fun so I should have fun, too. And the subconscious tendency toward that.
Film Courage: And you never got an answer as to why certain parts [of your movie] were funny?
Daniel Stamm: To the Tarantino thing?
Film Courage: Right.
Daniel Stamm: I talked to him afterwards and, well you know how he talks [imitating high energy] and all this stuff. But I don’t think I got a word in to ask what he thought was funny.
Film Courage: I know sometimes if we go to a theater to watch a movie and it’s usually a mainstream film that is [at a chain theater] in more of a sort of bedroom community and these aren’t people in the industry, what I’ll do is I’ll clap at the end [of the movie] to see how many people will clap with me. Because usually when you go to a Hollywood film or something around this [Los Angeles] area, people are all in the industry or they know someone who is and they realize the hard work that the people behind-the-scenes put in….and they will clap at the end. I’m surprised (and sometimes David teases me) at how many people don’t clap afterwards. And they just get out of their chairs, groan and are like “Okay…What’s next? Where do we go get cake and coffee after this?” I find that interesting because [applause at the end of a film] is so dependent on the area in which you see it.
Daniel Stamm: I’ve had that with flights. You know how some people clap after the plane lands?
Film Courage: [Laughing] Yes….we made it!
Daniel Stamm: Right. When I first heard this I thought “Maybe this is an American thing?” because I think I was 35 years old when I first set foot on a plane where people are clapping and I was like “What did people expect? Are we celebrating this outcome?” And it’s kind of the same (I think) with a movie. That you expect the filmmakers that have had a budget of millions of dollars and the audience has just each paid their good money to see that story. They take it as a given that they are being given a good time over those two hours. They feel like they shouldn’t have to celebrate that they weren’t screwed over and robbed of their money. So I can understand the mindset of not clapping after a movie. And I actually have that when the movie was really good, I can’t clap or worse…even talk to people afterwards. Like if you are really affected by something, it goes so far. You’re in a different place. You’re not clapping. Like if you’re clapping, the movie hasn’t 100% gotten to you. Maybe if it’s a comedy, that’s a different thing. But if it’s Lars Von Trier’s ‘Breaking the Waves.’ If that got you afterwards, you would not clap. Because clapping means you are aware …. like you were saying …. aware of the work that has been done. But if the work has been done brilliantly, you’re not even aware of the work that has been done, you’re just flattened by the story and the characters that you’ve just experienced. You don’t think about directors, writers, cinematographers, stunt men. All the stuff behind the scenes because you’re so impressed by the narrative that you’ve just experienced. I didn’t know I felt this way about clapping until we just talked about it. But, that is maybe why I can understand why people don’t clap.
I don’t know if for one of my movies I would rather have people clap or not clap? I know for my first movie it was this fake documentary about suicide. No one ever clapped after that movie. And I would have known that I would have failed if they clapped after that movie. Whereas with the other movies, where it was more of an upbeat ending or at least not that dark, it probably would have been okay for people to clap. Which they did’t either. Maybe I’m just making bad movies? I don’t know what it is? I don’t experience the clap. That is, outside of a festival audience. I think at festivals because people assume that some of the filmmakers are attending and it is kind of polite to clap but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the audience was clapping at one of my movies?
Film Courage: That would make an interesting survey for artists that make films. Would you be offended if someone clapped after your movie or would you take it as a compliment?
Daniel Stamm: It depends on the movie. It depends on the state you want to put people into. Going back to David Fincher’s movie, at the end of SEVEN, whether people are clapping or not clapping and whether you want that. It probably depends on the story you were just telling and the emotion you were hoping to put the audience into. Fincher, it could be because we just had that example earlier for SEVEN, you want to the audience to be so distressed and destroyed, that he probably wouldn’t want anyone clapping at the end of the movie. I think he would have known at the test screening that something is wrong with this movie. Whereas there are probably other movies that are more upbeat and have a different energy.
Film Courage: True….and I am thinking back to the [movies] that I’ve clapped at recently and they were not….these sort of…melancholy endings. So, that does make sense.
Question: Do you ever clap at the end of a movie?
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