If you’re an artist trying to break into the crowded music business, then Lenny Abrahamson’s film Frank will speak to you because it addresses one of the most delicate questions for creative professionals nowadays: how do I reach my audience?
[some SPOILERS ahead]
When wannabe musician Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) is offered the chance of a lifetime joining the unlikely named band Soronprfbs, led by the mysterious papier-mâché headed Frank (Michael Fassbender), he can’t help but tweet and blog about this amazing experience. Jon’s tireless efforts on Twitter, Tumblr and YouTube to document the subsequent surreal creative process to record their album soon achieve the outcome that every artist (and marketer) secretly hopes for: the band goes viral. Or so he thinks.
Frank suffers from a nervous breakdown when he discovers that the few thousand views on YouTube he believed to be a huge number are in fact not such a big deal. During one of the most revealing dialogues set at the SXSW Festival, two young girls from the organisation candidly tell the band that to go big you need at least 500,000 views on the video-sharing website. These numbers immediately spread panic within the Soronprfbs. Later on, Jon must also face the reality of being popular: the drama the band is going through is perceived by their followers as a staged marketing campaign.
Following Jon updating his social media accounts within the film, viewers experience a witty use of digital platforms and micro-blogging websites, naturally integrated into the story (read here how Abrahamson developed such an “online persona”). I was disappointed to discover that official accounts activated to promote the film did not play with this idea: instead they were used mostly to give updates about screenings, organise contests to win tickets and merchandise or simply to spread clips from the film.
Despite this, if you want to have some fun inside Frank’s world on corporate platforms, I’d recommend visiting the official website, where you can at least “Frank Yourself” customising your own head; the Facebook page, which allows you to be part of the hunt for the elusive musician; or Instagram, perfect for documenting his iconic head out in the streets of your city. And don’t miss Frank’s playlist generator.
Ultimately Frank is a film on the creative process of an unconventional mind, and a bittersweet reflection on the metrics that rate the success of an artist in the era of social media.