Round Four: Post-Production
The More Rough Cut Screenings, the Better? Or are Fewer the Key to Post-Production Sanity?
YT: I went from not doing work-in-progress screenings in post to doing a lot. I’ve now modulated it to a point that makes more sense with my process, which is doing a smaller number of rough cut screenings, but making them more calculated. That’s the sweet spot. When I had too many of them, it started to become a less constructive exercise. You realize that everyone has their own sort of “thing”—their likes and dislikes, and having to keep all of that in mind drives you crazy. What matters is knowing, “What are the things I need to work on?” and then you’re going to finesse those things and those things only. You have to be comfortable with the decisions you make, regardless of whether other people like the movie or not. Having a smaller number of rough cut screenings that are spread out gives us enough time to make edits before the next one on our way to the finish line.
SS: I show rough cuts to colleagues, friends, writers, the DP, and other directors, but never to someone I don’t know. I was forced to do a test screening with an audience once for a movie that Sony was producing and it was an interesting experience, but I still had final cut so I didn’t feel super-pressured to do what the audience suggested. But it felt like a waste of time because everyone has an opinion about everything.
YT: I’ve shown my film to strangers, and it’s been both good and bad. Most of the time, its good in the sense that when people are saying things out of left field, you’re made aware that those out-of-left-field things exist in your film. When the notes I get back from strangers at test screenings seem to not make any fucking sense I’ll wonder, “Why would anyone ever think that or say that?” But what usually happens is that when the movie comes out a year later, I start reading random user reviews online and always find at least one user review that says the same thing. So, who am I to say that’s completely invalid? I do have to take a stand as an artist, but I’ve learned that even the silliest piece of feedback usually rejects what other people are also thinking.
SS: I’m really against test screenings with strangers unless they reveal a plot issue, where someone says, “Dude, it’s hard to understand what the family dynamics are. Is she the dead mother of this character?” If something practical like that isn’t coming across clearly in the rough cut of your film, then it’s good to subject it to random, objective outsiders. But it’s not useful for things like, “How did you like it?” or “I think this supporting character lacks depth.”
YT: I don’t know… Whether the test screening is for strangers or for people who know your work and are giving you notes to enhance your vision, they’re both helpful to me in the end. Even when four people don’t get it at all, if they’re sharing their notes with me, it’s helpful to be aware of those things.
SS: For market testing, maybe, but not for creative purposes. The one time I did a rough cut screening for strangers, it was super-organized in a big room with a lot of people. If you’re going to test it that way, I get it, because that’s for distributors and sales agents. A movie that needs that is probably more expensive, and the team has other responsibilities outside of moviemaking. I’m down to try that if it’s needed, and it can also be a fun experience. I just don’t take it too much into account creatively. It would be surprising to me if a random person at one of those screenings would point out something that I wasn’t aware of, or if there was something I’d change based on what they came up with. I’m stubborn; I pretty much know what I want.