October 7, 2019

This Hollywood Director Reveals the Dark Secrets Behind Test Screenings

What is the test screening process like for filmmakers? Let the director of Shazam tell you everything you'd ever want to know.

We all know (or at least have an idea of) how test screenings affect the film that eventually ends up on the big screen, but what is that process like for a filmmaker? In this hilarious video, David F. Sandberg (Shazam, Lights Out), also known as ponysmasher online, offers the truth behind test screenings. He breaks down how test screening results are delivered, what producers and studio execs are looking for, and how one weird opinion can change everything about your movie.

Sandberg offers up some great insider knowledge about test screenings, and it can no doubt help some of you know what to expect when your films start heading in that direction. He exposes what the Hollywood test screening process has been like for him and gives us a rare look inside a part of filmmaking few of us have been able to see.

Don't let the amusingly acerbic tone of the video fool you — Sandberg thinks test screenings are a really helpful tool for gauging early audience opinions and reactions to your films -- like whether or not your comedy is actually funny, or your horror is actually scary to those who are expected to see it in theaters. This will help you, your producer, and the studios decide how to make the film appeal to as many moviegoers as possible. 

However, it's safe to say that the director's personal experience of putting his films through test screenings has been, at best, troublesome. His honesty about the many pitfalls and complications of test screenings might go down like a bitter pill, but it helps remedy the unrealistic expectations some might have about this process.

Yes, some in the audience might not "get" your film (or films in general) and therefore offer uninformed negative criticism that the studio will -- unfortunately -- take seriously. On the other hand, you might get rave reviews from your audience, friends, and fellow filmmakers because they like you too much to hurt your feelings. Also, because you're too close to the project, you'll never get to see your film with fresh eyes.

Not having test screenings might lead to problem areas in your movie going unchecked. Conversely, having bad test screenings means the problem areas in your movie go unchallenged. Or, just as bad? The things that work may be ripped apart by those who may not be the best judges of good cinema.

So, the next time you or your filmmaking buddies get ready to test screen a film, just say a prayer and get ready for a wild ride.     

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