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So, you've combined and trimmed your scenes to complete the rough cut. Once you've screened the film for yourself many times to make sure everything is working, you're prepared to show it to others. This is because while you've been editing the film, you've been working in somewhat of a vacuum. Now you're ready for fresh eyes and ears to tell you what's working and what isn't. Truly, holding a screening in front of an audience teaches you a whole lot about your work. Sometimes screenings are exciting and sometimes they're hard. But you should try your best to get as much out of them as possible, so your project can continue to improve.
A few things about this very important phase, like I said previously, you need to screen it for people who are both invested in the film and for those that have no stake in the film's success at all. You want to make sure you get the sort of feedback that lets you know how your cut compares with the vision of the director and ultimately the client. But also you need to make sure that the film works for the general public, since that's going to be the majority of the audience that sees it. Prior to each screening, make sure the screening room is ready to go. Ensure the video looks good on your monitor, and the speakers are broadcasting the audio at the correct level.
Make sure the lighting in the room is just right, and that no one in the room will have an obstructed view. Now, you can also upload the rough cut online and ask people to watch and comment on it that way. Sometimes, when you're not in the room at all, you can make it the most honest feedback. If possible, start out the screenings with a small audience, and try to read their expressions. Keep your eyes on them more than on your screening. Try to gauge their level of attention at each section of the documentary. After the screening, begin asking broad questions, and then get more specific.
Try to get a strong sense for the audience's understanding interest and emotion. Sometimes, negative feedback might be vague. In this case, you need to try your best to figure out what exactly is working, and what isn't by asking good, and specific questions. You won't remember everything, so be sure to take plenty of notes. Be sure not to argue with your audience. Try not to be defensive even though that might be difficult. The point of the screening is to figure out what's working and what isn't. After all, no one says you have to listen to everything everyone says.
But that's why you should screen the film for as many audiences as possible. If you consistently get similar negative feedback, there may be something to it. Once, you've gained valuable feedback, it's time to make changes to the film. You will be collaborating heavily with the director during subsequent edits, and for this reason, the phase is often called the Director's Cut. You're essentially aligning your vision of the film with that of the director during this phase. You might be making small trims, or you might be moving entire scenes around or deleting scenes.
Going through this phase can be difficult, but it's often necessary and usually makes the film better. You will continue to screen versions of the working edit until feedback finally filters down to a trickle. And eventually, you will get the official blessing. Once you finally reach this phase, you have reached picture lock. Picture lock means that no further edits can be made and the film is ready to send for titling, audio mix, and color correction. We'll discuss these phases of the post-production process in the next few movies.
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