Join Ashley Kennedy for an in-depth discussion in this video Smart strategies for conducting screenings and feedback sessions, part of Filmmaking Forum: Conversations.
- Hi everyone, in this episode of the Film-making Forum Conversations Course, we're diving into the extremely important topic of holding screenings and asking for feedback. We're going to talk about the benefits and challenges of conducting screenings in person, as well as sending links out for remote screenings. Editors talk about when they ask for feedback, what they're looking for, and how to take criticism and turn it into results. I hope you enjoy. - I prefer being in the room with everybody while I'm showing something because I can see their physical reaction and we can sit and talk about it.
- If you're in the room with the audience, you get to feel what they're feeling and you start to notice things that you didn't notice the 500 previous times you watched it in a room with yourself or with three other people. - I love screenings, I think they're extremely important. It's always like the nerve-racking sort of scary part, when you realize like, oh it's time to have some screenings. Like, we need to get some opinions here. But yeah, they're super valuable. I definitely prefer to have them in person. I've done them for every movie I've ever worked on.
Usually we try to get a mix of some film to some non-film people. Put people in a room together and it's just so valuable to see in real time people's reaction to the movie. You know, especially, I mean every movie it's valuable for but especially something like a comedy. You need to understand if and when people are laughing. If they're laughing at the right moments. It's so valuable to see that and to be there.
If it's like a drama, or there's suspense, or something you want to, you can feel the energy of the room, like are people with the character here. What's going on, like, are people bored, is someone falling asleep, like are they doodling, like what's going on. - There's no doubt that as we go from cut one to cut two to cut 10 to cut 12, that we sometimes completely lose sight of things and so one of our challenges in the editing room is to look at the film fresh each time we see it.
There's a lot of tricks that we do for this but one of the best ones for me is screening through people who truly don't care about your movie. They're just looking at it as a movie. They're not your friends, they're not people who've read the script, they have no connection with the film and you screen for them, and like I said, sit in the middle of the audience and listen, you will find out when things get boring for them. You will find out when you're losing them, you'll find out when they're confused, you'll find out what they like, and some of the things, this is especially, especially important for comedy I think, because it's so easy for things to stop being funny after the 28th time you've seen them.
So, it's really refreshing when an audience reminds you of what was funny or important. - On Mission Impossible, we did maybe three big test screenings with large audiences and probably around 20-30 small friends and family screenings with sort of six, 12, maybe 20 people and I would sit there with the director and we would feel the audience reacting during the screening, and make notes to ourselves and then talk to the audience afterwards about what they liked and what they didn't like and what could be improved.
- When you do a screening, you also get to give people homework or they are going to answer a bunch of questions that you have about the movie. So, you always end up having questions, like is this character likable or did this thing that we sort of cut down, does it still make sense? Are people confused? Do people even, do they like the movie? So you get to make sort of a questionaire and hand that out and get all these answers from people right after they've seen the movie, which is really helpful, really valuable.
- The beauty of postings are that you can shoot them out to the five to ten people who are involved and get feedback from them. So that means turn arounds are quicker, and you get a lot more detailed feedback because they can go frame by frame. - If you take someone who's a really good editor and you send it to him or her. They'll look at it multiple times. They'll feel something's wrong, they'll dive in and they'll say, "Gee Sam, this isn't working here because" and it's like, that's such specific information.
- I find it more comfortable for them, meaning they can sit down and have a real internal discussion and really think about it and play it over six, seven times, and see what, if anything, sometimes people don't know and the same thing with me, I look at something and I can't tell what bothers me about it or which part, what's awkward about it and might have to look at it a few times, I might have to sleep on it overnight. So I do like remote screening and to get the comments in e-mail format or written format to let me sit back and digest. - At the end of the day, I usually either create a link where they can look at what I've done, or now it is so easy with Gchat, I share, I will call them on Gchat and I will share the screen and then I can actually play it in real time.
We can talk to it and we can respond to it. That is my preferred way to interact with the producer because that way you get the live feedback, you can hear if they're going to laugh at the right place, you can here if they groan when something's really bad. If I just send them a link and they send me written notes, there is a little bit of a disconnect that makes it kind of hard to really understand what they want, but I think now with this ability to share screens, it's a piece of cake to work remotely.
- I try to do as much as possible because in my experience, clients hire us for the vision, they don't have the vision, so I make sure that all the animations are in there, everything's buttoned up if it's been shot on green screen, all the backgrounds are in there and I always at least make sure that the first half is completely animated, so if we don't get around to finishing it we can at least have place holders and they can usually make that leap. They love the style, they can picture it, they see the content. I never show them a green screen cut without all the bells and whistles on.
I think that's a complete recipe for disaster. - I try to keep my timeline as polished as possible so at any time we can export the film and put it in a screening room and watch it. - I believe that if the editor's job to do any part of the process that helps tell a story. So I will always do the music, as far as the compositing, color correction, and what not, at the end of the day you're going to have professionals that are way better at all the stuff than you are, but they're not going to be involved for either weeks or months and you're going to be showing this to people that are going be giving you notes whether it's directors, producers, executive producers, studio executives, and if they're seeing something with a big giant word that says temp, that doesn't work.
- You know you're watching in a room with a number of people and they're talking back and forth and someone says they like it and someone says they don't, or they say they don't like this part, but really the part that they don't like is the part before that, but they can't articulate that. - If you find an audience kind of disengaging from the movie it, oh I don't know, in scene 22, then I would go back and look at scenes 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, and see where they're beginning to disengage or lose or why in scene 22 did they kind of drop out? As opposed to reacting just to scene 22, and sometimes the decision is no I don't want to remove that scene, but we have to figure out a way to support it better.
- I don't pay attention to when people say well that's a problem and I think you should fix it this way, I look at where's the consensus coming from. If I have four different people pointing something out, that's an issue. If it's just one person saying well I don't like it when they say this line and then seven or 10 or 150 other people on a survey say that was their favorite line, I'm not going to start making cuts based on that, but if 15 people totally independent of each other say well the middle 30 minutes is kind of boring, there's a problem there and you need to listen to it.
- There's a lot of times where I will edit something and I will think wow this is so good and then I'll screen it with somebody else in the room or them watching remotely and realize, oh my god, this is so bad, and there is this thing that happens where when you're in your own zone and you're cutting it and you really believe in it, you know what you're saying, and then when you watch it with somebody else you realize that you missed the mark. That happens a lot and that's part of editing, all I need is reediting, you know? So it's really important for me to never be in love with anything that I do.
To love what it is, but to be willing to get rid of it if it doesn't work and it doesn't support the story. - Sometimes you have to accept when something's not working and that's hard. It's hard to accept when something that you put a lot of time and energy into just doesn't work, or just doesn't look good, or maybe even worst case scenario, needs to be reshot or cut out all together and you spent literally three days of work just trying to make this one thing work and you massaged it all you could and it just doesn't work sometimes and you just got to be honest and move on and I think you'll get a better product, you'll be a better filmmaker because of it.
- Advice for novice filmmakers entering the industry
- Finding, enhancing, and tweaking your story
- Experimenting in filmmaking
- Solving problems and troubleshooting your film
- Changing your approach or finding new angles
- Communicating and collaborating on set and in the edit room—and with clients
- Working on different genres of film
- Teaching and mentoring new filmmakers