Tuesday, August 22, 2006

We Are...Entertained

In mid-August we attended a test screening for an upcoming film called We Are Marshall. We signed some sort of non-disclosure agreement, and although I don’t remember everything it said, I do remember the part about "not discussing the details of the movie verbally or electronically especially on the Internet". Per Imdb it’s based on the true story of the Marshall College football team that died in a plane crash in the early 70s, so I think it's safe to say at least that much about it. Suffice it say, I liked the movie a lot.

Anyway, while we were in line, some guy with a clipboard came by and asked, "Why are you here?" My wife replied, "because it’s free". He countered, "So if we were screening Dumbo II (he spoke in Italics) you would’ve came to see it because it was free?" We said probably not, and that we knew this was a football movie, and we liked Friday Night Lights, which was also a football movie, so...

He then asked us to be part of a 20-person focus group that would stay after the film and discuss our opinion. We were issued nametags, I said I would like to be addressed as Snake. and then we were seated in a special roped-off area of the theater. At the end of the movie we all moved down to the front two rows and met the moderator. He asked for our thoughts on the film and the first few minutes went like this:

Focus Member 1: "It was inspirational"
Moderator: "It was inspirational…"
Focus Member 2: "It was uplifting"
Moderator: "It was uplifting…"
Focus Member 3: "I really liked the way the characters interacted with each other"
Moderator: "You really liked the way the characters interacted with each other…"

I began to wonder to myself if perhaps the moderator was a moron. He then said, "I’m repeating everything for the benefit of the tape-recorder - I’m not a moron". Mystery solved.

Speaking of people of the not-smart persuasion, there were some doozies in that focus group. One or two people said the movie needed to be more "light-hearted". Light-hearted? Yeah that's what a movie about a tragedy needs, maybe some fart-jokes.

I was made to wonder if any movies have been ruined by paying too much attention to test audiences.

Kevin Smith has an interesting article about test screenings from the perspective of a filmmaker on his blog. So, keep on trucking, or something.