How to run a test screening?


(Anna Bateman) #1

I have a short film (just for school- don’t get too excited) that I want to do a test screening of to test out some pacing and music cue stuff but I’m not really sure how to go about it without…

A. Burning a potential audience before it’s in its final form or
B. Wasting the opportunity.

Have you guys ever done test screenings? Do you ask specific questions or leave it open so as not to lead people? do you ask questions before or after?


(Bri Castellini) #2

Hmm that’s an interesting question that I don’t know the answer to! I’ve never done a test screening because I’m too impatient lol.

@hermdelica @HackettKate @hiamandataylor? @hbnuss? @kimhoyos? @alandver? @alwaysafilmgeek? @EricaHargreave?


(Meg Carroway) #3

I would say don’t give them too much information to begin with, except maybe if there are temp sounds or effects that you need to prime them for so they don’t get confused.


(Hillary Nussbaum) #4

I’ve never done an official test screening, but as a member of Filmshop, I’ve workshopped multiple projects in multiple stages, and have been a part of discussions about other people’s work as well. The format that I like best is to screen the project and then hand out a sheet of questions tailored to the things you most want to know, so in your case, maybe questions like:

  • Were you confused at any point?
  • Did the pacing feel too fast or slow at any point?
  • Did you lose interest at any point?
  • Etc…

Give people 10 minutes or so to fill out the sheet, and then you can have an open discussion about people’s reactions/responses.

Collect the sheets at the end. The value of the sheets is that you get people’s minds focused on the questions you’d like answered, and you get their un-tainted opinions - their initial reactions, before they’re swayed by the discussion. Also, if there’s a question you don’t get to in the discussion, you have written answers to refer to.

Before your screening, make sure everyone is on board with giving honest, constructive feedback. Filmshop put together a little guide to feedback that’s published here, in case it’s helpful.

As for burning your audience – In my experience, people who have given feedback on a project feel like they have a stake in it. They’re excited to see the final version, and will want to tell others about it!

Hope that helps!


(Anna Bateman) #5

This is so helpful omgg. Thank you!


(Emma Drewry) #6

I don’t do typical test screenings with multiple people, but I have a pretty solid group of people I trust watch/read almost everything I do while I’m working on it. If you want to do a test screening, I’d find people in your target audience that you already know, and who will feel obligated or excited to see the project anyways.

When I ask questions of people who are watching early versions of things, I start wide and get more narrow-- ask broad questions first, then go in for the targeted questions that tackle what you want to know specifically. It’s a good way to know if other people notice what you are when they watch the film.


(Arthur Vincie) #7

Keep the invite list small - including at least one person who’s not familiar with the film.

Offer some water/snacks if you can. People love food.

Afterward, ask for feedback. If people are having trouble, start with some very open ended questions, like “What did you think of “X”” - X = lighting, music, acting, something.

The correct answer to all feedback is “That’s a cool suggestion. What else?” - even if it’s absolutely ludicrous. The more open you appear to be to criticism/suggestions/etc., the more people will get brave and open up.

Most specific feedback will be a bit off, but if everyone points up the same issues or is stuck on a specific thing, that’s probably something you’ll need to pay attention to.

If you do subsequent feedback screenings, invite some new and some old people.