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Test Screenings

By the end of your edit you’ll be over familiar with your film, maybe a bit tired and will probably not be able to make a good judgement of whether it’s working or not. It’s a natural occurrence and nearly all filmmakers use ‘test’ audiences. Some go to greater lengths than others, but the least you can do is get a couple of friends in who you know will be honest with their appraisal.

The best test viewer is one that knows nothing about the film. Don’t test on actors or crew from the film, they’ll be looking out for their best bits!

It’s good to have a mixed range of people too, some might be film fanatics but others not so. Then you get the broadest reactions. Don’t tell your audience too much before the film, certainly not any vital information that is supposed to come out naturally in the film. When you’ve finished screening, don’t ask leading questions. Audiences can find it hard to be honest with questions like these. Let them speak their mind, it’s amazing how the simplest comment can have a huge impact.

Take every comment with a pinch of salt. Unless it’s a unanimous decision, don’t go and make every change that somebody comments on. An editor will quite often know ways of fixing problems that crop up in test screenings without resorting to the suggested solutions.

A no mercy list for beginner's editing mistakes

Too long

Beginners just aren't ruthless enough.

Too involved

You will be attached to so many things in your film, but if that tracking shot that took ages to shoot isn’t working for the story, get rid of it. Sometimes you just have to leave the room and think about other things. Some of the best ideas surface when away from the edit, inspired by something completely different.

Too much music

Silence can sometimes be just as powerful. It's all about variation.

Too many visual effects

Most effects look quite cool the first time you try them. After that, they just look like cheap effects. Nothing screams 'beginner' as loudly as unmotivated effects & wipes.

Too many bloopers

Out-takes can certainly be funny, but having a section of out-takes longer than the film itself will be funny only to you...

No good film is too long and no bad film is short enough
Roger Ebert