Technical Screenings

Technical Screenings

Happy Sunday!

Thanks so much for your patience! Life’s just been incredibly busy. But it’s been mostly writing and film related. As a result, I’m going to write about some of it since I think it will be helpful to other people…

And one of them is technical screenings. I feel that this has been an incredibly invaluable process that I HIGHLY recommend for films of any length. Notice that I used all caps for “highly?” Yup. It’s that important. Why? And what the hell is a technical screening anyway? I know that some of you may know the answer. But I also don’t want to assume that all of you do. There was a point when I didn’t until a kind soul took it upon herself to explain it to me.

It’s pretty simple. Technical screenings happen when a film has been edited to a decent length and getting prepared to move onto the next stage of post-production. The next step is called “locking picture” where the creative edits are done. Things like sound, music, color correction, special effects, et al. are possible because the film is no longer  being changed.

An important point to mention about this is that the filmmakers have been working with their film for a while when they reach the point of technical screenings. People often describe this as being “too close” to the material. It’s that you are no longer objective about what works and what doesn’t. Some people are still spry at this point. But it never hurts to have a second opinion. Okay. Let’s be honest… Several second opinions and third opinions and fourth opinions, etc…

These other opinions catch things that we filmmakers missed. It also gave us an idea about what worked and what didn’t. Our process was to sit through the film with the audience and they completed questionnaires afterward. We would then talk with them over food once we started the screenings at our house. The meal was a great big thank you. We believe their feedback has helped us make a significantly better film than had we not done this. I also love sharing food and talking filmmaking or writing. Okay. I’ll be honest that it’s one of my favoritest things in the whole wide world besides writing or filmmaking. (I don’t think that favoritest is really a word but I’m using it anyway. It’s too close to the truth.)

My other sense of breaking bread together was that it helped create a more relaxed environment for people to give us their true sense of the film. And we felt that people did this on many levels. They told us told us the good, bad and the ugly. An especially cool part was that people also took the time to explain why they said what they said. Their explanations helped us get what is called “the note within the note.”

This is a writer term to say that the person’s note may not necessarily be the exact problem except it can give us insight into what it may be. An example is that someone may not buy a character kissing another character at a certain point in the story. It’s more likely not working because no clues had been set up earlier. As a result, the attraction needs to be established earlier to make that kiss more believable. Notes of any kind become even more important when more than one person brought them up.

We would then take their feedback, process it, talk it over, come up with edits, talk more, fine tune that list of edits, talk it over more, finalize the list of edits, confirm the agreed upon changes and give that list to the editor. The editor would then implement the list while bringing his own thoughts to the process. He’s also come up with some great ideas that we have implemented. We would then eventually have a new cut. This was then shown to a new audience for the process to start all over again. We have done this multiple times.

I know our process sounds tedious. But we have a method to our “madness.” It’s that we want to make sure that we are making changes that best serve the story. They aren’t knee jerk reactions. And it takes some time thinking about changes before we implement them to ensure that we should make those edits.

A true sign that our technical screenings are working is that the notes keep getting smaller and smaller. In fact, people are starting to debate the issues our film raises more than to talk so much about being confused so much anymore.

I know that it can be scary to get feedback on a creative project… But wouldn’t you rather get it when you can actually make changes instead of after you’ve released your film? I can’t stress it enough that multiple technical screenings are imperative to making your film be strong.

Here’s also an incredible side effect that I didn’t anticipate: I understand story so much better. This is not just a little amount. But it is an indescribable amount. And it is worth every moment of this whole experience. I will never do another film of any length without doing a series of technical screenings. We also think that we’re going to be done after one more round of technical screenings. I’ll keep you posted.

And here’s a shout out to all of the amazing people who helped us! Thank you so much!

By the way… The picture is our TV screen where we have been showing the film for the bulk of the screenings.

Have a great day!

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