I firmly believe that test screenings are an important step in releasing a successful film. I've held test screenings for all of my animated films since “I Married a Strange Person”.
Since we're close to finishing CHEATIN', I decided to have a test screening at the wonderful Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
We had a terrific sell-out crowd, plus some of the key creatives were there to help with the presentation: producer Desirée Stavracos, composer Nicole Renaud, editor Kevin Palmer and executive producer James Hancock.
As a keepsake, I gave all the audience members worn down pencils from the production from the production of the film. So it was very cool that people could write critical remarks with a pencil that was also used in the film's creation.
I instructed everyone to give negative comments that would make the film better. I wanted to know if anything was confusing or boring, and how I could improve it.
The audience seemed to enjoy the film, they laughed a number of times, and there was welcome applause at the end.
After the screening, I held a short Q&A session to get people's thoughts and ideas for improvements. Then, after we all retired to the lobby for drinks, everyone who participated in the test was given a drawing of either Ella or Jake.
I'm now collating the results of the questionnaires, and deciding how to improve the story. It's great when most of the listed problems are similar – thank goodness there was a clear consensus about what needs to be fixed. That makes it so much easier to solve these problems quickly.
I think that artists who don't want feedback on their films really don't care if people like what they make. Filmmakers have to decide if they're making movies for themselves or the audience. I'm making the movie so the audience has a good time – and that's why I believe in test screenings.