Thursday, October 20, 2005

On the gripping hand...

Re yesterday's post about, er, "open screenwriting."

Is there any difference between audience testing of a (nearly) finished film, and audience testing of a screenplay? You show a preview screening to an audience because you want them to tell you whether they like it as it is; you test a screenplay because you want to know whether it can be made into a good movie.

If you test a screenplay, well, it depends what you do with the feedback. If you're only using it to help you search for bugs in the program, as it were -- illogic, weak character development, clich├ęs, etc. -- that's one thing. But I don't think Average Joe Moviegoer is really qualified to do that. You're better off showing it to one or two professional screenwriters to get their analysis.

But if you use screenplay testing to find out whether Average Joe likes the screenplay... what would happen? Assuming you then revise it so that Average Joe likes it more, then, with a sizable enough sample, you're going to end up moderating the screenplay into generally tolerable pablum...

...which may be a viable economic strategy. If your movies are entertaining and inoffensive enough to make back their production cost, then you're not likely to ever have a smash hit, and you're also not likely to completely fail. You'll never create a great work of art, but you'll also never be in the poorhouse.