Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interesting blog article on Christian films...

Screenwriter John August has a popular blog on filmmaking, particularly regarding screenwriting, and he just wrote a very good article on the Christian film market. Check it out:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Test screening audience questions for "What If..."

Test screenings are common in Hollywood, of course...nearly every studio films does a couple of them. The results impact how the film will be marketed and in many cases impact reshoots and new endings.

I've never actually done one for a film, but we're doing one for "What If..." tonight in Charlotte at a Christian film festival. Below are the questions we'll be asking this audience. Because we still have a week or so to do more edits, we can still make some adjustments based on this screening.


How would you rate this movie:

__ Excellent
__ Very Good
__ Good
__ Fair
__ Poor

Can you mention a few of your favorite things in the movie (character, scene, story point, etc.)?

Can you mention a few of your least favorite things in the movie?

Did anything bother or offend you (please list)?

Was there anything at all confusing (please list)?

What’s the youngest aged child you’d allow to see this film?

__ 6 and older
__ 8 and older
__ 10 and older

Please rate your chances of recommending this movie to others:

__ Definitely recommend
__ Maybe recommend
__ Won't recommend

Would your church show this movie as a special event? __ Yes __ No

Please rate the Christian content in the film:

__ There was enough Christian content, and the gospel message was presented sufficiently.
__ There was enough Christian content, but the gospel message was insufficient.
__ I was disappointed in the Christian content.

How would non-Christians respond to this film (check all that apply)?

__ My non-Christian friends would enjoy this film.
__ This movie would impact non-Christians for the gospel.
__ Non-Christians wouldn’t enjoy this movie.

Would you (check all that apply):

__ See this movie in theaters
__ Purchase the movie on DVD
__ Rent the movie
__ I won’t see it again

Do you like the title "What If..."? If not what would you call it?

Thank you so much for your time and attention, Jenkins Entertainment and Pure Flix Entertainment really appreciate it. Anything else you'd like to say about the film? Every little bit helps!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Took 2 and a half minutes out, not 12

Instead of taking the entire sequence out, we just worked hard today to tighten it and make it as efficient as possible. I think it actually works better now. The only thing left to do is to test it with an audience, which we're doing this Saturday night. I'll post the questions we'll be asking the audience in the next few days.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How can I cut 12 minutes out of my movie?

The most important time for a director to be objective is in the editing room. This is when you have to look at all the footage you've shot, all the blood, sweat, and tears you've put in, and be honest about what works and what doesn't. The editor and the audience don't care how long a scene took to shoot, they don't care about the actors you love to work with, and they don't care about fun something was. If it doesn't work, it needs to go.

Right now the film is a smidge under two hours. That's a little long for a romantic comedy, but it's not bad if the film works for those two hours. Right now the film works, but there's a section near the middle of the film that doesn't work great. It's a 12 minute sequence that involves about 5 or 6 scenes and nearly all the characters in the film. But each of the scenes within the sequence have their own little problems, some larger than others, particularly in one huge scene that took nearly an entire day to shoot.

I've got to figure out what I'd lose from cutting this sequence compared to what I'd gain in terms of pacing and tone. It sounds like no big deal, but it's huge. I care about the actors in the scenes, I care about everything I shot; obviously, if I didn't like it from the beginning, I wouldn't have had it in the script, and we wouldn't have shot it.

Filmmakers refer to this as "being willing to hurt your baby." No one wants to hurt their baby, but if it makes the baby better in the long run, sometimes you have to give a spanking or take something away from it.

My editor Frank doesn't want to lose the sequence, my wife does want to lose it. I'm back and forth. Some artist I'm being, huh?

Either way, I need to work hard tomorrow on the whole sequence to make it as good as possible. Frank leaves on Wednesday the 21st, and we have a preview test screening on Saturday the 24th, so I want to give the movie every chance to be acceptable to the test screening audience so I know what I have and what works. I'm going to trim the sequence as much as possible, cutting anything that doesn't advance the story and try to make the scenes as smooth and as watchable as possible. But if the audience doesn't respond to it, it just might have to go.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One week until we're "done" editing...

I've been working with Frank every day on the edit. It's been going really well, and what a relief to not have to build the scenes from scratch like I've always had to do. Now I just watch what he's done and make any adjustments I think are necessary. We argue occasionally, but for the most part I like what he's doing and only make changes if I feel a strong need for them.

In the past, as I've said, I've always watched the raw footage with the editor and built the scenes with him from scratch. It hasn't been awful, as it allows me to get 100% familiar with the footage and make sure I don't miss one second of anything I like, but it can also cause me to miss the forest for the trees and lose objectivity. Now that Frank has edited the first cut, I'm able to only change things I think need changing, especially because I trust his judgment quite a bit.

This movie is a Christian romantic comedy, which basically means that we're not trying to get too "arty" outsmart ourselves. When in doubt, we go for what's going to be most pleasing to the audience. That said, it's been interesting and very artistically fulfilling to work with Frank, who doesn't necessarily share my spiritual or political beliefs, and who normally edits and likes films that go against the grain a bit (not to mention the Oscar nominee "In the Bedroom"). He's also seen twice as many films as I have and understands the art of film and the language of cinema as well as anyone. All that to say, he's not going to let the film ever be silly or groan-inducing, but he's also been aware of the needs of the Christian and dramedy genres and cooperative to that end.

The other day we were debating over which take to use of a particular scene. It's the scene where Mike the Angel (John Ratzenberger) basically tells the protagonist Ben (Kevin Sorbo) the meaning of life. It's an important moment that addresses the thrust of the film, and John had two different takes. I was arguing for one, Frank for the other, and at one point he said, "I hate to say this, but the take you like is the one I'd expect from a Christian movie." Say no more. It's no secret that Christian movies aren't usually great (I wrote an article about this trend here), and we'd like to do our best to raise the bar a little. Someone like Frank can help us do that.

Check out http://whatifmovie.wordpress.com for our latest pictures from the set and video blog from the editing room.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Post Production Video Blog...

This is the fourth post production video blog from "What If..." Check out http://whatifmovie.wordpress.com for more.