Test screenings are one of those aspects of film development that many directors dislike. After all, the thought of showing a small audience an early cut of your incomplete movie and then getting feedback on it that can potentially ruin the overall vision you had for the film, is not an easy step to take. For many studios, though it remains a vital part of their development process to ensure that the vast amounts of money they have spent on the film haven’t gone completely down the drain and that three is some level of satisfaction from these audiences.
Not all movies get a test screening. For some, it’s because the director is just so trusted that they never feel it’s necessary. For others, like with the Star Wars franchise, it’s just because the potential for spoilers leaking is so great that studios don’t feel it is worth the risk. While many directors might feel relieved at not needing that screening process, it turns out that Rian Johnson missed it when filling his divisive The Last Jedi because he felt that with the franchise being so passionately followed, it might have helped to gauge some reaction of his ideas early, as he recently shared in a behind the scenes interview on the DVD (as revealed by Screen Rant) from his current mystery-movie success Knives Out, where test screenings helped him refine the movie better:
It was like a party in the theatre, it was really fun. It was like the first time I was like ‘Oh wow, this actually plays. This is good.’ Which is really nice and that’s something on Star Wars, you can’t test Star Wars movies for a lot of different reasons. I’ve always hated test screening, and when we were making Star Wars, at a certain point in the process you’re like ‘God, I would give my left arm to put this in front of 300 people in Burbank and just see how it plays.’
As controversial as it may be for directors, I’m of the view that a little testing can always help make something better because it’s always important to see how people react and see things in your project differently to how you might have it in your head. Would it have changed the direction of The Last Jedi? I doubt it as the film was actually quite a crowd-pleaser, though you suspect if the screening was filled with many really passionate Star Wars film, the theatre it was screening in may have been burnt down in protest.
Last Updated: March 18, 2020