Been reading about the forgettable prequel/remake of Carpenter's The Thing. About how a boat load of practical effects were cut. Really amazing work, gone.
I found this quote on the awesome Monster Legacy blog:
The Pilot was the Thing perfectly replicating the species of aliens that built the saucer. It was replaced after a screening that apparently confused viewers as to what the Pilot was. It was felt that, since the audience had only been shown iterations of the Thing that were asymmetrical, split open and grisly, to present a creature that looked like it evolved through normal biology was a violation of what had been seen in the 2011 film as well as the John Carpenter film. It was then decided that the Thing in the climax needed to be more ‘Thing-like’. We designed the Sander-Thing as a maquette that was scanned and animated.
Alec Gillis, co-founder of Amalgamated Dynamics
Anyone who saw the remake of The Thing and who remembers that dreadful CG chill-inducing nonsense at the end can thank a test audience. Imagine creating something and then asking your coworkers and family members if they liked it and how would they make it better. It's the bad idea of bad ideas. Reminds me of the time my dad told me I should make all of my props with glowing red eyes, or the time a coworker told me I should build props with wings - though he used the word "figurines."
The test audience should be a tool only. If it's to be used at all.
But here's a more patient view:
I like test screenings. I like to see a movie with an audience of strangers. I think it tells you a lot. It’s very difficult to lie to yourself about certain things. I’m not necessarily convinced about how information is gathered and I don’t think the credence that’s given to it is valid. When you ask a bunch of people to see a film, and then invite them to comment on it and tell them it’s a work-in-progress, they feel bound to offer an opinion. Also, the kind of people who go to test screenings are people that have time to go see a free movie. What they object to is anything that’s unusual about a film. Anything that’s memorable about a movie is often what a test audience will object to because they’re being asked to be experts. They just compare the film they finished watching to all of the other films that they’ve seen. Films that score very high with test audiences generally tend to not be so great. But, there’s a lot of money involved in making movies and it’s a way for people to reassure themselves, who have spent money, and it’s also a way to work out how to market a movie. It’s also a way to really clear up confusions in a film. That’s important. As a filmmaker, it’s important to sit there and feel embarrassed. If you feel embarrassed by something, you cut it.
Thanks, Alex, for sending the LINK that got me thinking about this stuff.