Monday, November 15, 2004

Screenings Are Dumb

Living in L.A. one of the few perks I assumed would be seeing movies either: A. early or B. that no one else gets to see. The latter has proven to be untrue (unless you count movies I watch for my Art of the Cinema class) and the only movies that are unique are a bunch of Anti-Bush documentaries that are playing at some 3rd class theater near Santa Monica. No thanks.

However, last week I was stoked as I got to see a movie 6-7 months before you will get to. It was called Chaos, and although I'm not allowed to review it (the consensus among the people I went with was: mediocre), I'm going to tell you about the screening process because quite frankly it's the dumbest thing I've seen yet.

After you sit and wait outside in a line you are moved to theater. Then, you sit and wait for about 30 minutes in the theater so that the suits who are running the process can fill the theater to the brim. After the theater is filled (and I mean every seat), a lady walks to the front and gives you a litany of excuses as to why you might not like the film: the sound isn't finished, the color isn't finished, the actors were drunk etc. etc.

Finally, the movie starts. When the lights go up you are assaulted with movie minions with pencils who hand you a survey that asks the WORST questions. Not questions like, "Was the story interesting?" "Was the acting subpar?" "Were there character issues?"

No instead you get questions that scream, "We don't really care about your opinion, now fill out this survey so we can edit down the film to an hour and a half." Questions include, "Was the beginning slow? Was the middle slow? What was the main reason you came tonight? Which actor was hottest etc. etc."

Now, I will relate my experience as a member of the "focus group" that gave opinions about the film after the main audience had left. Twenty of us sat in the first two rows as the "focus group leader" asked us the same questions we had already answered on our worksheets. I was frustrated. Additionally, they picked other audience members with lobotomies- one man when asked what he would title the movie as said, "Batman and Robin." At first I thought, wow, what a god-awful joke, I need to wash my ears out. But no, he had rationalized in his mind why the movie should be called Batman and Robin. I was moments away from cutting my ear when he finally finished. The only reason I didn't leave was because I wanted my free movie ticket, guaranteed if I sat through this horrible exercise.

I can't tell you what I told the focus group lady was because I had to sign a sheet saying I wouldn't. However, interestingly, I will tell you what disqualifies you from being in a focus group: if you study film you aren't allowed in, if you work in the entertainment business you aren't allowed in, if you work for media you aren't allowed in, if you know anyone involved in the production you aren't allowed in. (When I asked about why they didn't let film students in, the lady said it was because they had "Too sophisticated answers.")

Dear God I hope I don't have to go through this crap when I am on the other end of the lens.


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