questionmarkWe have the first cut on a historical drama we eventually want to try to get on History Channel or Lifetime. It’s about a group of young Quaker Girls who create an anti-Rebel/Pro-Abolutionist Newspaper in the middle of Confederate Virginia.

We want to have a test screening to determine plot comprehension, pace, etc. Where do we find an example of a test screening card or form we can “borrow?”

– Drew
Virginia

There are several companies that do paid test screenings, and I’m sure each has a template and a standardized methodology. But you’re not interested in statistics, and don’t need to compare your movie with other historical dramas of the last five years. You just want to make your movie better. So you can safely make up a sheet of your own.

Here’s what you want to include:

  1. First question: How did they like it? You want to get a sense of (a) what changes the people who liked it feel are necessary, and (b) whether there are any changes that could win over the people who didn’t really like it.1

  2. A space to list the things they liked most.

  3. A space to list the things they liked least.

  4. A space to list any moments they felt it lagged.

  5. Ask if they ever got confused — and when, and why.

  6. If you have specific areas of concern (music, narration, whatever), you can either make those open answer questions, or give some sort of 1-5 grid for circling.

  7. A big thank you at the end, because they are doing you a huge favor watching your in-progress project.

You want your viewer to be able to fill this all out in less than five minutes, so that means no more than two pages. Your best bet is to photocopy it on card stock, two sides.

In the Downloads section, I’ve included the form we used for our second test screening of The Nines. Feel free to use it as a template. 2

Because you’ll ask: Yes, it was strange test screening a movie in which a significant plot point concerns the test screening process. But it was a big help.

Ultimately, you may still want or need to do a more professional test screening. For instance, if you sold it to Lifetime, they might need to know how their audience responds to it, so they can tailor their advertising appropriately. But for the early stages you’re in, I’d save your money and do it yourself.

  1. Often, the folks who don’t like it will never like it, but it’s worth hearing their opinion so you’ll know what to expect.
  2. The second question, “Given a pair of magical scissors, is there anything you’d snip out?” is the one I always wished people would ask me.