When directors go on trial
Audience testing can destroy a movie, but can also make it, writes Clive Hopkins.
(snipped for Keanu)
There's a true story, as told by a friend of mine who is a film editor and who worked as an assistant on the Keanu Reeves movie Chain Reaction. The editing team spent many months slaving over the footage, making the best possible movie they could from what they had.
Then the film was tested on filmgoers who afterwards were asked to fill in a questionnaire on what they thought about it. One of the questions was: Did you think that the star was on-screen a) too much, b) about the right amount, or c) not enough?
Now, you need to know that this audience was not a random cross-section of the movie-going public. This audience was selected on the basis they had seen and enjoyed all recent films starring Keanu Reeves. Want to take a wild guess at what answer they went for? Yes, it was back to the drawing board for our gallant editing team, to re-edit the film so that the star appeared on screen more often. We'll never know whether this made for a better film, but it certainly makes you wonder about that adage that there's no such thing as a stupid question.