Last weekend we showed a rough cut of the film at a film festival in Charlotte. It was tough because the film hadn’t been sound or color corrected, and we were showing it on a DVD burned off the computer, but the screening went very well. Afterward we handed out a questionnaire and asked the audience to answer a series of questions.
The two key questions are “How would you rate the film” and “Would you recommend it?” The answers you’re hoping for are “excellent” or “very good” for film rating, and “definitely recommend.” The average score for Hollywood films for these questions is about 50-55%, a good score is considered 65%. We scored 84% for those two questions, which is terrific.
We also asked for their favorite and least favorite aspects of the film. These answers were all over the map, with only a few repeated answers, but there was a somewhat surprising answer for “favorite thing.” The character/actor who got mentioned the most was the little girl in the family, 6 year old Megan, played by newcomer Taylor Groothuis. All of our actors got mentioned a few times, and none of them were mentioned in response to the question of negatives, but Taylor got mentioned the most often, which is really cool. This actress is on her way to a big career, so maybe What If… will be famous for being “Taylor Groothuis’s first film.”
The only negative mentioned a few times was that the film was a little long, which isn’t surprising because one, we could still tighten it a bit, and two, there was little to no music in the film and the sound and picture were unfinished and rough.
Over 80% said that even non-Christians would enjoy the film, which is great because this film will be labeled as a “Christian” film, but we always want the film to appeal to everyone.
We also asked if people would purchase a ticket in theaters or purchase the DVD, or whether they would just rent it. At least 85% said “purchase,” a chunk said “rent,” and only two out of 115 respondents said they wouldn’t see it again. Pretty strong numbers, so we’re very excited.
I sat in the audience and wrote down every line that got a big laugh and made notes of all the lines that I thought would get laughs but didn’t. In those cases, I either cut the moment out of the film or do what I can to spice it up in editing. There are also moments that feel long or unnecessary when you’re watching with an audience, so it’s always good to test the film at least once with an audience to see the difference between how a film plays in a room and how it plays on a computer monitor with your editor.
I’m leaving for New York in a couple days, where I’ll spend a day with my editor to make all the final adjustments. Then we’ll “lock picture,” which is when we decide not to make any more changes, and we can concentrate on sound and music. Our composer Jeehun Hwang will spend the month of November writing and performing the score, and we’ll put all the sound elements together in December.