Calling all Angelenos and Letterboxd nerds: itching for some new movie content and hipster bragging rights? Here is your guide on how to become part of a movie test audience. I’ve attended three test screenings in the past year, and while I’m no expert, I’ve certainly gotten better at navigating their dos and don’ts.
What is a test screening?
Test screenings are commonly used in Hollywood. Producers and researchers use test screenings to preview films and television shows long before their official release in order to gauge an audience’s reaction. Preview audiences are often selected from a cross-section of the population and are typically required to complete questionnaires and feedback forms prior to and after screenings.
How do I get picked?
I’ve found all the test screenings I’ve attended through Instagram: @ermresearch. Give them a follow and sign up for their list to get notified about any upcoming screenings. In order to get a ticket, you need to fill out an initial questionnaire. From my experience, they aren’t too strict about your background or film knowledge — they might even prefer someone who represents a general viewer — so don’t stress about matching a certain standard. Just be honest! And sign up early.
I got my ticket. How do I ensure I actually get a seat?
There will be a message on your ticket stressing the importance of showing up thirty minutes to an hour early. My advice? GO EVEN EARLIER! They don’t necessarily limit the number of tickets they give out, and you won’t get your seat until arrival at the theater, but if you want a decent spot (or any spot at all) make sure you arrive a good hour before showtime. Take it from someone who has been stuck in the front row because I figured thirty minutes was more than enough time. Punctuality matters.
Where do I check in at the theater?
All of the test screenings I have attended have been held at various AMCs in the greater Los Angeles area. Once you step into the theater, it will be pretty hard to miss the table, indie film bro crowd and QR codes scattered about. Check in with your ticket code, fill out yet another questionnaire, then show an employee your completed form and receive your ticket.
Is there test audience etiquette?
There’s certainly some decorum you should follow. The usual: no phones, no photos — it’s actually a criminal offense to record any of the test screening — and they’re a bit prickly about leaving the theater before the screening ends. They’re also strict about posting or discussing anything related to the film on social media. Lastly, take your time on the questionnaires! The filmmakers truly take viewer feedback into consideration. Did you know the original ending of Get Out was much less optimistic? Test audiences are the reason for the change!
I hope these tips get you all the movie clout you covet. There is no better city than LA to experience your first unfinished (and unforgettable!) movie. The best part? It’s totally free. So start filling out those questionnaires ladies! Happy screening!