Tarantino Edits after Pre-release Screenings

By Robert Marich
   Aug. 14, 2009 – Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino altered his Inglourious Basterds after the WWII revenge film’s Cannes festival screening and also what apparently was a secret test preview in Los Angeles, according to a Wall Street Journal article.
   “When the film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival this past spring, it left critics deeply divided, in part because of its 2½-hour running time and extreme violence,” notes the article by Lauren A. E. Schuker.
In a Q&A exchange with WSJ/Schuker, Tarantino says this:
   Q: After “Inglourious Basterds” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, some negative reviews came out. Based on those, did you recut it?
   Tarantino: “I recut it, but I didn't do it based on the negative reviews—and they were really more mixed reviews.”
   Q: Do you pay attention to reviews?
   Tarantino: “I tend to listen to the good ones! Before Cannes, the only thing I hadn't done with Inglourious was the last step—which is usually when me and my editor, Sally Menke, who does all my movies, [watch] the movie with an audience. I went to Cannes and showed it there, but right after we came back we screened it in a theater in Los Angeles. We went back to the editing room and made some changes based on that screening...the final cut you watched is a minute longer than the version people saw at Cannes.”
   In any case, the Brad Pitt-fronted Inglourious is scheduled for an Aug. 21 premiere via Weinstein Co., which has a reputation for corporate editing/shortening of films when its principals ran Miramax. In the case of Inglourious, Tarantino has clout to control excessive meddling and, curiously, he says he increased the running time—presumably to making changes for flow and improving audience understanding of the action.
  Usually, edits from fest and audience testing lead to shortening film running times (90 minutes is considered an ideal/minimum length).
   Marketing to Moviegoers: Second Edition notes that lesser indie films that are under-financed use fest screenings for feedback for changing films–essentailly improving “product” design.  Says the book, “audience reactions can be used as de facto test screenings, so filmmakers and producers can reedit—based on fest-audience reactions—to make a film more marketable.”
  Of course, such changes flowing from audience feedback are controversial with the creative community and directors sometimes resist pressure to “fix” films. But if the goal is to craft a movie that will be embraced by the moviegoers, filmmakers can easily misjudge reaction by solely relying on their gut, as Marketing to Moviegoers chronicles in its detailed chapter devoted to film research (see second link below).
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