"Kevin’s analysis of my movies has been invaluable over the years. With a comedy, the number one objective is to find out, is it funny, and how do we make it funnier. Kevin is the best in the business.”—Sacha Baron Cohen, actor, writer, and producer
“It takes about two years for my brother Bobby and I to make a movie—from writing it, casting it, shooting it, editing it—then one day you have to show it to the world and find out whether you just wasted two years of your life. Kevin is always at that nerve-wracking first screening—front and center—and thank God he is, because he’s like a movie whisperer who somehow knows all the right questions to ask the audience, so by the end of the night we know what’s working, and we know what’s not, and, most importantly, we know how to make the movie better. That’s Kevin’s job in a nutshell—to make movies better. And he does.”—Peter Farrelly, director, writer, producer, and Academy Award winner
“Test screening a film is a terrifying experience but having Kevin in the room makes me break out in hives a lot less. The audience insight he has provided for our films has been vital, and it’s truly a sight to behold watching him work his magic. His ability to connect with and get inside the minds of an audience is unmatched.”—Charlize Theron, Academy Award winning actress and producer
“On almost every comedy I have worked on in the last 20 years, Kevin has taken the movie through the testing process. Watching a focus group of your movies is like being in a bathroom stall at high school and hearing kids talk about you. Having Kevin there is always reassuring because he always is championing the filmmakers. His ability to analyze and interpret audiences is coupled with a real sense of how story works. He’s at once a scientist interpreting data and a psychologist shepherding audiences to reveal the answers a filmmaker is looking for. He is THE guy when it comes to focus groups and audience testing. And his results are undeniable.” —Ben Stiller, actor, writer, and producer.
“The film media loves to gossip about who has “final cut” on a movie, but professionals know that what some contract says doesn’t matter much because in reality, the audience has final cut if you want a commercial hit. But getting an unbiased understanding of what the audience really thinks is not simple. Kevin Goetz is a master in aiding in this effort, as this book so entertainingly reveals.” —Tom Rothman, Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group
“So much of what we do as filmmakers revolves around providing maximum impact and wish fulfillment for our target audience. From concept to completion, we are constantly making assumptions around what we think will give the viewer a positive and unforgettable experience. Kevin and his remarkable company serve as the last validator of those assumptions. Through his carefully crafted process of audience engagement, focus groups, and data mining, he has consistently been able to help find the line between what was intended and what actually worked. This critical work has, hands-down, been the determining factor in the success of my films. There is no version of me locking picture without first consulting Kevin and his company Screen Engine/ASI.“ —Nate Parker, actor, director, writer, and producer
“I remember it like it was yesterday – the day of our first preview. Bohemian Rhapsody took me nearly 10 years to make. To say I was a ball of nerves is an understatement. When the lights came on, all I remember was seeing Kevin’s heartwarming smile from ear to ear. He leaned over and said, ‘You’ve got a massive hit on your hands,’ and all my nerves disappeared. To watch him work and know that the film you put your blood, sweat, and tears into is in the best of hands, is one of the greatest experiences. Kevin is truly the best in the business.” – Graham King, Academy Award winning producer
“When I screen my movies, they are bad. Then Kevin asks the audience why they are bad. It is painful. Like re-breaking a leg so it heals right. Then somehow, with his help, we figure out what to do. Now that I think about it, he doesn’t get paid enough. But this book should make up the difference.” – Judd Apatow, director, writer, and producer
“Whether you sit behind the camera or in front of it, in film school or in an office on a studio lot, or just face a screen as a movie lover, Audience-ology sheds light on how moviegoer feedback holds a special place in the final stages of filmmaking. The explanation of how the test screening process works is illustrated with fascinating stories that are the lore of Hollywood. I only wish this book had existed when I first started out in the business.” – Amy Pascal, producer and former Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group
As any Oscar watcher knows, classic movies are the work of a significant team of talented professionals both behind and in front of the camera. This book makes the argument for the importance of one more team member: the film-testing audience researcher.
Goetz, who has worked in the movie research industry for 30 years and founded his own firm, Screen Engine/ASI, in 2010, has plenty of great stories to tell. He reveals how the memorable opening scene of La La Landdidn’t become part of the Oscar-winning movie until after screening audiences were confused by the musical’s original opening. He discusses how audience reaction led Steven Spielberg to reshoot scenes in Jaws, which “was graphic, gruesome, and disturbing, and to a 1975 audience…unlike anything they had ever seen before.” He also reveals how audiences were initially confused by Moonstruck, but once the filmmakers swapped out the opera in the opening montage for Dean Martin’s “That’s Amore,” everyone realized the Cher film was a comedy. Throughout, the author recounts well-told stories about angry directors and anxious studio executives at movie screenings, explaining that he is also passionate about what he does. “I’m also not about to just state the numbers that we collect on the surveys,” he writes. “I’m providing perspective from decades of experience, interpreting what those numbers mean.” However, Goetz doesn’t provide a thorough discussion of whether the audience screenings and collected data can hurt a film. He quotes director Ang Lee saying, “Picasso never audience-tested his paintings,” and then argues against it, without talking to Lee—or Quentin Tarantino or Clint Eastwood, other directors who generally don’t use screening research. The author’s belief in the importance of audience research is well supported, but without letting anyone argue the other side, it makes the book feel a little self-serving.
Goetz’s book bounces between fascinating stories about blockbuster films and blatant advertising for his company’s services.