Screenwriters Christopher Miller and Phil Lord have been speaking about losing confidence in whatever they’re working on halfway through, due to doing test screenings and thinking; “we are screwed.” This even applies to the now universally beloved Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The hugely acclaimed animated movie has a 97% critics’ rating and a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, even with Spider-Verse, an early test screening revealed that audiences “weren’t engaging with it.” This led to tweaks being made that resulted in the Oscar-winning movie becoming as successful as it was and leading to a sequel, which Lord and Miller are currently working on – due for release in October of this year.
Speaking to the HappySadConfused podcast, Lord and Miller said; “Every single thing that we’ve done, we’ve had some screening midway through the production where we all looked at each other going ‘We are screwed. We are absolutely screwed.’ Even Spider-Verse! We did an early test in Arizona, and it did not test well at all.” This is hard to imagine, after having seen the finished product.
They continued; “We made some adjustments, we figured out what people were bumping on, why they weren’t engaging with it, and you just keep working. It’s just a thing that evolves. The audience sort of tells you what it wants, and then you have to figure out the way to give what they don’t realise they want.”
Lord and Miller concluded; “It is a case of just grinding, where you kinda go ‘I’m trying to sustain an audience’s engagement in this thing for as long as possible,’ which means you have to sit there and watch it going like ‘Alright, those five seconds, those are great. The next five seconds, those are great.’ Then, something happens in my body like, the whole thing grinds to a halt, and I’m like ‘What? That was dumb.’ And then you gotta either cut it or beat it, usually, we try to beat it because we try to leave it all on the field, and then only cut things down as a last resort.”
Clearly, even modern masterpieces take a process of trial-and-error before they reach perfection. While we wait for more details about Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, check out our guide to the best family movies.