'Critical Friends' Sharing

Blog about the scratch sharing of Artificial Things for our ‘Critical Friends’. Producer Sho Shibata talks about the ideas behind the sharing event.

Exposing a piece of ‘work-in-progress’ can be nerve-racking, but inviting some test audience was really useful at this stage of our creation period. We had to find out what they got out of watching Artificial Things before we went on and finished the work just to double check where we are going.

There are plenty of other ways to receive feedback of course, but we tailor-made ours by looking into these four things:
-The timing of the sharing
-Who you invite to see the work
-What questions you ask for and how you ask them

It’s no rocket science, but here’s how it panned out for us.

Timing:

We had to make sure that we had created and pieced together enough material for the test audience to understand where we are going with the piece. However, it was important that there were some loose ends so that their feedback could be weaved in without a complete overhaul of the piece. We also had to make sure that we had enough time to consider and rework some of their feedback. We had spent 9 weeks in total on Research & Development, generating material and constructing the piece, and 2 weeks left of our creation period and a further 2 weeks of revision time before our premiere. This meant that the start of August was a good point time to do this sharing.

Who:

We invited six individuals who had some understanding of the company, so that they knew something about our artistic vision and the type of artists we work with. We also decided to choose people with specific backgrounds, so that we could get a sense of how our prospective audience groups might feel about this work.

What questions to ask and how they answer:

We wanted to have a degree of control over the feedback we got given, so we set up five specific questions. It ranged from asking them what their immediate feelings and thoughts the work evoked, to asking them about the strengths and weeknesses. We wanted to avoid the feedback session becoming an open discussion, which could create a bit of an uncomfortable situation for both artsts and critical friends. To manage the process of feedback better, we invited them to either reply by email or to come and speak to Lucy and I individually afterwards. We didn’t want our critical friends to listen into what others thought – so that their immediate impressoins and thoughts couldn’t get influenced if they heard the opinions of others.

All in all, getting feedback during the creation period is a must to take the pressure off the premiere, and we are happy with the useful and concise feedback we received and the way we conducted it.

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