NEWS- Rate this: Movie needs test audience

A free movie and a chance to tell the filmmakers what you think? It really doesn't get any better than that for moviegoers, at least for those willing to visit Staunton for their free flick.

Barry Sisson, financier of the highly acclaimed 2003 indie phenom The Station Agent, needs test audiences for his latest venture. The movie started out being called Disconnected, then Pretzels and Pills, and now it's Familiar Strangers.

"It's the story of a family learning to relate to each other as adults," says Sisson. Familiar Strangers stars D.J. Qualls, who played the white kid in Hustle and Flow, and Shawn Hatosy, who appears in Factory Girl with Sienna Miller.

Sisson's production company, Cavalier Films, wants an audience to watch the 90-minute film and then answer a short questionnaire and give the film a rating between one and 10. Will this be like the Jaws tests– to see if viewers scream enough? Not exactly.

"We have two different versions of the film," explains Sisson, and he and business partner Marc Lieberman are hoping audience reaction will help them choose. "If the responses are equal, we'll just pick one," he says.

The movie was filmed in the Shenandoah Valley last year and includes scenes shot in Staunton and Stuarts Draft. What happens if the test audience is stacked with movie extras who like the version that gives them the most screen time?

"I'm a little worried about that," admits Sisson. "We're going to try to weed out people who worked with the film."

The movie is likely to be rated PG or PG-13, but is not targeted at teenagers. "You need a little life under your belt to understand it– like Station Agent," Sisson says.

Cavalier Films is looking for viewers of all ages willing to cruise over to Staunton April 16. Those interested in getting on the list should email Hey, maybe Sisson could charter the Starlight Express bus service to haul a coachful of fans over Afton Mountain for the show.

Actor D.J. Squalls in a scene involving a donkey-like creature and a basketball from the movie formerly known as Disconnected, Pretzels and Pills, and currently called Familiar Strangers. Its producers need some test audiences for the show filmed in the Valley last summer.


1 comment

I am an English major, my wife is an avid Film Festival supporter. We have a home in Wintergreen and would happily join you to review the film.

You might call us at 434-325-9121 to let us know if there is still space and where we should go in Staunton.