We recommend focus-grouping your work a bunch of times in Machinima for Dummies - where by “focus-grouping”, we mean “getting people who aren’t you to watch your film before it’s released”.
It’s one of the most valuable processes you can go through. Ideally, it’s most valuable when you can cross-question your audience, but any eyeballs that aren’t yours or your team’s on your work will help pick up the problems that you’re too close to what you’re doing to be aware of.
The problem, of course, is finding people to focus-group on - particularly people you don’t know! By definition, you can’t just call them. Or at least, you couldn’t.
Amazon.com’s new “Mechanical Turk” technology looks to be perfect for doing low-cost “mall tests” of your film. Essentially, it allows you to hire as many people as you want for a very small task - like, say, watching a short movie and commenting on it. In terms of costs, it’s very cheap indeed - this Slashdot poster paid $1.45 for people to come up with rebuttals to an argument he was making online, for example.
So it would be trivial to set aside a budget of $30 or so - well within reach if you’ve spent a month or two on a film - and use Mechanical Turk to find out what Real People think of your film before release, allowing you to correct any mistakes, make clearer anything that isn’t, polish the bits that clunk, and generally get you closer to that 4,500,000 hit YouTube smash!