Uncut Jims: The Beta Test Commentary

PJ McCabe and Jim Cummings suiting up for The Beta Test (featuring Jacqueline Doke as “poor Jaclyn”).
PJ McCabe and Jim Cummings suiting up for The Beta Test (featuring Jacqueline Doke as “poor Jaclyn”).

In a Letterboxd first, we’re proud to present the debut director commentary for Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe’s Hollywood comedy-thriller, The Beta Test.

It works when Michael Haneke does it, it doesn’t work when we do it.” —⁠Jim Cummings

As a holiday treat, indie filmmaker extraordinaire (and Letterboxd member) Jim Cummings, alongside creative partner and bestie PJ McCabe, sat down recently to record their first-ever director commentary exclusively for Letterboxd. The pair co-wrote, co-directed and both star in this year’s The Beta Test, a satire of the film industry couched as a murderous erotic horror.

Full of the duo’s trademark wit and insight, this extensive ‘quote-along’ is a tribute to their devoted cast and crew, a love letter to their favorite films, and a goldmine of essential tips for aspiring, strongly independent filmmakers.

We have made Jim and PJ’s commentary available in video form on our YouTube channel, and as a bonus episode in our podcast feed on Anchor. The video version features the directors watching the film on mute—you’ll need to rent the film if you’d like to watch along (it’s available on multiple streaming services via IFC Films). So whether your preference is to double-screen (we recommend picture-in-picture) or you prefer the sound-down, commentary-up, single-screen approach, we have you covered.

We’ve shared some highlights below—and extracted more detailed quotes in this list of films mentioned in the commentary. Once you’ve watched The Beta Test commentary, tag your Letterboxd diary entry or review with the 💌 emoji for the chance to win a signed Thunder Road poster straight from Jim’s basement. Winners will be selected and notified by the end of February 2022.

Jim braces himself for a cascade of cream pies from Hollywood backlash. — Credit… IFC Films
Jim braces himself for a cascade of cream pies from Hollywood backlash. Credit… IFC Films

For production-obsessed viewers:

  • How they found their cast from among friends and film family, the ways those cast members flipped their carefully crafted script, and how Jim found a stand-in penis for his own.
  • How the team filmed around the Vanishing Angle production offices and all over LA on a tiny budget—including at the storied Biltmore Hotel. The details reveal how important it is to pay your rent on time, pick a regular joint while you’re writing, and be prepared to film on weekends.
  • The tricks they learned from the VFX reel for Parasite, Martin Scorsese’s technique with tables, Alfred Hitchcock’s audience surveys, and the wide-angle closeups of Burning.
  • Not enough Jim and PJ? Jim’s YouTube channel has a twenty-minute making-of for The Beta Test.

“You have to read what your audience is thinking, it’s the only way you learn and evolve.” —⁠PJ McCabe on reading Letterboxd reviews

“Have you listened to The Beta Test commentary yet, Virginia?” — Credit… IFC Films
“Have you listened to The Beta Test commentary yet, Virginia?” Credit… IFC Films

For those who enjoy Easter eggs: 

  • What happened when they revealed Ted Sarandos’ genuine Venmo account in the trailer.
  • How Jim mastered the art of “I’ll fix it in post” and became equipped with the secrets of After Effects through lockdown. (It’s impossible to unsee the details we missed on the first viewing—spot the quiet collapse of a building in an LA-skyline shot.)
  • When you should freeze-frame to discover the actual algorithm (yes, really) for the purple-envelope system. The blueprint is waiting for you.
  • Why the erotic thriller is ultimately a cautionary Hollywood tale, and what Jim and PJ wanted their film to say about the language of agencies, industry structures, and the way Hollywood deals are packaged.

“It was made from our hearts and we made it for ya’ll, you perverts and you cinephiles.” —⁠Jim Cummings


Thanks to IFC Films for their support. Watch PJ and Jim’s commentary on YouTube; listen to the audio version on Anchor.

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