I absolutely hate watching movie trailers. A LOT. I can’t stand knowing what is going to happen in a movie before I watch it. What’s the point of spending 90 minutes of your life watching something that was so obviously summed up in a 2 and a half minute trailer?? In order to do this assignment, however, I had to push this hatred aside and I must say it wasn’t terribly awful (other than the fact that this was how I spent my Halloween night). Looking for specific cues in the trailer that signal what genre of film it was turned out to be quite entertaining because it becomes blatantly obvious what tricks trailer producers are using to attract viewers. Watching different recut trailers was even more interesting because it really exposed how easily film can be manipulated to create an entirely different story.
Most of the trailers that I watched were about 2 and a half minutes in length with the shortest being Sassy Pants at 2 minutes and 6 seconds and the longest, Silver Linings Playbook, at 2 minutes and 38 seconds. I found that action and horror film trailers tend to be very similar in pacing and style. They tend to feature short shots and quick transitions that seem to disorient the audience and squeeze a lot of exciting film material into such a short amount of space. This quick pace also gives off an air of anticipation and anxiety that tend to leave the audience dying to know more. The Cloud Atlas trailer used a lot of match cuts to transition between time and worlds in a seemingly effortless manner. Because these transitions were done so fluidly and rapidly, viewers may feel overwhelmed and exhilarated by the content of the trailer. The same can be seen in the horror film trailer, The Collection, when shots were flashing by so fast that you could barely see anything but blurry images.
In contrast, comedy and drama trailers seem to move a lot slower to clearly develop movie plot by using lots of dialogue sequences. With comedy films, jokes and funny plot situations are what tend to draw interest from potential audiences, so it becomes necessary for trailers to showcase the particular funny aspects of their films. Along the same line, dramas seem to gain interest primarily through plot so the trailer is responsible for making the storyline clear to the audience. For example, the trailer for the comedy, The Guilt Trip, put a lot of emphasis on the dialogue between Seth Rogen and Barbara Streisand’s characters in order to provide a taste of the comedy that the film will feature. Because of the need to somewhat develop the plot of the movie in roughly two and a half minutes, the pacing of the trailers are much slower than that of horrors and comedy, and tend to cut back and forth rapidly between characters during dialogue.
Music in film trailers seem to coincide with the feelings that viewers are supposed to feel while watching the trailer. From the trailers that I watched, I noticed that horror film trailers, such as The Collection, typically have very pulsating and climactic music with lots of ominous booms occurring in strategically placed moments, while comedies, such as Sassy Pants, tend to have upbeat, light-hearted, happy music that you would mostly find in the iPod of a 12 year old girl. Action movies, like horrors, tend to have music with climactic moments and booms that dramatize specific elements of the film while creating anticipation. For all of the trailers that I watched, the narration typically occurred through typography on the screen. The comedy trailers (Here Comes the Boom, Sassy Pants, The First Time, and The Guilt Trip) used thick, blocky type that was typically either brightly colored or on a brightly colored background. This seems to emphasize the fun, carefree nature of the films. The other trailers (The Collection and Silver Linings Playbook) used thin, plain, white, sans serif text that was easily readable and guided the eye while maintaing focus primarily on the film shots.
Recut trailers use these typical conventions to transform a trailer from one genre into another. The three recut trailers that I watched did a pretty astounding job of this. The first was a recut of Stephen King’s IT, which transformed a homicidal clown into a glimmer of hope for a struggling town. This was accomplished with a whopping 12 occurrences of on-screen text narrating the trailer, lots of focus on smiling children and members of the the town, and inspirational background music that is likely to give any audience the encouragement to grab life by the horns. My only complaint about this recut was that there were quite a few scenes where the video showed a character’s lips moving and the audio was from a different scene, resulting in kind of an awkward moment. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I watched a recut trailer that turned The Ring into a tearjerker! The slow depressing music with a glimmer of hope hidden in the tune aided the text on the screen that explained that Naomi Watts’ character has just explained to her son that she only has 7 days left to live. Without the 3 instances of typography I don’t think that the audience would pick up on the exact plot that the producer of the trailer was going for. I must say I was quite impressed with the audio synchronization in this trailer. There weren’t any instances where the audio didn’t match up with the movement of lips on screen. The final recut trailer that I watched, and by far my favorite, was the rendition of Toy Story as an action film. What made it absolutely perfect for me was the use of the song “Mind Heist” from the movie Inception to really create a sense of peril and dramatic action to the cartoon. This trailer didn’t use any typography to narrate, and solely relied on the dialogue between the characters. And it totally worked!!! I actually really want to see this version of Toy Story and am tempted to send this video to Pixar! Just kidding…But really…
Trailers: Sassy Pants, The Collection, Cloud Atlas, The First Time, The Guilt Trip, Silver Linings Playbook, What Could Have Been, Here Comes the Boom
Recut Trailers: Stephen King’s It (horror film converted to family feel-good film), The Ring Recut (horror film converted to tearjerker), Toy Story (children’s film converted to action)