Audiences have certain expectations when regarding movies and their given genres. Often times, one expects to leave a viewing a of a romantic comedy feeling warm, a viewing of a horror feeling unnerved, or a viewing of a drama feeling moved. These feelings are not only driven by the plot of the movie, but by the film techniques used as well. Film trailers build on viewer expectations using these techniques; various editing techniques can convey a certain mood and tone as well as catch viewers’ interests in a short clip (usually lasting about 2:20 min, more for action films, less for family/children films). Additionally, manipulation of the film through editing can completely alter the tone of the film and convey an entirely different story.
Of the eight trailers that I watched for this assignment, all seemed to utilize several different techniques in order convey the general tone of the film. While most used the same techniques: transitions, music, text, and narration (to name several), such techniques were used in different ways, depending on the expectations of the genre. Pace, for example, is an important tool for setting the tone of a film. To portray a film as a typical romance story, the pace is often slowed down, while trailers for action films are usually fast paced, jumping from one action clip to another quickly, using shorter shot lengths than trailers focusing on drama. Music also influences the pace of the trailers. To emphasize moments of tension and drama within a trailer the music is often slower or even pauses, while faster music and crescendos are used to speed up the pace of the trailer and often emphasize action or distress.
Transitions between such shots not only helps with the pace of the trailer, but can also lend to the tone. In the romance trailers fade-outs were often used to transition between different shots with narration connecting the stream of clips. The action and horror trailers would often cut to a black screen in between shots. This was also often accompanied by a pulsing soundtrack that would have a loud “beat” with an image of action that was abruptly softened or silenced with the transition to the black screen, building viewer suspense and excitement. The comedy trailer used a similar technique, but instead of transitioning to a black screen, it transitioned to a green screen with text and used lighter music. In contrast, the romantic trailers usually rely upon a more low-key soundtrack that might swell into a crescendo at the large moments of tension, but these transitions are not as jarring but are smooth and more subtle.
In addition to techniques surrounding pace and transitions, the methods used to carry the trailer forward are also evocative of the genre of the film; narration and typography methodically present a story within the trailer. The only trailers from those on my list below that employed narration were Becoming Jane (a romance film) and Monsters University (a children’s film). The action and horror films, as well as the comedy trailers did not use narration, but some shots with text to move the trailer forward and bring the montage of shots together. The action and horror typically used a black screen with simple white sans-serif typography; the screens were never overloaded with text, usually only one sentence or phrase. However, almost all of the trailers, regardless of genre, ended with some sort of unanswered question. Whether it was asked in the dialogue among the film clips or actually presented as text, most of the trailers had a hanging question, leaving the viewer with the expectation of an answer in the film.
Recut trailers build on the genre expectations for films that viewers have, in order to twist the original theme of the film. Altering the previously mentioned techniques to fit those common with another genre can alter the portrayal on the trailer. Sometimes the altering of the original story requires filling in some elements to “tell the story”; narration and typography can help tell the story. Of the recut trailers that I watched, none tried to synchronize audio with the lips of the characters in the trailer. The recut of Toy Story 3 into a horror film relies upon one instance of typography mimicking that of Paranormal Activity. The recut of Mars Attack into an action-drama requires three instances of typography convey the story, while the recut of Sleepless in Seattle into a horror film does not require narration or typography; it strategically places dialogue over clips of action, along with eerie background music to depict a horror story of stalking.
Sleepless in Seattle Recut Trailer:
Trailers: Seven Psychopaths, Shopgirl, Catch My Disease, Gone Baby Gone, Becoming Jane, Monsters University, Skyfall: 007, The Bay.
Recut Trailers: Toy Story 3 (family film converted to horror), Sleepless in Seattle Recut (romance converted to horror), Mars Attacks (sci-fi converted to action-drama).