I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds the ending to this project bittersweet, (OK, so maybe more sweet than bitter) but this project did have its moments. I really enjoyed learning how to use another video editing program, and was anxious to use the skills I’ve learned about semiotics to recut a movie trailer. Overall, I would consider this experience and project to be fun; especially knowing I will get to see the productions my fellow filmmakers made!
Connection to Specific Readings
For my project, I decided to take the comedy Liar Liar (Tom Shadyac, 1997) and turn it into a serious courtroom drama. Since I figured this was going to be tricky (especially since Jim Carrey is famous for his goofy faces) I did some research on what other courtroom drama trailers look like. Since this genre is considered by many to be a “serious” genre, most of the shots are close-ups since they are a “means of emphasis” and are “useful to point up the intense emotion of tragedy” (Dick 2002, 2,3). Emotions almost always run high in a courtroom drama and close ups are the best way to convey these type of serious emotions. This is made clear in my trailer when Fletcher (Jim Carrey) is hugging his son after almost dying and when he exclaims, “I can’t lie!” when his morals are tested. Without these close-ups, the moments would not be as powerful.
But perhaps what is more influential on the effect of these close-ups is semiotics. As Edgar-Hunt pointed out in The Language of Film, “a filmmaker needs to know exactly how the screen communicates. They need to know how the images produced will be understood by the audience and work upon their imaginations moment by moment” (Edgar-Hunt 2010, 18). If they audience doesn’t understand that Fletcher hugging his son and crying is a symbol of love and affection or that his frown and slumped posture in the courtroom is a sign of dejection, they will never understand the message. This links directly to what Sobchack states in his article when discussing iconographies: “To further the speed of the comprehension of the plot, genre films employ visual codes called iconographies” (Sobchack 1975, 199). By using some of these in my trailer (the picture of the courthouse, the two boxes of files, Fletcher hugging his son) I am able to progress the plot without having to fully explain what each action or object means. In this way, semiotics becomes a very powerful tool in film communication and production.
Rationale for Creative Choices
I wanted so badly not to use narration or typography in my project. After watching the recut trailers from our previous blog post, I really did feel that those that didn’t were more effective. However, after I did more fine toothed research related to the genre of movie I was creating, I discovered that many courtroom drama trailers employ narration or typography of some kind. In fact, many dramas in general use them in their trailers. After discovering this, I decided that it might actually be more effective and true to genre if I did use typography or narration. As Sobchack says, “genre films operate on the same principle. They are made in imitation not of life but of other films” (Sobchack 1975, 197). For this reason, I used typography and I really do think it highlights the plot of the movie without giving away too much information. There are still elements of the plot left to the imagination.
I also made much use of the fade-out and dissolve transitions. Once again this theme stemmed from my research, but I also wanted to use it ironically. Fade-outs, in my opinion, are highly dramatic transitions simply because it slows down the pace. Since the movie Liar Liar is an exaggerated comedy, I wanted to make my recut look like an exaggerated drama. I think using the fade-outs throughout the trailer slow down the pace and add to the dramatic nature of the trailer as a whole. The piano music I used adds to this feeling as well. Dissolves, however, help with the continuity of the story (Dick 2002, 16). Cuts would have been too staccato for the story I was trying to tell and the narrative would not have blended together. The dissolve transitions are what make the trailer flow.
Since I did this entire project from my personal Mac laptop, I did encounter a few problems than I probably would have if I had used the lab. Before discovering how to back up my work as an AVI, I was really nervous about closing out of Premier, let alone putting my computer to sleep. I lost progress about three times, but this was probably because I made use of titles, which cause the program to crash. After the third time it crashed, I just got into the habit of saving my work after I made any changes. Overall, I really enjoyed this project and will probably keep testing my skills on other movies. My biggest piece of advice for future students is about movie choice. I picked a movie that I really like and felt I could pick apart fairly well. I didn’t want to pick a movie I truly love. I think if you are attached to the movie you choose to recut, it is difficult to see that movie in any other way but the way it is. Since I didn’t have any emotional attachment to Liar Liar, it made it much easier, and much more fun, to see it transform into something completely different.
Bernard Dick (2002). “Film, space, and image,” excerpt from Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.
Robert Edgar-Hunt, John Marland, and Steven Rawle (2010) The language of film. Lausanne: AVA Academia.
Thomas Sobchak (1975, Summer). Genre film: A classical experience. Literature Film Quarterly, 3(3), 196.