I recut the comedy, White Chicks into a thriller/horror movie about two brothers who murder innocent people, steal their identities, and live pretending to be their victims. Although I wanted to incorporate the original title into my trailer, I felt that it was too comical for a horror movie, therefore I chose the not-so-creative-yet-descriptive Stealing Lives, which connected more with the plot and theme of the trailer.
Yes, I’ll admit it. I am taking a media class and I rarely watch movies and know little-to-nothing about movies. I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to a movie theater and I don’t have much patience to sit through a movie on my own time. This made the decision-making process a little difficult when choosing a movie to recut. When discussing this project with a friend, I was reminded of a comedy I had seen a few years ago that didn’t make me feel impatient when I watched it. White Chicks revolves around two undercover FBI agents (and brothers) who are assigned to impersonate a pair of heiresses who are the thought to be the targets of a kidnapping plot. I wanted to turn White Chicks into a horror movie because it is such a contrast to its original format. It is strange for the audience to see these FBI agents turned into serial killers, and the scenes in which they are dressed as women add to the characters’ psychotic tendencies.
I used the theme song from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the very opening of the credits, before any real scenes began and continued the song throughout the entire movie. Initially, I wanted to use various sound effects related to horror movies. However, I later felt that one continuous song, with the occasional gun-shot or uneasy silence would be enough to communicate the terrifying nature of the movie.
According to Bernard Dick, “an establishing shot identifies the setting so that the viewer knows where the action is taking place” (Dick 1). The first few scenes of the trailer are establishing shots of a city setting to show not only where the characters are from, but also the amount of people that their killings affect, or could potentially affect.
The trailer was created in the form of a linear sequence. As Bernard Dick describes, “In a linear sequence, one action links up with another, creating a miniature drama with a beginning, a middle, and an end” (Dick 13). The audience has a sense of a beginning and a middle, and the end is left to question. This technique is related to the plot-driven trailers described by Ryan Gilbey in his article, “Trailer Trash.” According to Gilbey, plot-driven trailers reveal too much and leave little to viewers’ imaginations by the time they get to the movie theater. “Where once a trailer was a sophisticated tease, it has now become a brutal compendium of potted highlights, filleting the movie it is meant to be promoting and leaving only scraps for the luckless viewer to pick over” (Gilbey 42). Although my trailer follows the linear sequence and is driven by its plot, I don’t think too much is given away during its two-and-a-half minute duration. While the audience learns about the plot and the actions of certain characters, the trailer does not give the entire movie away, and as a matter of fact, opens up more questions. Why do the serial killers want to steal other’s identities? Do the killers get caught? How many people do they victimize during the movie?
Due to the genre of the film, I used many straight cuts. Horror films don’t try to be artistic in their use of transitions between scenes. Instead, they try to instill fear into audiences by flashing numerous terrifying scenes at a quick pace. I added black title screens to appear for less than a second between the shots to create an eeriness about the action scenes in the beginning of the trailer. Also, I frequently used close-ups on the characters as a means of emphasis. The close-up shot of the heiress in the car emphasizes her fear, while the close-up shot of one the serial killers being transformed into a woman emphasizes his psychotic, identity-stealing tendencies. The quick straight cuts and the close up shots were utilized to add terror into the movie trailer.
Semiotics play a large role in any movie and recut movie trailers are no different. A sign is anything we can see or hear or feel that refers to something absent or abstract” (Hunt 17). The recut movie trailer utilizes both visual and audial signs to communicate various messages about the movie’s plot and the characters. The scene in which the close up of the heiress screaming in the car is an example of the various signs subconsciously picked up by viewers. Sitting in the back of a car and screaming, the audience interprets that she has been abducted, or at least is being held there against her will. Her screams and the close up of her widened eyes suggest that she is witnessing something frightening. Perhaps someone is pointing a gun at her? The cut on her nose suggests that someone has already injured her. The screen turns black and an audio of a gunshot sounds. Audiences interpret the audio of the gunshot to signify that the character has been shot.
Although semiotics allows viewers to interpret details that help further the plot, the signs can sometimes be deceiving. The heiress looks frightened and a gunshot sounds, however the audience never sees the woman actually getting shot; the idea is simply inferred. The audio could have only been a part of the trailer or sound effects and the young woman could still be alive at the end of the movie. Semiotics help the progression of the trailer and can also deceive viewers, contradicting Gilbey’s notions that plot-driven trailers give away most of the plot before the viewer has a chance to watch the full movie.
My biggest difficulty of the project was ripping the DVD. I decided to change the movie I recut and it took me about four or five times to rip the DVD and save it to the right file. I fixed the problem once I realized that I was supposed to be logged in as an administrator, as I logged in on my own username multiple times out of habit. Another problem I encountered was when I worked on a different computer, other than the one containing my original work, I lost the sound on all of my clips, as if everything were muted. However, I consulted the class email and my question was resolved within an hour.
I would advise future students to read read read! It is important to read the optional readings about Adobe Premiere. They offer insight on the basics, as well as detailed editing instructions. Also, the class email thread is important to read. Chances are, your classmates will have the same questions as you regarding the assignment and the email chain provides a quick and easy way to obtain answers.
Bernard Dick (2002). “Film, space, and image,” excerpt from Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.
Edgar-Hunt, R., Marland, J., & Rawle, S. “Semiotics.” (2010). The language of film. Lausanne: AVA Academia.
Gilbey, Ryan. “Trailer Trash.” (2006). Newstatesman.