While brainstorming about which movie to choose for this project, my mind immediately drifted to School of Rock (Linklater 2003). What actor could possibly be easier to transform into a murderous pedophile than Jack Black? For those who aren’t familiar with the film’s plot, Black plays Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star looking to make some quick cash by impersonating his roommate, Ned Schneebly (Mike White). Schneebly works as a substitute teacher, and when Finn takes one of his job offers at a prestigious school, he chooses to train the talented students for a Battle of the Bands rather than do any actual work. As you can imagine, madness ensues. With this in mind, I decided to distort Finn’s relationship with the children into a much creepier one, complete with eery music and the characteristic pedophile van. Thus, the horror/torture movie Schneebly was born.
Specific Links to Course Readings
Throughout my video editing process, I repeatedly focused on the various types of signifiers presented by Marcel Danesi in his book Messages, Signs, and Meanings: A Basic Textbook in Semiotics and Communication. Specifically, he defines a symbolic signifier as a sign “designed to encode a referent by convention or agreement” (Danesi, 2004, p. 27). I applied this concept in many areas, including the end sequence that depicts the van driving up to the school. The front window openly displays a skull and crossbones while the side has the Grim Reaper painted on it, both blatant signifiers of death and danger. Furthermore, I used multiple shots of Jack Black’s head and creepy facial expressions, which Bernard Dick characterizes as a close-up in his piece, Film, Space, and Image. He argues that these types of shots often emphasize tragedy, which I utilized to indicate the children’s inevitably tragic fates in the hands of Schneebly (aka Dewey Finn) (Dick, 2002, p. 1-2) . Finally, I tried to closely follow Thomas Sobchack’s genre film characteristics that are listed in his work, Genre Film: A Classical Experience. Sobchack labels the genre film as blatantly dramatic in order to alert audiences to the category of film they are viewing (Sobchack, 1975, p. 196). By providing eery music and a creepy-looking school, I tried to imitate the horror/torture flick genre as best I could.
Rationale for Creative Choices
In making this project, I was forced to make several creative choices, most of which I feel proved successful. I decided to both begin and end the trailer with long shots of the van driving up, because it is such a common signifier for child predators. Unlike the first shot, the final one allows the viewer to see both the skull and the Grim Reaper, which suddenly make the van appear much more disturbing. Though some might find this choice repetitive, I think that the van acts as a connector and a symbol for one of the trailer’s major themes: pedophilia. Furthermore, after searching through several background music options, I decided upon the theme song from the horror movie Dead Silence (Wan 2007). I’d seen this movie in the past and thought the background music added a lot to the film, which might have been perceived as somewhat cheesy since its primary villains are puppets. The music initially conveys a childlike innocence and then swells into a generally eery tune. I tried to pin the first swell to the moment we first see Jack Black fully. The song, coupled with his incredibly terrifying facial expression, work to show the audience that there might be more to “Schneebly” than meets the eye. One thing I might change next time would be the font, which I find to be creepy, but I’m afraid it might resemble the characteristic Harry Potter book font a bit too much. Nevertheless, I think the thinner lettering indicates a child-like eeriness and works to identify the intended genre.
Frustrations, Difficulties, and Solutions
To future students, I would offer this advice: start this project as early as possible! Because I began the Sunday before it was due, I felt free to mess around with the different options in Premiere and experienced little stress in completing the trailer. I did encounter a few issues in navigating the program but was able to solve my problems relatively quickly and without becoming worried about the final product. One difficulty I experienced was discovering how to fade the audio in and out. After watching several Youtube videos and consulting Dr. Delwiche, I investigated Lynda.com and solved this problem literally within a single minute. The site had a step-by-step guide that proved much easier than the technique the videos offered and included helpful pictures for less tech-savvy people like myself. The only other frustration I felt involved transitions, because the program only allowed me to place them within certain clips. I simply wasn’t able to place one between some scenes, no matter what I changed (moving the clips as close together as possible, alternating scene choices, using different transitions, etc.). Finally, I just gave up and decided the shots looked fine in their current states.
Though I definitely find iMovie (my movie editing program of choice) to be much more user-friendly, I appreciate the abundance of options one attains in using Premiere. Once I achieved a basic understanding of it, the project proved to be fun, compelling, and time-consuming. Yet, I found that somehow I wasn’t bothered by the latter trait. After all, who doesn’t love spending hours in search of creepy Jack Black facial expressions?
Marcel Danesi (2004). “What Is Semiotics?,” excerpt from Messages, Signs, and Meanings: A Basic Textbook in Semiotics and Communication. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Bernard Dick (2002). “Film, Space, and Image,” excerpt from Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.
Thomas Sobchak (1975, Summer). Genre Film: A Classical Experience. Literature Film Quarterly, 3(3), 196.