Theoretically, with almost 20 hours of content available, through creatively editing, I could mold the genre and theme of the eight Harry Potter movies (Chris Columbus, Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets; Alfonso Cuarón, Goblet of Fire; David Yates, Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince, and Deathly Hallows, Part I & II) in any unique direction I should choose. This sheer amount of substance does open up many creative opportunities, but for indecisive people, this project is not the route to take. The infinite number of shots that can be derived from the original movies is highly overwhelming if you lack a clear purpose. To select the “golden” scenes for a trailer of only 90 to 150 seconds, you must have a clear vision. Therefore, I had to establish a concrete creative image and theme before taking a step further.
I knew I wanted to create a romance story. At risk of a cheesy finished product, I would preserve the good nature of the characters. I didn’t want to mar the magnificence of the Harry Potter legacy by creating a ridiculous horror film. With that decided, I almost immediately thought of the title, When Harry Met Hermione. It just seemed perfect. Reflecting on the many times I watched the series, I knew, with the connotations of this title, I would have an overabundance of content. This is better than not enough, but further conceptual structuring was needed to be done before I put it all together.
After much contemplation and hard work, which I will further describe below, I created a sequence that would portray a quickly developing romantic relationship between Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) through the years, from the moment they meet up to the When Harry Met Hermione finale, in which “denial is no longer an option.” This finale is supposed to be the romantic equivalent of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II (David Yates), while incorporating the thematic elements connoted in my title.
The finished product is designed to follow the typical friendship-turned-to-romance story, as depicted in When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner). Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) is right in this case (and in the vast majority of romantically-based films) when he tells Sally Albright (Meg Ryan), “What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” I chose to carry over this concept from When Harry Met Sally to my trailer, When Harry Met Hermione, in an epic romance between Harry and Hermione.
Specific links to course readings
Taking a closer look at the concept of “genre” is necessary in order to understand if you have truly altered it. As quoted by Thomas Sobchak (1996), “Harry M. Geduld and Ronald Gottesman define ‘genre’ as a ‘category, kind, or form of film distinguished by subject matter, theme, or techniques” (p. 196). Assuming you have seen a romance film at some point in your life (and hopefully Harry Potter, too), you should be able to begin to recognize how this newly created trailer now resembles the typical plotline in the romance genre. Furthermore, if you have seen any of the Harry Potter movies, hopefully it is easy to see how the genre, and therefore the film’s main theme, is transformed based on the aforementioned description of the trailer. Actually, the acceptance of my chosen genre after I revealed my creative description probably came to you without even realizing it. As Thomas Sobchak wrote (1975), “Consciously or unconsciously, both the genre filmmaker and the genre audience are aware of the prior films and the way in which each of these concrete examples is an attempt to embody once again the essence of a well-known story” (p. 197). This automatic categorization of films is engrained in our society’s ideologies.
Although some film experts divide genres into sub-sub-sub categories, simply put, this trailer falls under the “Fictional Genre Film” category, with strict basic form conventions and a similar origin to other common genres (such as the Science Fiction film, the Horror film, and the Western) (Sobchak, 1996, p.196). “In the genre film, the plot is fixed, the characters defined, the ending satisfyingly predictable.” Admittedly, this trailer takes on the neat form of a genre film with a beginning, middle, and an end. Furthermore, you can be assured that any problems and ambiguities will be resolved by the film’s conclusion. By the trailer alone, the audience can predict Harry and Hermione’s fate. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Firstly, many popular current films fall under this genre. Secondly, the characters are less individualized, allowing for an increase in empathy from the audience. With less complexity, the characters allow us to easily assume their roles. “The fact that we know they are not realistic, not part of our real world, lets us slip into their trench coats or boots with ease” (Sobchak, p. 200). To further prove this point, McCloud asserts a similar conclusion in regards to comics. When a cartoon is more realistic, people are “far too aware of the messenger to fully receive the message” (McCloud, 1994, p.37). Basically, when you look at a photo or realistic image of someone, (or the case of film, you are presented with a complex character), “you see it as a face of another, but when you enter the world of the cartoon, you see yourself ” (McCloud, p. 36).
Overall, these principles define the overall narrative structure I have created and touch upon how our ideologies influence our interpretation of film, sometimes without even realizing it. However, by taking a closer look into the specific design details and mechanics I have chosen, it is possible to delve deeper into the connotations and substance that creates a solid romance from a fantasy / adventure film series. Just to be clear, none of the films ever portrayed romantic relations between Harry and Hermione in context. [Spoiler Alert: Harry marries Ginny in the finale, a couple whose sexual tension has been obvious since the Chamber of Secrets. And Hermione, of course, ends up with Ron, in a relationship that avid fans had speculated existed from the early days, as well.] This being said, there was a great deal of material to remove from the respective film’s context to provide “proof” of the blooming young love between Harry and Hermione.
Rationale for creative choices
This substance combined with purposeful methods and design allowed me to incorporate important principles we have learned in class and apply what I have learned from critically viewing trailers. Everything from the title to the content to the audio was carefully planned and selected to reinforce and dramatize the theme. Overall, my main goal was to arrange and assemble my shots in a logical and coherent way, such that the finished product after editing supports and enhances the central theme – the romance between Harry and Hermione.
The title, When Harry Met Hermione, as previously mentioned, actually came to me before I had a concrete idea for the plot. With a great deal of consideration on just how similar I wanted my concept to be to the film denoted in my trailer’s title, When Harry Met Sally, I decided to form my own theme and design, while still maintaining a connection to the film.
I decided that my plot would be stronger if I retained more of the intensity and drama from Harry Potter and moved away from a silly romantic comedy. After all, my trailer is still meant to take the place of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, finale, if my proposed movie replaced the record-breaking film. I even included the same release date as The Deathly Hallows, Part II on my trailer. The content connected to the classic movie, When Harry Met Sally, includes the genre (romance), the aforementioned theme of friends-turned-lovers, and the comparable “a-type” personalities of Hermione Granger and Sally Albright. Both perfectionists, the two start off socially awkward as well as nervous about and naïve to all things deviant, non-conservative, or “against the rules” and grow due to their relationship with their “friend.” In the opening scene in my trailer, the first scene in which Harry and Hermione meet, her perfectionist personality is clear from the start. With each shot, the trailer reveals the growth of the characters, maturing both physically and psychologically.
To further support this theme of growth between Harry and Hermione, concepts behind the shots’ angles, cuts, and transitions, as well as the type of the overall sequence were all taken into account when designing the video. In addition, I attempted to engage in continuity editing, in which “the shots are assembled to follow each other smoothly and without interruption” (Dick, 2002, p.20). Utilizing appropriate cuts and transitions, I remembered to vary the rhythm of my trailer. In order to engage the audience and maintain interest, some shots are longer and others are very short, as part of a rapid sequence.
In several scenes in my trailer, the angle at which the subject is viewed is important. A prime example of this can be found in the scene in which Hermione enters the school dance, and Harry gazes up at her. According to Bernard Dick (2002), “The angle at which the subject is viewed is determined by two factors: narrative logic and symbolic implications” (p. 8). In this case, the shot is obviously logistical, and it also contains connotations in reference to the relationship between Harry and Hermione. The low-angle shot can connote dominance or power, but in this case, I would suggest it indicates “awe” in regards to Hermione’s appearance, also making Harry feel smaller and helplessly affected by her beauty. If you look closely, the power dynamic of their relationship is a give and take between shots throughout the trailer.
The cuts and transitions I chose assisted in enforcing the theme of the trailer, as well. The When Harry met Hermione trailer mostly utilizes straight cuts, “the most common” type of cut in which “one image instantaneously replaces another” (Dick, p. 15). This follows the trend among the majority of trailers I analyzed for my previous blog post. However, other simple transitions seemed to add a greater dramatic effect and helped to create a smoother video, overall. Specifically, I utilized the fade-in and fade-out transitions. As discussed briefly in class and stated in the Bernard Dick reading, these transitions serve to “bring an action to an artful close,” “mark the passage of time,” and “produce a more natural rhythm” (Dick, p. 16). I found that cuts can often be too abrupt, and the purpose of some clips would be lost if the ideas were not separated and emphasized. Finally, in one instance at the beginning of the trailer, I used the “dissolve” transition. Rather than indicate the end of a narrative sequence, as a fade often denotes, the dissolve “denotes continuity by the gradual replacement of one shot by another” (Dick, p. 16). Within the When Harry Met Hermione trailer, the merging of outgoing and incoming shots introduces the “continuous” theme of friendship between Harry and Hermione.
In addition, the type of sequence of the trailer was planned before I even started developing my current trailer. As you may recall, I wanted the shots to portray the growth of the characters’ throughout the years, from their first encounter to the “epic” romance. Therefore, as I created a miniature drama with a beginning, middle, and an end, my trailer is comprised of a linear sequence (Dick, p.13). In addition, the beginning of the overall sequence contains a montage of Harry and Hermione’s friendship transforming into “much more.” According to Bernard Dick, “montage can be defined as a series of shots arranged in a particular order for a particular purpose” (Dick, p. 14). “The shots are arranged so that they follow each other in rapid succession, telescoping an event or several events of some duration into a couple of seconds of screen time.” The montage in my trailer allows the viewer to observe the relationship between Harry and Hermione over a period of years and a range of situations. The ultimate link between all of the shots, throughout the sequence, is the common theme of love. The trailer is unified with all the scenes portraying Hermione and Harry together in various emotional states.
When taking a closer look at the text in trailers, as it has been emphasized in class, too much typography on trailers appears “trashy.” However, title slides seem to me, when used correctly, to enhance the meaning and affect of trailers. In fact, most of my favorite trailers, including Harry Potter, have text. Therefore, in mine I attempted to follow in the artful footsteps of the professionals. I connected When Harry Met Hermione to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by using a similar text style. In this final movie, type consisted of short phrases that evoke intense feelings from viewers. I used “On July 15” and “Epic Conclusion” directly from the final Harry Potter trailer. Of course, there also had to be the title slide, a few with short phrases emphasizing the message, and a final phrase that blows the viewers mind with the ultimate climactic moment in the film. Thus, in addition to the title and phrases listed above, I created title slides reading, “they were just friends,” “slowly transforming,” “into much more,” and, finally, “denial is no longer an option.” Ending on that note, the audience views, what looks like, Harry and Hermione finally together.
This vision was not always so clear. Originally, I planned on the finale being a marriage proposal. With this concept, for the typography, I planned on inserting excerpts from marriage vows leading up to the climactic proposal at the end. Phrases would include: “in sickness and in health,” “in good times and in bad,” “in joy as well as in sorrow,” “I promise to laugh with you and cry with you,” and, finally, “from this day forward…until death do us part.” I planned to arrange these vows to create the storyline, and gathered subclips supporting each phrase. However, my two choices for the big conclusion, as I saw it, were either, “the final step and biggest challenge yet,” (aka marriage), or an action-romance along the lines of “their love can only survive…if they can.” The first scenario, depicting a marriage proposal, was not viable because there was not enough supporting content, and the action-romance idea, I thought, was a little too close to the original movie, just replacing Hermione with Ginny for Harry. I knew from the beginning, however, that I did not want to do another recut trailer in which jealousy and infidelities encompass the focus of the story. This would be quite simple, taking into account all available shots, but it seemed to me that it would be more creative to construct a montage portraying the good ol’ boy-girl friendship blossoming with puberty into love that explodes beyond restraint in the finale. I am glad I reached this conclusion and crafted my storyline how it is currently published.
However, as far as the creative choices that I would have continued to tweak or change, had I the time and patience, I would edit the audio. Although I believe the music I choice conveys the mood I was going for, I think audio that began lighthearted and moved into the intense would better reflect the messages that I was trying to portray in the trailer. In addition, I would like to take the time to somehow find audio clips of quotes from the characters without distracting sound in the background. Although I spent a great deal of time trying to fix it as best I could, the final audio was by no means perfect. This leads me into my discussion pertaining to the frustrations and difficulties I experienced with this video project.
Frustrations, difficulties, and solutions
As can be inferred by my previous statement, the audio was the most frustrating part for me. I cannot be sure whether this is just because it was the last element of the project I attempted to perfect after a combined total of more than 20 hours in the communication lab constructing this annoyingly intricate 140-second trailer, or if it was actually the most difficult part. To test which is the case, and to possibly solve this issue, I would suggest searching for audio in advance – in other words, as soon as you have formulated your concrete creative concept. It is difficult to extract good quotes without picking up background noises/music, and it takes time to adjust the sound so all layers mesh satisfactorily. It also takes time to find and choose the most fitting music to connect your video. In addition to all this, time must be factored in for Premier malfunctions. When I was working, there were several instances in which sub-clips suddenly stopped functioning. Either the audio or video would randomly stop working. After awhile, I just ignored it (rather than freaking out), and somehow, it fixed itself. Lastly, I would encourage future students to not make their project as difficult as I made mine. I had a ridiculous number of sub-clips and audio clips, AND uploading all of the Harry Potter movies to the computers took a very long time in itself.
Overall, none of this is conceptually difficult, but it requires creativity, patience, and time. Those are the main solutions I found to overcome the issues that occurred with Premier. I suggest getting started early, and even then, if you are not satisfied by the due date, take an extra day and utilize Dr. Delwiche’s late work policy – it pays off. For a small penalty, you can turn in work you are truly proud of; that’s worth it.
Bernard Dick (2002). “Film, space, and image,” excerpt from Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.
Scott McCloud (1994) Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: HarperPerennial.
Thomas Sobchak (1975, Summer). Genre film: A classical experience. Literature Film Quarterly, 3(3), 196.