Making The Cut’s

Many times I watch a movie, and completely ignore the effort that goes into making each individual shot. After this video recutting project my appreciation for the art of making movies, and movie trailers, has increased tenfold. This project was terribly frustrating at times, however it was also very rewarding to finally learn how Premiere works. Making trailers is no easy job, and the amount of things that you have to account for to make a successful trailer is a little overwhelming. It is not enough to throw a few shots together and add a cool background song, the use of semiotics, and proper film editing techniques play a huge role in making a good trailer. These are all things I had to consider when transforming my film, Wedding Crasher’s, into a thriller/horror trailer.What is semiotics? Danesi would likely say it’s incredibly  important when making any sort of video, including movie trailers, but he would also say that it is the use of signs to convey meaning. Movies and trailers contain a vast number of signifiers, which allow them to provide a meaning that goes deeper than the surface. Whether these signifiers come in the form of music, dim lighting, or specific dialogue, they all convey meaning and purpose. The proper use of these signifiers can even allow a person to change the genre of a movie, which is exactly what I did. By changing the background music to my movie, which is in no way a scary movie whatsoever, I was immediately able to give my trailer a creepy feel to it. After that it was only a matter of time before I had picked out scenes, that on their own could easily be interpreted as scary, creepy, or sinister, and grouped them together. Then I just dimmed the lights on a few  scenes, put them in the right order, gave it a change of background music, and found myself changing a comedy into a trailer for a horror movie.

The intentionality of scene choice is vital to making an effective trailer. Without a meaningful organization to scenes, you will simply end up with a confusing, jumbled, and very pointless trailer. This is what makes recutting a video somewhat difficult, as there a number of scenes from any movie that could fit in with another genre, but it is the way that you choose to put these scenes together that makes the trailer work. One of Danesi’s fellow semiotics experts, Edgar Hunt, said, “The camera is not responsible for the pictures on the screen- you are.” The person editing the video has the power to make it whatever they want, and the choice of a specific scene order goes a long way in providing meaning.

Because of the original intention of the movies meaning, sometimes it was hard to find scenes that worked. In one specific case, there is a funeral scene in Wedding Crasher’s that I would have liked to use, that employs the use of a long shot that captures the whole funeral. However the original intention of this scene was to be amusing, and it was impossible to block out Will Ferrel laughing, and making rude gestures while people were morning.

Here is Will Ferrell’s Funeral etiquette. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make for a sad or scary funeral scene.

To solve this problem I had to focus on other parts of the funeral that involved more closeups, showing only sad morning faces. There are a number of other cases where this problem seems to occur, and that is because you are not the one filming the shots. You don’t get to employ Bernard Dick’s film techniques, choosing where certain shots should go in the movie, you simply get to mold the techniques of the director to fit a new meaning.

In many movies it is also hard to keep the original dialogue, and it has to be completely blocked out by a new background track.  I chose not to do this. For some odd reason, the dialogue in my film happened to match up extremely well with the message I was trying to portray. dialogue is usually tricky, because it already carries so much meaning, it is sometimes impossible to alter a scene with the original dialogue present. Purely by chance, I did not have to deal with eliminating dialogue, nor did I want to. I like how the dialogue makes the trailer seem more realistic, and I think it helped make it have a more legitimate feel to it. However I still had to add a very creepy soundtrack. I did this because Wedding  Crasher’s original soundtrack is far too upbeat and happy for any type of scary movie. For example, the song Shout, by Otis Day and The Knight’s, simply would not do for a horror movie. Another thing that was too bright and happy in a number of scenes was the lighting. By bringing down the lighting and darkening the film I attempted to bring down the happiness level it was giving off. I felt good about the editing choices that I made, and I felt that the order of my scenes really helped give the trailer purpose and direction.

I don’t want to forget to talk about how frustrating this project could be, so here come a number of issues that I hope people in the future may handle better than I did. For all of the editors who come after me, Adobe Premiere deserves to be punched in its computerized face. We all will probably agree on that. It can be a terribly frustrating program to work with, my advice- take a deep breath, it will all work out. You will hit a learning curve and everything will start to come a whole lot easier. Also I would make sure to take immediate action if ever your audio begins to get off track with your video. I waited until the end of my project to deal with this, and ended up having to unlink all of my audio, then proceeded to manually lign it back up with the video. Other than that, all I have to say is that this project ended up being fun and rewarding. Future editors, enjoy making the cut’s.

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.

Danesi (2004). “What is Semiotics,” excerpt from Messages, signd, and meanings: A basic textbook in simiotics and communication. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.

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