The Evolution of Chasing Summer

Chase in IKEA

Screenshot of the paused trailer at the moment when Tom is chasing Summer through IKEA.

Originally, I found this project very frustrating because I understood that the point was to understand the formulaic model of a cinema genre and through the use of symbols, visual and auditory, render an example of this knowledge. I was specifically frustrated because when I watch a movie, I become attached to the characters as individuals and then to the story and taking some of those characters out of context seemed almost sacrilegious  like fan-fictions where people write in their tulpa and then bend canon character’s personality to be their perfect companion. I though briefly about trying to turn a drama into a romantic comedy, since my two favorite movies, Dead Poets’ Society (Peter Weir, 1989) and V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005) are dramas but I couldn’t really imagine myself taking something that meaningful and making it just a romantic comedy. I know that romantic comedies are considered to be the cinematic equivalent of the dime novel, but I’m a romantic and I like them. I then considered and consequently wrote my Deconstructing Trailers post about the possibility of turning a romantic comedy into an inspirational drama, with the rational that when you’re in it or if you see “a great love” you believe it to be an inspirational story. That didn’t work out because I had a hard time finding a romantic comedy with the great and timeless moments I was looking for and ended up fiddling around with the music on my computer. As such, I tried to make a murder mystery trailer for Disney’s the Hunchback of Notre Dame (Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise, 1996) but once I had set the beginning and the end to Façade from the musical Jekyll & Hyde, I realized that even though I was trying to spin it as a serial murder whom was not shown at all it wouldn’t work out very well since the movie is basically Frodo’s bad morals and attempted genocide of gypsies so I scrapped it. Finally, I settled on making 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009) into a sequentially told stalker/serial killer story mainly focusing on Tom (played by Joesph Gordon-Levitt) being obsessed and possessive of Summer (played by Zooey Deschanel) even though she was moving on with her life.

In terms of actually making the trailer, once I had nailed down the sequence of the story line and what I wanted the individual shots to demonstrate, it was relatively easy. I didn’t have any problems with Premiere. I did have some problems when I tried to edit one of the songs I was putting with it because the computer automatically opened Adobe Audition and me not being familiar with Audition and being under the impression that the Adobe suite can do virtually anything you may desire, was disappointed and frustrated to find that I could not in fact select a note in one track and get the program to find that note in another track, which ideally would allow for the smoothest transition between audio tracks. I was not surprised although a little peeved that I had to cut a majority of the lines and sound effects because I could not separate them from the score of the film. However, I was pleasantly surprised about the amount of dialogue that I was able to keep, which had little or no background music, such as in the choppy breakup sequence, the attempted consolation sequence, and the end scene where Tom’s friends call in his little sister to help. In the original cut of my 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009) remake which became Chasing Summer, I scored the trailer with four piano covers of pop songs for two reasons: one because I felt that since they were all done on piano they would transition well and two because I felt that the audience was likely to have a positive or negative connotation with each of the tunes whether they recognized the tunes individually or not.

In the re-scored trailer that I ended up turning in, I replaced the three later songs of the trailer which had originally accompanied three different stages of Summer’s story arc and Tom’s downward spiral with a singular track that just made the entire sequence more of an outright creepy sequence and less something that you could sympathize with as an audience member. I liked the original sequence but I felt like it brought the audience to close to Tom’s perspective in that it seemed like ‘each step in and of itself was not a huge and ludicrous leap from the one proceeding it’ as Pratkins and Aronson mention in their article How to Become a Cult Leader (Pratkins & Aronson, 245). As such the changed audio, which features one continuous clip of a very creepy sounding song defines Tom and therefore his behavior as decidedly “other” and undesirable, which allows the audience to “always know whom to identify with and just for how long” as part of the conceptual construction of the genre films as mentioned by Sobchack in his chapter entitled Genre Film: A Classical Experience (Sobchack, 197).

In the perceived story line of the trailer, I thought it was important to establish that Tom was not always psycho, that loosing Summer had triggered a change in him. As such I first assembled the “Happy Coupledom” sequence which is really just a combination of two clips from the film, where Tom is chasing Summer through IKEA, disappearing into the right side of the frame and the scene where the entangled pair drops from the left side of the frame onto the bed at Tom’s apartment. I was sad that I couldn’t keep the sound effects of the pair’s laughter and Summer’s line about racing Tom to the bedroom but it was impossible to pull out of the soundtrack of that scene. I didn’t add it back in with a separate sound clip because once I added the piano cover of Hey There, Delilah over the top of the video track, carefully timed so that some of the swells match where they start running, the laughter itself seemed unnecessary. After that, the plot progresses to the Breakup Sequence which features a lot of short, choppy clips because it seemed to add to the impact of the flow of the entire rest of the trailer—as though it was unnatural which made it a good turning point, followed by the practicality of the other characters as they try to offer Tom consolation and convince him that this is not the end of the world as he knows it. Recently, I’ve been noticing albeit  mostly because of this assignment truly how much American culture scripts your emotions and responses to it’s perpetuated media outlets, I recently read a criticism by Chuck Klosterman, not unlike his article “Ha ha, he said. Ha ha” about the stupidity of laugh tracks that commentated on the overpowering dictation of the soundtrack on modern movies in that it tells you exactly which moments are significant and how you should react to them in any genre film paralleling his remarks that “normal people don’t have enough confidence to know what they think is funny,” which is the fault of our culture (Klosterman, 168).  Thus, I was really pleased that these scenes didn’t have a lot of background sounds apart from the dialogue because it added a very raw feeling to each of these sequences.  The third part of the trailer then shows Summer post-Tom and Tom, in continued pursuit of Summer whom is portrayed as happy, moving on with her life, and the lead-up to her getting married whilst Tom is in downward spiral of destructive behavior. In the original version, the first scene is accompanied by a piano cover of As She’s Walking Away, followed by a piano cover of Somebody That I Used to Know, with a piano cover of Paint It Black rising up after Tom’s failed blind date and plastered karaoke rendition of Train in Vain. In my finished trailer, this entire sequence was accompanied by a piano cover of Rock Lobster which I have long thought to be the freakiest sounding song that was not specifically created for Halloween dances. I included the scene where his friends call in his sister because I think it’s a funny moment—mostly in that their go-to person is a thirteen year old girl but it was really appropriate for the end of the trailer because it ends with Tom off-screen and the sound of something breaking.

I was particularly proud of this cut and the circular nature of the content of the trailer in that the last line is “Where is he?” before the title “Chasing Summer” pops up, almost in answer to this question and reflects the scene of their Happy Coupledom at the beginning where Tom is literally chasing Summer through the IKEA store. That being said, I think the element that really sells this trailer and hypothetical movie as a creepy stalker and potential killer film is the inclusion of the photography element—created by spacing sub-clips primarily showing Summer at a distance less than a quarter of a second apart, filling the screen in white for those few seconds, and accompanying the white shots with the sound of a camera shutter to give the impression of a camera capturing Summer in that moment. I thought this element was particularly important in the portrayal of Tom as a creepy character because based on my repeated exposure to crime series television shows, I associate the perpetuated motif of one character collecting photographs of another character with whom they have an estranged relationship as either stalking or planning to kill that estranged person, both of which fit into the horror film model for this assignment.

“How to become a cult leader” excerpt from Anthony Pratkanis & Eliot Aronson (1992). Age of propaganda: the everyday use and abuse of persuasion. New York: W.H. Freeman.

Sobchack, T. (1975, Summer). Genre film: A classical experience. Literature Film Quarterly, 3(3), 196.

“Ha ha, he said. Ha ha” excerpt from Klosterman, C. (2009). Eating the dinosaur. New York: Scribner Press.

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