The phenomenon of re-cutting movie trailers emerged during late 2005 after the widespread popularity of Robert Ryang’s take on the trailer for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Instead of a bleak and blood-filled horror flick, the resulting edit portrays the film as a light-hearted romantic comedy. The widespread popularity of this bootleg trailer resulted in numerous imitators, most notably Brokeback to The Future. These trailers are both a parody of the films they’re representing and the conventions of cinematic trailers.
As media texts develop, media professionals develop common ways of doing things. These techniques become known as ‘conventions’. To familiarise yourself with the conventions of movie trailers, start by watching the trailers for new movies at Apple Movie Trailers. To create a successful recut trailer, you must use the recognised conventions of this form. Ensure your trailer has all of the following elements:
Classification Advice. Trailers usually feature classification advice relevant to the country they’re screening in. Most trailers on the internet feature the green Motion Picture Association of America splash.
Studio Logo. Trailers usually feature the animated logo of the studio that financed the film at the beginning.
Mini-Narrative. Most movie trailers feature clips from the film they’re advertising. These clips are chosen carefully to give the audience an understanding of the narrative and characters. How much they reveal about the plot varies from trailer to trailer. Some teaser trailers are made months before any footage has been shot for the film. Notable examples of this include The Davinci Code and Alien 3. In the case of Alien 3, the teaser trailer featured a picture of Earth from space, implying that the aliens were going to invade. As the production of the film progressed, this storyline was eventually abandoned in favour of Ellen Ripley crash landing on prison planet Fiorina 161.
Editing. Trailers are essentially a montage of clips from a film, edited together in such a way to give the audience an understanding of the narrative. Trailers for action films are notable for rapid editing to create a sense of excitement. Fade ins, fade outs and cross dissolves are also used frequently throughout movie trailers.
Voice Over. Many trailers feature a voice over which helps to convey the narrative to the audience. Don Lafontaine is a voice actor who does most of the voice overs for Hollywood movie trailers. “In a city where anything can happen,” growls Lafontaine. “One man will discover…his true destiny.” His voice has been used so frequently that it has become a cliche of the form. In most movie trailers, the voice over works to convey the narrative in conjunction with clips, sounds and dialogue from the film. For more information about Don Lafontaine, watch this segement from America’s Dateline.
Music. Often used in trailers to engage the audience. Soundtrack.net features a list of the most frequently used musical cues in movie trailers. Because the score for films is generally written quite late in post-production, the actual music featured in the film is rarely used. When cutting trailers, studios use music from other successful films or from music libraries. For example, James Horner’s score for Aliens has featured in the trailer of twenty-four films, including: The Abyss, Blwon Away, Broken Arrow, Dante’s Peak, Lake Placid, Man on Fire and Minority Report.
Tagline. Trailers often feature short phrases which appear on screen, these may be the tagline for the film or serve to reinforce the voice over.
Stars. Movie trailers often prominently feature the names of the film’s stars.
Directors and producers. If the director or producer of a film is well-know, their name will also feature prominently in the trailer. Otherwise, they might be referred to as ‘the director of…’.
Title Card. The title of the film is usually revealed at the end of the trailer.
First Billed. Credits for the film often appear for a few seconds at the end of the trailer. The title card will often include the actors, writer, director, producers and composer.
- Re-cutting Trailer Exercise –
This example splices The Office clips into Halloween