Ok, here’s one of those movie trivia questions, who said these words, “Same make, same model, same mission”, and, “T’was long ago and far away in a land as different as night from day?” You may have got the movies – Terminator 2 and Shrek, well the trailers actually, and the guy who said these lines was the late Don LaFontaine, gravelly voice-over artist for over 5000 trailers. You’ll know his much parodied voice when you hear it.
When you see a trailer you might think it’s something the editor quickly put together, or gave to his assistant as a try-out, but no. The average trailer costs around $500,000 and in the US there are hundreds of companies specialising in the art of trailer making, in the UK, just a few. All are mini movie studios in their own right, with mini film makers, making mini movies – producers, directors, writers, conceptualists, editors and graphic designers. And you won’t be surprised to know they have they’re own mini film awards, The Golden Trailer Awards held yearly in LA.
The purpose of the trailer of course is to get you to go see the movie, and when you do see the movie, how many times have you thought the trailer was better than the movie, and that all the best bits were in the trailer? Well that is kinda the point as will be admitted by any trailer maker, like Mary McGrane, the editor who put together the trailer for Bridget Jones 2, who said, “Friends see films I’ve done trailers for and say I only put in the best bits,” I say, “Of course I only put in the best bits. If I’d put in all the shit bits, you wouldn’t have gone to see it.”
In the UK, the Picture Production Company is the giant of mini film makers, regularly creating trailers for blockbusters including, Slumdog Millionaire, Watchmen and Quantum Of Solace, for which two editors raided the Bond cutting rooms and used material from the rushes to make trailers for domestic and international theatrical use along with TV ads.
But it’s the art of taking these best bits, that can often make a great trailer out of a bad film, or perhaps even a somewhat dishonest trailer. You may recall the George Clooney starrer, The Perfect Storm, the trailer built-up to an incredible action sequence showing George and crew battling against a storm and a wave the size of many apartment blocks. Audiences thought, wow, if they show this in the itty-bitty trailer, what happens in the film must be awesome. Sadly, no, this was pretty much it and you had to wait for the end of the film to see it.
Interestingly, these mini movies use the same three act structure as their full-length counterparts. Set-up the story and characters, drive the story on, and the climax. Music too is used to drive these maximum 2 min 30 sec, minis along, but often when the trailers are made, the actual music to be used in the movie hasn’t even been recorded. So to give audiences a feeling of what they will be getting, they use music from similar movies.
The trailer for Jim Carey’s, Lemoney Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, partly used music from Edward Scissorhands to create the mood they wanted, while composer Randy Edelman is thought to hold the record of having his music for, Come See The Paradise, used in the most trailers. 24 trailers have had the benefit of his same score, including those for films as diverse as, Clear And Present Danger, The Joy Luck Club and Thirteen Days. Randy has doubtless made more from the use of his music in these trailers than for the original film.
And now, the awards. Last year, Best Action – The Dark Knight, Best Comedy – Tropic Thunder, Best Romance – Atonement. These are the Golden Trailer awards don’t forget. The Most Original went to, In Bruges and the Golden Fleece – for the best trailer for the worst film, went to Awake.
My personal favourite is Watchmen with music by the Smashing Pumpkins, beautiful editing, great structure, great imagery, it is of course, the best bits, but the movie delivered a whole lot more.