Every time we go to the movies, or are about to watch a DVD, we are almost obligated to watch multiple trailers of upcoming movies. Trailers were initially shown at the end of the show, as their name suggests, they “trailed” the movie. Throughout the years this technique was found ineffective because the audience often left immediately after the show. Today, more elaborate trailers are used for pre-feature entertainment to occupy the first twenty minutes of the screening –as a result people have learned to arrive late. Nevertheless it seems that we cannot escape movie trailers, nowadays we often encounter them on social media or during commercial breaks and we are drawn to click on and watch them to see what the newest movie is about.
The purpose of the trailer is to attract an audience to the film. Using the most noteworthy, exciting, and hilarious parts of the film in abbreviated form without revealing any spoilers. In fact, the scenes are not necessarily in the order in which they appear in the film. A trailer has to achieve everything it has to convey in about 2 minutes hitting all the right chords and should lead fans to become legitimately excited for the final product (the shortest viewed was Finding Dory with 1,42 minutes and the longest was the Revenant with 2,45 minutes of duration). It doesn’t matter if the end-resultant movie is any good, if the trailer did its job, sometimes it could even be remembered more fondly than the film itself. In order to elude us that they are narrating a full compelling story the pacing and the cuts of the trailers I viewed overall are found to be quite quick. Shot transitions may vary in accordance to the intensity that the trailer or that particular fragment of the trailer has to achieve. Usually transitions tend to be barely noticeable but in some cases they had some effects (e.g. fading or sliding transitions) Imitation Game used some completely black frames and the transitions were slower in order to release more pathos from scene to scene.
Music in trailers, I believe, is even more important than in the actual film. It helps us anticipate the genre and unfold the various stages of the story: e.g. in Zootopia’s trailer there are several songs throughout the short video that tell us what sensations, like excitement for a new adventure, we should feel. Because there is not much time to set up an entire music track, trailer producers usually gravitate towards either fast-paced, explosive action cues, or huge sounding epic orchestral cues that cast the subject matter in a heroic light, like in The Revenant’s trailer. For a romantic comedy, the music chosen will usually instantly convey the “two people from different backgrounds in conflict then coming together” formula with a light orchestral track or a catchy and evocative pop song e.g. Me Before You uses Ed Sheeran’s well-known song, Photograph.
Trailers are selling the movie as a product and in order to do so they have to give us all they have to make us want to see it. Signifiers are often used and they can imply what genre it follows. Trailer’s goal is not to narrate the whole movie but showing us only a little glimpse of it and let our mind fill in the rest and be intrigued by it. There are many tricks that are usually used to draw in a larger audience. For example: giving the impression that a famous actor, who in reality has only a minor part in the film, is one of the main cast members, or advertising a film as being more full of action than it is or misleading us by making us think it will have a happy ending and at the end it’s a tragedy.
As video editing became more accessible to everyone, recut trailers have become more and more popular. A recut trailer usually involves completely changing the movie’s genre and unfolds the story through various “collages” of different scenes. The editors manage to tell their new story and make a genre conversion through a set of ingenious techniques. The more amateur and the fancies recuts have a common denominator: the first thing they change is the music –this helps the editor create a new atmosphere. On the Internet recuts of any imaginable movie can be found. Easier recuts are performed on animated movies since there is no need of making sure that the speech and the mouth animation are in sync. For movies with real people editing scenes can be quite difficult. The easiest way to tell a different story is to use an over voice narration (The Martian recut as a musical comedy) that tells the general story for the audience. If the intent is to achieve a more professional and clean recut the editor has to be able to let the movie’s own protagonist “act” in this new versions, by carefully positioning all the scenes without relying on any type of voice over. In addition, typography is used in recuts to either connect the scenes, or to claim that these “movies” or their actors have won some famous award (in Dumb and Dumber’s recut “golden globe winner Jim Carrey” is written towards the end).
Ultimately, trailers have one job, and that’s to sell their movie to the audience. But one could argue that recut trailers do not have to serve the same purpose. So why do they exist and why do people continue to make them? Intrepid editors with accessible software have made this new hobby very popular. I think that a new “riff-off” in the media world has begun. Who knows maybe one day a recut of an original movie will inspire a new movie. For now let’s enjoy these fun recut trailers and maybe try to make our own.
Trailers: Finding Dory, Imitation Game, Me Before You, The Boy with the Striped Pajamas, The Hateful Eight, The Martian, The Revenant, The Woman in Gold, Up, Zootopia.
Recut Trailers: Disney Frozen Horror (children’s film converted to horror), The Martian Recut as Musical Comedy (space film converted to musical comedy), Dumb and Dumber as an Oscar worthy Drama (comedy converted to drama).