Rango-ed in Love

Rango-ed in Love is a romantic drama set in the Old West. Tension throughout the film originates from the romance between Rango (voiced by Johnny Depp) and Beans (voiced by Isla Fisher), two lizards who are trying to make it in their dry, western world. 

Romance-drama is a genre characterized by slow pacing, tension between characters, and constant reflection on the despair of love. To create a trailer that exploits these genre characteristics, I began by identifying the pace of the trailer. Pace, as defined by the music (beats per minute) and by the scene duration/transition speed, is a key element to defining genre. Greg Smith, writing  in What Media Classes Really Want to Discuss, notes that there is a “consistency that we typically expect from a genre,” and defines a “classical genre” as something that “gives both mediamakers and audiences a set of internally consistent expectations to share [sic.].” He calls these expectations a “code;” in this trailer, the language of the code is the music. For Rango-ed in Love, I used one of the songs from the original soundtrack. In fact, the opening scene of my trailer is the scene that contains this song in the original movie. I was able, after a quick YouTube search, to find the entire soundtrack, from which I could borrow this song. Hans-Zimmer’s song fits perfectly within the the trailer to help create the “code” of the romance-drama genre. The song is somber and slow yet hopeful and with an undercurrent of happiness that does well to describe the romance-drama genre.

Once the overall tone was set by the music, specific scenes were identified as possible source-material. These scenes included scenes from the original film with minimal musical accompaniment. Also, scenes that helped show romance or tension between Rango and Beans were identified. As I began initial sequencing, I reminded myself that I was not yet working to show a narrative. In this initial stage, I was working towards an ideology rather than a narrative. Louis Giannetti, in Understanding Movies, writes that “virtually every movie presents us with role models, ideal ways of behaving, negative traits, and an implied morality based on the filmmaker’s sense of right and wrong.” My trailer is no different. I worked to include scenes that portrayed both Rango and Beans in a certain light. I wanted to highlight Rango’s loneliness by selecting scenes that showed him as earnest and somber. By doing this, I hope to  present an ideological connection between loneliness and romance, showing that the two are inexplicably linked. Genre, in my opinion, is about ideology as much as it is about audience expectations.

Once I set the pacing and ideology through the music and initial clip sequencing, I worked to make the trailer aesthetically pleasing. I wanted the trailer to include scenes that show-off the animation quality (Rango is incredibly well animated) and scenes that reinforce the romance-drama expectation of the audience. To do this, I looked for scenes that moved at about the same pace as the music and included imagery of solitude, tension, or change. Chuck Klosterman writes that “there’s only one important question a culturally significant film can still ask: What is reality?” The original movie, Rango, certainly does this through various montage elements. For this new trailer, though, I wanted the film to ask the question “what is love?” While some of the dialogue within the trailer may help ask and answer this question, the main scene that is intended to ask this question, quite indirectly, is an animation of prickly pear flowers closing at night. Though this may seem insignificant, it is intended to be a strong symbol. Greg Smith identifies this “traditional” method of communication as the S-M-R model; he identifies this as a “sender trying to relay a message to a receiver.” Certainly, my intention with this scene (and of course with the whole trailer) is to send a message about love. Smith explains that “by comparing the sender’s intentions with the receiver’s understanding, one can discover how effective the communication was.” Only time will show if audiences understand my message about love. capture

The next challenge to piecing together the trailer was to create the proper transitions between scenes. The “rhythm” of the trailer, as defined by Bernard Dick, was established by combining scene transitions with what I identify as “empty space.” Dick says “long strips of roll film produce a slower rhythm, short strips a more rapid rhythm.” This worked to my disadvantage, since I was attempting to establish a slow rhythm but had primarily short clips. To resolve this issue, I included a fair amount of fade-to-black cuts, which helped make the pacing between shots slower. I also included a few scenes of empty space. These are blank scenes where only the music plays. These force viewers to think slowly and feel a tension. This sort of empty space acts similarly to a freeze frame. Dick describes the role of freeze frames as something that “implies immobility, helplessness, or indecision.” My blank scenes are intended to highlight the unknown-feelings of love and to indicate large portions of missing narrative. In retrospect, some of the empty space could have been shortened; audiences will feel the necessary tension whether the empty space is two seconds long or five seconds. Empty space must be used judiciously.

The final challenge in composing the trailer was to match the audio score with the scene transitions and character movements. For example, I worked to match moments of intensity within the audio track with moments of tension between characters and actions. For example, one scene in the trailer shows Rango standing up, being heroic. Then, the mayor of the town (a tortoise voiced by Ned Beatty) announces, “Sherif Rango is right!” during a time when the soundtrack has settled down and is dramatic. Another scene shows Beans arguing with another female character, while Rango nervously watches them. During this scene, the audio score has reached a crescendo, which helps viewers become immersed in the pressure Rango feels. The music used in this trailer is also intended to increase viewer immersion. Aaron Delwiche writes about immersion, pointing out that “film and television content enter via two perceptual channels.” The intention of matching the audio score with the scene transitions and character movement, then, is to combine the two perceptual channels in an effort to increase interaction.

Creating a re-cut video trailer has been a challenging experience. The most difficult aspect was identifying what genre to transition to. For example, I originally intended to make my new trailer a romantic comedy. However, this would have likely looked too similar to the original trailer due to the comic element. Once I realized that there was a sense of drama within the film, it was not difficult to exploit this. As far as the actual editing is concerned, working in Premiere is relatively straight-forward. The power of J and L cuts is something that I cannot stress enough. Often, when trying to cut a scene out of the original movie, the original editors used a J or L cut to piece together the visuals and audio. To create the clips I needed, then, I had to cut out some audio while leaving the video or vise-versa. The resulting new J and L cuts allowed me to use the exact pieces of video I needed, without including unnecessary audio. Future students may also benefit from peer-review. If you’ve spent hours working on a video, your mind may be used to the content, so it is easy to overlook mistakes and miss ways to improve. To combat this, take advantage of your peers in the lab; they can give you great feedback after watching your unfinished trailer.

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