I chose to transform the quirky family comedy Little Miss Sunshine (Dir. Dayton and Farris, 2006) into a thriller revolving around a startling family dispute called Where Is My Sunshine? Initially, I chose to do this because I thought, from memory, that this movie had a lot of scenes that could be taken out of context and made really dark. After watching the movie with this in mind, I found it much harder to imagine as a thriller, which made me more determined to do so. I found a few golden shots and audio bits (such as “I HATE YOU FUCKING PEOPLE,” and “Mom… Dad…?”) and worked to tell a story that circulated around those pivotal components. I found some suspenseful music on Youtube, which immediately changed the tone to dark and foreboding. I used my understanding of storytelling and filmmaking from our class readings in my attempt to construct this mostly cohesive short trailer for Where Is My Sunshine?
Greg Smith’s What Media Classes Really Want to Discuss mentions how certain narrative situations can be hallmarks for specific genres. Through observation, I have noticed that the narrative situation I have chosen is common in thrillers. Family members gone bad and child abduction are frequent stories told through film. I used many shots indicative of these types of situations, accompanied by creepy music and some text aid, to encourage the viewer to make assumptions about genre. This way, the implied plot sets expectations for what the film will reveal.
Similarly, Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics perfectly explains the phenomenon of closure, which is when viewers “[observe] the parts but [perceive] the whole” (63). That is exactly what all effective movie trailers do and is what I have attempted to achieve here. By showing multiple clips from different parts of this hypothetical film, I am hoping that past experience and recognition of certain plot and film devices (music, character alignment, etc.) encourage viewers to fill in the gaps. Therefore, if I did this correctly, viewers will understand specifically that this trailer is for a film about a family with a son who goes crazy and abducts his younger sister, leading to scenes full of suspense and torture.
Bernard Dick’s Anatomy of Film explains the connotations behind different types of shots I employed in making this trailer. Low angle shots of Dwayne, the brother/son/antagonist, working out in his room establish him as the powerful “doer” in the film, the one who catalyzes the rest of the terrifying events. The handheld camera shots of Olive, the younger sister/daughter, which are jerky and unstable, set a panicked tone. I use dissolve transitions multiple times to imply the passing of time. Lastly, I use the fade out transition (to black) in conjunction with a clip of Dwayne smiling and audio of Olive screaming to leave the audience in suspense and apprehension. Marcel Danesi’s Messages, Signs and Meanings discusses the role of signifiers. In the context of this recut trailer, the scream signifies terror and pain, but in the original film it signified pure joy and excitement.
In White Space Is Not Your Enemy, Hagen and Golombisky discuss the strategy of emphasizing the meaning of text by contrasting fonts and colors. I did just that to the text in my final title slide. First I had used only a modern serif font (white text on a black background), but I could tell that wasn’t enough. I then changed the word “sunshine,” which refers to the original film title, and made is a loose, happy handwritten decorative font. I chose it because it provided strong contrast without being distracting or hard to read. Most importantly, I changed the color of “sunshine” to a bright cheery yellow. This not only provides a connection to the original film’s happy-go-lucky tone, but it also provides a strong visual contrast on the screen.
If I were to provide any advice regarding how one should approach this assignment, I would say that it would be easiest to go to a movie store (Coates Library, Target, CD/DVD Exchange) and physically look at the selection of films available. I found that I limited myself by only thinking of my favorite movies as options for this project. I also had problems finding long enough pieces of audio to match the duration of specific visual clips. I would say that it is to one’s advantage to use the speed down/up tool on both audio and visual clips that do not fit together cohesively.