For the trailer remix project, I decided to transform The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014), a comedic drama, into a silent comedy titled While Chasing Boy With Apple (Carlotta de Bellis, 1932) -and yes, if you were wondering, it’s me. For my previous blog post I researched when trailers were invented and I ended up discovering that they even existed 100 years ago, but of course, they were quite different. Some of them had a famous actor or notable people narrate pieces of the story –e.g. in Psycho’s trailer, Hitchcock himself narrated glimpses of his movie. Overall, I found that those trailers were quite long, had spoilers, and were not very catchy; in short, they would not satisfy today’s standards. But of course the technology made giant steps (as we say in Italian), and today we are able to produce amazing trailers with little effort. Consequently, I asked myself, how differently would their trailers be if they had the technology we had now? At this point I had two missions: to change the genre of the movie, as part of my assignment, and to transport my viewers one century back in time.
The title I chose, I believe, is very retro because it gives a sense of continuum and it anticipates that the movie will focus on the actions, rather than a mission. What happens while chasing the well renowned painting, Boy with Apple, is the whole focus of the movie, and not who will end up with the painting. Not only did I want to change the genre of a movie, but, as I already mentioned, I wanted to recreate a trailer that looked authentic from those years. I will admit that I never watched The Grand Hotel Budapest before this project, but I chose it because of its location. At first I thought about making it into a horror. But after viewing the movie and noticing that its clothing that was inspired by the 1930’s I thought that making a silent comedy would be more original. In addition while watching the movie, I noted that during the whole story the characters, because they wear uniforms, changed their clothes only once. This made it much easier to create a more cohesive story; it allowed me to cut and sequence scenes from different parts of the original movie, giving me no limitations in the scenes I could pick (from the very beginning to the end) while sequencing and creating a different story.
After this project I understood more clearly what Greg Smith meant in What Media Classes Really Want to Discuss: “Genre matters because it structures our expectations foe the whole films/television shows and for individual moments,” and “meanings are all established by social convention or through the channel of historical tradition.” (p. 67 and 63) Hence, I tried to guide the expectations of my spectators, trying to anticipate the meanings they would infer from every scene as well. My intent was to make them believe that what they were watching was a trailer of a silent comedy from the 1930’s. The first thing I had to change was sound and color, genre characteristics that audiences usually take for granted. Danesi would call them, 2 very important signifiers: These could be considered symbols because what they do is allow the viewer to encode a referent by convention or agreement (p. 27). In fact as soon as you see the trailer While Chasing Boy with Apple you will understand to what genre is inspired, because of its sound and colors.
Moreover, music was extremely important to the process because it transformed the whole atmosphere. As I decided to make a silent movie, the first step was to eliminate all the sounds present in the original version. The song that accompanies the trailer of While Chasing Boy With Apple is Maple Leaf Rag composed in 1899 by Scott Joplin, a famous composer whose music was used in many of Chaplin’s movies (again “meaning are established by social conventions,” in fact, I was not familiar with the artist, but as soon as I heard his songs a black and white movies came to my mind). At that point I asked myself what else characterized silent comedy, and suddenly I remembered… the speed! I changed the duration of every clip at first to 500% of the original speed. And for just a couple to give a greater pathos I slowed them down to 250%. At that point I found myself with 7 minutes of super fast scenes that were unconnected and had many superfluous shots. In order to narrate my new story I had to cut ¾ of the footage I had and it was very tedious. I found myself creating, as Bernard Dick states in Anatomy of Film: “an elliptical linear sequence where certain details are omitted because viewers are expected to make the connections for themselves “(p. 66). In order to help the viewers fill in the gaps, I inserted some frames that introduced the characters (e.g. This is his Apprentice) and some that guided the narration of the story. For these inserts I chose a modern serif and changed the colors of some words I wanted to highlight in gold.
The main difficulties that I encountered regarded the genre I chose. It required an infinite number of cuts. Working at the same time on multiple fragments and then going back to delete the superfluous all at once I have to admit was not a brilliant idea; multiple times I deleted important, meaningful frames by accident. If I were to give any advice to an upcoming student of this class it would regard preciseness: work on little sections at one time and assemble everything together right away. In addition, make someone watch your trailer and critique it before saving it. After working on my trailer for hours I couldn’t tell if my captions were too fast because each time I anticipated what was written on them because I turned blind to my own product. Finally, although you will certainly go crazy and get frustrated while making the trailer, my main advice is to be creative -it’s a lot of fun!