"Version 1 is always the most elegant, most evocative trailer that is ever created -- and the one that is never released."
August 5, 2002 5:00 PM   Subscribe

"Version 1 is always the most elegant, most evocative trailer that is ever created -- and the one that is never released." The New York Times has an interesting look at the process of making movie trailers, with Signs as an example (minor spoilers).
posted by kirkaracha (14 comments total)
Version 1 is always most elegant...

... as with the movie poster... and the soundtrack ... and the script ... and sometimes the movie itself ...

Collaborative endeavors [cough] usually suffer by differing voices/interests/agendas.

Or as we say around the office, "Too many cooks".

My movie poster portfolio (as with most every other designer's portfolio) is filled with first round rejected posters, as they almost always blow away anything that came afterward.
posted by jca at 5:37 PM on August 5, 2002

From the article: "This is why directors never cut their own trailers."

That's not true - directors sometimes cut their own trailers. I just got out and re-watched the trailers for Citizen Kane and Magnolia - two trailers I really like. If the director has enough clout and interest, they can make interesting trailers that don't give away the movie or the best parts.
posted by gluechunk at 6:07 PM on August 5, 2002

Interesting - many trailers are as good, or better, than the films they advertise. I wonder how many movies have actually been hurt ($) by bad trailers, and how you'd determine something like that.
posted by gottabefunky at 6:34 PM on August 5, 2002

IN A WORLD where the box-office draw is KING, there is only ONE MAN who has the courage to STAND UP and DISTILL the mighty blockbuster celluloid into 2.5 minute CHUNKS. (Cue Carmina Burana): this Summer, get to know....THE TRAILER GUY.
posted by drinkcoffee at 6:41 PM on August 5, 2002

I can't believe studios would even consider not letting the directors cut their own trailers. If I were the director, cutting my own trailer would be almost a necessity.

Another account about the movie trailer making business can be found via Google cache.

From the article: "Studies show that roughly 75 per cent of people make their decisions about what movie to go see based solely on the previews, which is why sometimes you get not only two or three teaser trailers to let you know the movie is coming, but the theatrical trailer to let you know the movie is almost here."
posted by nakedgremlin at 8:53 PM on August 5, 2002

More on Don LaFontaine, aka "that voice-over guy". You can see what he looks like: your uncle, on vacation.

And more on fighting over too much vs. too little. Audiences constantly complain about trailers that "give away" the movie -- my pal and I joked about this the other night, agreeing we'd already seen all the good jokes in the new Matthew Perry comedy -- but teasers that tease don't help their movies' openings.

And now, 3rd year running, there's a trailer awards show; Best of Show this year went to The Royal Tenenbaums.

And there's the trailers that influenced their movies: Robin Hood's arrow-into-a-tree shot, and The Fugitive's "Search every doghouse" speech, were trailer inventions that made it into the final cut. The same site has a more detailed history of the development of the modern trailer, from the reels run after the movie that were supposed to "bore" customers out of their seats to the chummy, Extra-esque star-system trailers that barely advertised the movie, leading into the modern narrative and now post-narrative trailer. Not to mention the first guy to find a gravelly-voiced actor, who turned out to be James Earl Jones. And the surprising film that opened up television for movie advertising.

Can I say that I love trailers? I thought the trailer for Armageddon was a durn sight better than the movie. I adore, and miss, the Spiderman trailer with the WTC. The Matrix's trailer showed several of the good parts, like bullet-time on the roof, without giving you a clue why these things were happening.
posted by dhartung at 11:56 PM on August 5, 2002

dhartung: There has been a "real awards show" for trailers (and movie posters, ads, etc.) for over 30 years sponsered by The Hollywood Reporter - it's called The Key Art Awards. The ceremonies are (like all award shows) very long and boring, but the official print catalog of entries given out at the ceremony (which is the only reason to attend) are valued far more than you'd believe. (Which is why The Hollywood Reporter can get away charging $42 to buy one after the fact.)
posted by jca at 12:16 AM on August 6, 2002

I can't believe studios would even consider not letting the directors cut their own trailers.

I believe it was on a behind-the-scenes clip on the Magnolia DVD that William H. Macy asks the director, Paul Thomas Anderson: "Who designed the Magnolia poster?" Anderson quickly perked up: "Oh, I did!" (He didn't.) To which Macy replied by looking into the camera and saying: "You know, he grinds down the glass for all the camera lenses too."

Why do you think the director should be in the editing room spending countless months cutting a trailer (rather than say, working on the actual movie itself?) Even the ultimate control freak Jim Cameron doesn't edit his own trailers (he just keeps rejecting them until time runs out). There are many reasons for this, but one reason I was told when I first started is: The director is too close to the project, and often isn't very objective when it comes to advertising. Plus there's just too much going on for him to be involved with anything outside of finishing the film.

Sometimes trailers can save a project in spite of a director. An example I can think of is BRING IT ON, which they successfully marketed beyond the simple idea of it being nothing more than a "cheerleader movie", even though that's purely what the director had in mind.

And just because a director is a success as a director doesn't mean he works well outside of that scope. For example, when I was working on a poster for a certain film a while back, the director insisted I design a poster with two large star heads (nothing unusual there), with a giant "anti"/no symbol (the red circle with a stripe through it) going through there faces. Complete and utter shit. When they told me the director wanted that I started laughing until they convinced me he was serious - then I got very angry over time because I was the one who had to produce that crap.
posted by jca at 12:34 AM on August 6, 2002

The "Signs" trailer that finally found wide circulation presents an interesting dilemma.

It's very effective as a trailer (the movie opened to the tune of $60 million), but it was grossly misleading -- people expecting to see "Independence Day II" are gonna be plenty pissed (ie: that aspect pushed in the trailer is almost incidental in the movie itself -- but I dare not say more). Thus, they have most likely ensured that attendance will drop like a rock in subsequent weeks.

Looks like they went for a quick box office kill, instead of a steady money maker that a more thoughtful trailer would have possibly provided.
posted by RavinDave at 1:10 AM on August 6, 2002

My friend intends to one day make trailer: the movie. A film composed only of trailers, and maybe, to make it interesting, some sort of plot that connects them all.

It will most likely be the most expensive film ever made.
posted by drezdn at 2:49 AM on August 6, 2002

i think everyone who's ever gotten their ganja on has also had the idea for trailer: the movie.
posted by pikachulolita at 3:21 AM on August 6, 2002

I think we're all missing the most disturbing part of this entire story.

They're making a "Snow Dogs" sequel?
posted by UnReality at 6:28 AM on August 6, 2002

many trailers are as good, or better, than the films they advertise

D'you think? I don't know, I buy that only if the movie's really bad. I don't actually remember the trailer for John Carpenter's Vampires, but just by virtue of being a mere and merciful four minutes long, it had to blow the movie away.

I'm always a little suspicious of trailers, because I'm all too aware that the point is to get as many people to pay for a ticket as possible. As opposed to giving me any kind of accurate clue what the experience of seeing the movie will be like. My sweetie and I recently rented the DVD for The Usual Suspects, which included five or six original theatrical trailers---I don't remember seeing those either, when the movie was coming out, but they damn sure explain why I had no idea that I'd missed such a clever, engaging movie for so long. Bad guys, explosions, guns, the manly vocal stylings of Voice-Over Guy: from the trailer, the movie looked like it could have been any of a hundred interchangeable action flicks... and I am not the target demographic.
posted by Sapphireblue at 8:00 AM on August 6, 2002

sapphireblue: exactly. some two-hour movies barely have two minutes of good stuff. the best two minutes of two hours of crap can be not so bad (and the best two minutes of a great movie can be incredible).

john carpenter's recent work is a good example. vampires had a weird appeal, but anyone who's ever suffered through ghost of mars has to give props to the trailer-man (or woman).
posted by gottabefunky at 10:07 AM on August 6, 2002

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