by André van Heerden
My father is by no means a film expert and will happily tell you as much. But he knows what he likes and what he doesn’t. After watching another movie that disappointed him and my mom he complained: “Why can’t they just make the movie that they show you in the trailer?”
It’s a fair question. It’s happened to me and I’m sure that it’s happened to you. You watch a trailer for a film and it looks funny, exciting, smart and full of heart. Yet when you watch the actual film it turns out to be mirthless, dull, predictable and spiritless.
Film trailers are designed to tell an audience what a movie is about and make them want to see it. In recent years they have become a new type of art form and there are even annual awards given to the year’s best trailers. While there are categories like “Best Comedy”, “Best Horror” and “Best in Show”, which honor the best trailers for their films, there’s also a very telling category called the “Golden Fleece.” In this category the award goes to the best trailer for the worst film. It’s a way of honoring someone who has been able to best polish “poop” and make it look shiny.
So the film trailers that entice my parents, me and countless others in are just doing their job. The trailer creators are given a movie and told to make it sell. Sometimes a creepy unpleasant film will be made to look like a dark comedy (see: DARK SHADOWS). Sometimes a lackluster confusing epic will be made to look like a rousing, dazzling adventure (see: JOHN CARTER). Or sometimes a romantic comedy thriller that isn’t funny, romantic or thrilling can still be made to look charming (see THE TOURIST).
What’s interesting in these cases though is that the creators of the trailer actually knew how the movie could have been good. The story makes sense. It stays in the proper genre. The characters are likeable. Why didn’t someone make that movie in the first place?
It’s one of the reasons that I’m an advocate of screenwriters coming up with an imaginary trailer for the new movie script that they’re about to write before they even write it. In picturing how it might look and sound and what story it’s trying to sell, the writer quickly gets an idea of what makes that story work and what doesn’t. It tells the writer who the main characters should be; what their goals should be; which obstacles should stand in their way; and even what genre the film should be.
In a new way of approaching filmmaking competitions, Cinecoup, seems to be adopting this approach. The Canadian company encouraged filmmakers to compete for a production budget of $1 Million with their very first submission being a “concept trailer.” Not a logline. Not a synopsis. Not a script. Competing filmmakers had to create and submit a trailer for a film that hasn’t been shot and in some cases, for a script that hasn’t even been written.
I’ll be the first to admit that any good film MUST begin with a good script. I absolutely agree with the timeworn filmmaking mantra of “The Script is King!” And at first when I heard that a filmmaking competition wasn’t beginning by judging which scripts were good, I was a little wary. However, by working through this competition and its various missions (check out my entry and samples HERE) I’ve come to see how such a process can make a writer focus on what makes the story engage an audience. That seems to be what’s missing from many films. A story that only works for the writer or director might be fulfilling for them, but it misses the end goal. As an indie filmmaker I think it’s time that I paid more attention to the Golden Fleece.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: André van Heerden has worked in practically every aspect of film and video production for over 15 years. His very first documentary, done as a video thesis at Carleton University’s prestigious Journalism school, was sold to the National Film Board of Canada.
Since then he has produced, written, directed, and post-supervised numerous documentaries, dozens of TV programs, and countless numbers of commercials, trailers, infomercials, and special features.
Most notably André directed the feature films, Revelation, Tribulation, Judgment and Deceived; wrote the features Judgment and Left Behind: World at War; co-produced Left Behind: The Movie and Left Behind II: Tribulation Force and produced Left Behind: World at War and Saving God.
He is widely respected and liked by the cast and crews and has become one of the most well-known and accomplished filmmakers within the Christian film market. Most recently André produced the Cloud Ten co-production Saving God (Ving Rhames, Ricardo Chavira, Dean McDermott), and wrote the well-received feature-length documentaries: Shadow Government, Dragons or Dinosaurs?, The 12 Biggest Lies (with Kevin Sorbo), and the upcoming 2012: Prophecy or Panic? and Mark of the Beast.
ProdCo: Art Within
Title: CrackerJack (2012)
Director: Brian Coley
Writer: Brian Coley
Logline: A Southern Fairytale, told by Jeff Foxworthy, of one man’s journey down the road less graveled to fix the massive leak in his gene pool.
It’s Friday, people! It’s time for the week-end. Time for some sleeping in, perhaps. Time for some rest and relaxation. And, maybe even time for some doo-duh-doo-duh-doo-Dora! Coming to the big screen. But not really. Ariel Winter, who plays Alex Dunphy on ABC’s “Modern Family” teams with College Humor for this spoof-a-licious trailer…
Medea just got real, people! Tyler Perry is channeling some Denzel Washington acting chops in this James Patterson book-to-Film against Matthew Fox (“Lost”) who is channeling some Edward Norton. I mean, I watched the trailer and Perry doesn’t once turn toward camera closeup and say, “Awwww, heeeeyyuulllll no!”
But don’t take my word for it, check it yourself…
Director: Rob Cohen (“Fast and Furious”, “Dragonheart”)
Writers: Marc Moss, Kerry Williamson (Screenplay)
James Patterson (novel)
ProdCo: Summit Entertainment
It’s Friday and you know what that means?!? Come ooooon, has to do with the title of this post. Think carefully. What was that? Ding ding ding! You’re right! Tiger shark embryos DO fight each other in their mother’s womb and the survivor is born!
So, there’s that.
Anywho, it’s come to my attention that there are two types of people in this world…those who quote movies and those who lack the capacity to remember even one single funny or memorable line and everyone’s throwing out candy coated quotable bits like a kiddie parade float, just shotgunning dialogue at their friends like a Duke Nukem tournament and then there’s the one dude that’s not even quoting the movie, he’s just picking at it: ”You know the cigarette in the restaurant scene was in her right hand in the Wide shot, but jumped to her left hand in the Close up!”
A needle drags across a vinyl record player. Everyone stops and stares awkwardly. Somewhere in the back, an 82 year old man, coughs. A strange mixed breed 3-legged dog looks up from it’s chicken kibble and tilts it’s head to one side curiously: “Rrrr?”
In those emergency situations you’ve got to be ready to be a first responder. Time is of the essence. Your conversation is laying mmmmmmostly dead on the floor, gasping for breath. The gigantic mirth bubble your group has been growing has just been burst by a single pin head. But sometimes you have to invite the pin head along in order for his much cooler and prettier sister to tag along as well. That’s nepotism.
Where was I? Oh yeah…if you wanna be a hero, now’s your moment. With eloquence and precision, with diction and projection, toss out: “I’m the dude playing the dude, disguised as another dude!” And instantly, Game on. The conversation rolls back and kick jumps on to its feet and all is right with the world. It doesn’t even have to be a “Tropic Thunder” line either although that one works 97% of the time. For example, in ’93 I revived a D.O.A. conversation with: “We found a witch, may we burn her!”
Monty Python is the On-Star of any movie quoting mirth bubble that needs rescuing. So keep that tucked away in your back pocket.
In a later post, I’ll actually delve more into totally quotably movies, but for now, here is a Trailer from a totally NOT quotable movie, that was remixed by the Genius Bard, Tobuscus resulting in a HIGHLY quotable film trailer.
ProdCo: Serendipitous Films
Title: The Imposter
“The Imposter” website: The Imposter Movie
Dan Millican’s Production Company: Serendipitous Films
Dan Millican’s blog: killinghimself.blogspot.com
ProdCo: Top Pup Media
ProdCo: Moonlit Pictures
Title: The Bill Collector
ProdCo: Raise the Bar Productions
Title: A Dance For Bethany
ProdCo: Laura Waters Hinson Films
Title: AS WE FORGIVE
Logline: A remarkable story of forgiveness and reconcilliation in Rwanda.