🎬 #77 The Tease of a Trailer.
There is a whole website dedicated to the art of the trailer - so I’m not going to delve into what makes a classic trailer or doesn’t - but it’s a format I’m really interested in. It’s fascinating because it’s trying to sell us the idea of a film in a very short amount of time - without giving too much away. It’s a delicate art and there have been brilliant ones cut together that only use the footage they’ve been supplied - sometimes in quite radical ways, see the original trailer for Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange as an example.
But there is another approach in trailer making which combines shots from the film with new material originated purely for the concept of the trailer. This is a more rare approach but it’s what really cements the trailer as an art form onto itself. But for me this kind of trailer makes the most sense - because my favourites are microcosms of the films themselves, they’re like it’s offspring - they inherit the dna of the thing but aren’t the whole thing. The whet our appetite and get us excited for what’s to come by embodying the feel and tone of the film they’re promoting by giving us something extra.
Here are two of my favourites and they function in similar ways - let’s take a peek.
Happy choosing, happy viewing
TRAILER ONE: ALIEN
1979 Dir Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott’s great film of course deserves an equally great trailer. And how this one differs from a lot of modern trailers is that it front loads the trailer with material that doesn’t feature in the film. It teases us with slow, atmospheric shots of space and of course the iconic egg from which the face hugger hatches. This is the framing device to get us into actual scenes from the film. The trailer has a concept. The egg hatches and that is what births the horror of the film. It feels like something special because it is, they’ve gone to the effort of creating a story within the trailer - something outside of just edits of the filmed material.
Once we’re into the shots from the film they reveal nothing of the plot - they only deal us frenetic snaps shots of the situation itself - a gritty, dark, used future where horror lurks in the condensation slick shadows of a ship in the depths of space. Meanwhile the now iconic Alien typography slowly builds to reveal the title, to the repetitive wailing of Jerry Goldsmith’s score.
Then the entire experience is buttoned with maybe the best tagline in film marketing history: In space no one can hear you scream.
TL;DR The trailer for Ridley Scott’s Alien show us exactly how to tee up one of the greatest science fiction/horror films of all time.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US/UK.
Fact: The original title of the screenplay was Star Beast which Dan O’Bannon [one of the writers] was never happy with - it wasn’t until he reread the screenplay that he noticed how many times Alien was used. As a noun and adjective, it felt perfect for the title.
TRAILER TWO: THE SOCIAL NETWORK
2010 Dir David Fincher
As a huge Ridley Scott fan, and fellow advertising alumni, I can’t help but feel that Fincher was inspired by the structure of the original Alien trailer for the structure of the trailer for his 2010 film - The Social Network. Seems mad to suggest it but you can see the similarities. Again, this trailer begins with a framing device - a snap shot of the world of Facebook, the interface, and how it’s used by its hundreds of millions of users.
This too is a trailer with a concept - building the world of the film which it’s promoting, making it feel special because they’ve gone beyond material from the film to create a story, just for the trailer. Once we’re into the footage - we’re given key plot details but nothing too overwhelming - we get the Sorkian dialogue, we get the rapid informational pace of the film, we’re set-up for a blink and you’ll miss it style procedural on the formation of Facebook and the people behind it, who ironically fail to connect with anyone.
The trailer ends with an excellent tag line: You don’t get to 500 million friends. Without making a few enemies - which sums up the central conceit perfectly, a great trailer for another great film.
TL;DR Fincher’s story on the friendship behind the formation of Facebook, is captured in an enigmatic and emotional trailer.
*Available for a small rental fee on Amazon, Apple, Google and YouTube in the US and UK.
Fact: Fincher was offered Steve Jobs [ultimately Danny Boyle took the reins] to direct but he wanted total control of the marketing and a hefty director’s fee. I would have loved to have seen Fincher’s trailer for that version of the film.
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