When this trailer project was first assigned, I had no idea which movie I would transform. It took two full movie albums and over a hundred DVDs before I found Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This was when I realized the potential of Harry Potter as a totally evil death spawn. He looks kind of creepy, there is a ton of supernatural influence in the film, and let’s be honest. That kid is definitely hiding something.
So I got to work, trying to make Harry seem like the “Damien” of Death. One thing I wanted to focus on from the get-go was being immersive, using as many senses as I could and really drawing from the film to create my end-product. As a wise media sage once referenced in an article about video games as propaganda (just so it’s clear, I’m referring to you Dr. Delwiche. You’re the wise sage in this scenario), “emotional possession” is the “intense preoccupation with a theme, in this case that of a picture” where “the individual identifies himself so thoroughly with the plot or loses himself so much in the picture that he is carried away from the usual trend of conduct.” I wanted to use Prisoner of Azkaban to twist a new meaning using dialogue and unique shots. I only included one moment with typography, to progress the trailer and address the main issue and plot of the movie. I added no additional dialogue beyond what was in the movie itself, but I used a lot of dialogue.
I created an outlook and message that Chuck Klosterman refers to as “immersion criticism,” or “an inflexible, clandestine reality that matters way more than anything else.” I preoccupied myself with a theme. I dug into the movie and found a message, a reality, that might otherwise never be found by the typical viewer. And I painstakingly pulled that reality into my trailer so that others could experience it too.
But how did I do this? I decided to follow the formula for most horror movies, where what starts as a totally reasonable situation with happy, normal individuals escalates into a freak show of terrifying events and gruesome conclusions. In other words, I appealed to the genre horror film. As Thomas Sobchack writes in his article, “Genre Film: A Classical Experience,” the genre film is a “category, kind, or form of film distinguished by subject matter, theme, or techniques.” I capitalized on the techniques found often in horror movies: I created a story that could be fun and typical and normal. Then I turned it on its head, with horror. I set the intro clips of the trailer to the Harry Potter theme song (commonly known as Hedwig’s Theme) because of its mysterious, light-hearted nature. I open with images of Harry discovering his acceptance into Hogwarts School (no longer of Witchcraft or Wizardry unfortunately, just a normal school) and talking to his “mother” (Mrs. Weasley) to make sure he has everything he needs. But as soon as that type screen passes, Hedwig’s Theme seems creepier, almost ominous.
And then I begin my first of two prolonged voice overs. There were multiple moments in the movie where the dialogue perfectly suited the tone of the horror movie I was creating. The problem was often that the video associated with my desired audio was unsatisfactory, if not unusable due to its classic Harry Potter cheerfulness or . So I found myself searching for video clips that I could use to associate with these prolonged voice overs, and was able to compile footage that sent the message I was looking for. For the first extended voice over, Hedwig’s Theme fades to draw emphasis to the sinister nature of the audio’s warning. I include a black clip so that all that the viewer sees or hears is “The Grim,” the terrible omen that recognizes Harry’s demonic nature. As the voice over describes exactly what the omen is, I provide dark snippets of items and locations that relate to the audio. Shrunken heads to associate with dark omens. A wet, creepy playground with no one there to symbolize Death. (I personally love the way the teeter-totter lowers ominously right after the audio plays the word “death.” So perfect… like Death has just departed and stolen all the life that was once there.) And what a great opportunity to introduce the hooded figure in the flesh (or bone, in his case). Right after the word “death,” the Reaper’s terrifying, gnarled hand hand curls around a door in a wonderful close up shot. Bernard Dick was right when he described the close up as a “means of emphasis” in his work, “Film, Space, and Mise-en-Scene.” I wanted to emphasize that Death was there, morphing Harry into the murderer/killer he was to become. The close up shot allowed me to present that image and do it in a way that captured the viewer’s attention.
Skip ahead a few seconds, and my second extended voice over begins. Here, a prophecy of someone’s “return” and the focus on death and suffering was too perfect to pass up for this trailer. The voice over opens with a pan of a figure in dark black shoes and black crows hopping around the grass, with what appears to be the bottom of a large scythe awaiting use. I allow the viewer to assume that this is Death instead of finding footage of another Dementor to directly state it. I tried to find footage that would imply the meaning that I was trying to produce for the trailer, and I think I totally succeeded. The horrified face on Hermione as the voice over gasps that “Innocent blood will be spilt,” and the shot to Harry’s face for the “servant” and the headshot of the Dementor for the “master.” It worked well.
I end the trailer with the fading shot of Harry’s back, as the camera zooms away through a dark, eery tunnel. An owl flies over Harry’s shoulder and a large pendulum swings slowly. As the pendulum swings over Harry, the shot fades away. The voice of Remus Lupin states, “Finally the flesh reflects the madness within,” to correlate with the previous shot that I slowed down of Harry’s soul being twisted and consumed by Death. I wanted to really push the connection between Harry and Death at the end and I think these last two shots really helped me accomplish this. Honestly, this trailer is my baby. I’m so proud of it.
That being said, this project was not easy by any means. I have never used Adobe Premiere in my life and figuring out how to cut film, move and transition audio, apply effects so that they are pertinent and helpful to the trailer, and perform other basic tasks was a slow process of trial and error that I eventually overcame. One moment that almost gave me a heart attack was the night I hoped to finish my trailer in its totality. Someone was using the computer I had previously been working on so I migrated to a new spot and tried to copy my D:Drive file over to where I was working. However, all the audio I had downloaded offline wouldn’t play on Premiere. All the dramatic sound effects. All the background music. It wouldn’t work! I spent at least an hour and a half trying to solve this problem and came up with absolutely nothing. It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out I had downloaded those audio tracks and left them in the Downloads folder without copying them over to my D:Drive folder, so Premiere was having trouble locating them on a different computer. Thankfully, I didn’t have to redo the majority of my audio because that would have been terrible. So here’s some advice to you newbees out there: MAKE SURE YOU SAVE ALL YOUR VIDEO AND AUDIO FILES IN YOUR PERSONAL D:DRIVE FOLDER. It makes a big difference.
That being said, I loved this assignment and I will never get rid of this glorious piece of media that I have created. As soon as I get home for Thanksgiving, I am literally showing every person in my family how talented I am at making weird horror trailers from family movies. It’s a gift! This project was loads of fun and I hope future classmates will enjoy it as much as I did.
“From the Green Berets to America’s Army: Video Games as a Vehicle for Political Propoganda” from Williams, J.P., & Smith, J. H. (2007). The Player’s Realm: Studies on the Culture of Video Games and Gaming. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.
Chuck Klosterman (2012) “What’s Behind Room 237?” Grantland. October 17.
Bernard Dick “Film, Space and Mis-En-Scène” (2002) Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford / St. Martin’s.