As soon as I received the video project: trailer recut assignment, I began thinking about which film to use. I had done some video editing for other classes and enjoyed it greatly, so I was looking forward to starting this project. It didn’t take me long to decide upon the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Hughes, 1986). Not only is this one of my favorite comedy films of all time, but I also figured that it would be easy to edit into a thriller trailer because of its already creepy antagonist, Principal Ed Rooney.
The decision to make Rooney a psychotic killer who is determined to kill Ferris was merely an exaggeration of the film’s actual plot. I was inspired to create the story this way by Thomas Sobchack, a Professor Emeritus of Film Theory & Studies from the University of Utah, who explained that “the difference between our world and the world of genre film” is that characters in a genre film “can pinpoint the evil in their lives as resident in monster or villain” (Thomas 201). Using Sobchack’s advice, I tried to make my storyline as simplistic as possible, with Rooney being the only problem in a “world in which problems can be solved directly.”
My next step was to select a good soundtrack for my trailer. Remembering how important music was in transforming the genre of a film to a recut trailer, I spent a good amount of time on making this selection. I came across the Halloween II (Rosenthal, 1981) theme song and decided that it was appropriate for my trailer recut, because it was fast-paced, scary-sounding, and yet not too paranormal or other-worldly. Once this decision was made, I downloaded the song from YouTube with a converter website and inserted it into my trailer.
While I got the hang of editing video clips quickly, the process took a long time for me; I spent hours editing just a few seconds of video, because my shots were so quick. I did try to vary the shot length, though, because I remembered that Bernard Dick, Professor of Communication and English in the School of Art & Media Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University had written that the “best filmmakers vary rhythm-speed, movement, and pace” (Dick 81). This is why some shots, such as the opening shot with Sloane and Ferris, the sunglasses shot, and the doorbell ringing shot are slightly longer than the others.
A particular clip that I hesitated to insert into the video trailer was Rooney flipping his middle finger. While this gesture emphasizes Rooney’s hostile personality, it would normally be considered too explicit for a movie trailer that is to be viewed by a general audience. However, I ultimately decided to include this clip because of its semiotics. The flipping of the middle finger matches Marcel Danesi, Professor of Semiotics and Linguistic Anthropology at the University of Toronto’s definition of symbol: it is a sign that is “designed to encode a referent by convention or agreement” (Danesi 27). In this case, the sign is the finger and the referent is the obscenity. I was fascinated to realize that, because the middle finger is only offensive due to convention, it might not be considered offensive or even understood by international audiences.
One of the most challenging parts of this project, surprisingly, was using captions and clips to tell a story. I initially spent a lot of time arranging clips in a way that was visually appealing, but had too much montage and not enough organized narrative. If I were to do this project again, I would write or even draw out my storyboard and captions before sitting down at the computer to edit them.
Danesi, Marcel (2004) Messages, Signs and Meanings: A Basic Textbook in Semiotics and Communication. Studies in linguistic and cultural anthropology, volume 1. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Dick, Bernard F. Anatomy of Film. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1978. Print.
Sobchack, Thomas. “Genre Film: A Classical Experience.” Literature Film Quarterly 3.3 (1975): 196. Academic Search Complete.