For my project I chose to use The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1994). I transformed the movie from a suspense/thriller into a feel-good sitcom. I was inspired to this by the recut trailer for The Walking Dead that we watched in class. I thought it would be really fun to put the movie to a catchy theme song and see how happy I could make the characters, who rarely smile in the movie, appear. Another reason I used this particular movie was that one of my friends had it on DVD, so I did not have to go borrow one from the library.
The Usual Suspects was interesting to work with because it is not necessarily a genre film, which is defined by Thomas Sobchack in his article “Genre Film: A Classical Experience” as having “the plot [is] fixed, the characters defined, the ending satisfyingly predictable” (196). The ending to the movie is not at all predictable, and one of the main characters is not defined until the last scene of the movie. Because of this, I became even more firmly convinced that a sitcom was the way to go for my recut trailer. The movie would not have fit well in any other movie genre than the one it was originally made for.
The ending of my trailer is an example of an establishing shot, which Bernard Dick defines in “Anatomy of Film” as a shot that establishes “the location so that the viewer knows where the action is taking place” (52). I chose this scene because it establishes the fact that the main characters are criminals, as they are all together in a police line-up. This is also a indexical signifier, which Danesi defines in “Messages, signs, and meanings” as “the sign is designed to indicate a referent or to put referents in relation to each other” (27). It is indexical because the room defines them as criminals in relation to the connotation of what the room is used for. I enjoyed playing with the video effects and transitions when I was putting all of the video clips together. I think that one of my favorite transitions that I used was an additive dissolve which I used to fade from the beginning title screen to the first scene. I paired this transition with a cross dissolve on the actual words of the title into the first scene. Another thing I did with transitions was using “dip-to-black’s” on transitions in my trailer that switched between characters. I feel that this worked very well and made the transitions smooth and not choppy and abrupt. Something I saw a lot when watching trailers for blog post #5 was that the audio was synchronized with transitions in the video. I liked this a lot when I saw the trailers I watched, so I decided to put this technique to use in my trailer. If you pay attention to it, you will find that almost every transition is synchronized with some part of the music. Some are less obvious than others, as some are paired with different parts of the music, and others are synchronized with the lyrics of the song. I feel like this technique worked well for my trailer because it enhances the transitions between the video clips I used.
One thing I struggled with in the creation of my trailer was its length. At one point, I thought I was finished with the content, which was great because it fit perfectly with the length of the song I used. I then remembered that I completely forgot to include one of the main characters. I then had to cut down the scenes I had in my trailer so far to make space for the new clips that I needed to put in. I also struggled with the audio itself. I downloaded the song off of YouTube and dragged it into my project. For some reason, every time I would change computers the song would not save and I would have to re-download the song again.
If I could give any advice to the future students of this class, it would be to start out watching the movie at least three times, and while doing that, write down what point in the movie the scenes are that you want to use. This way, when you sit down at a computer to do your project, it will not take you forever to find all of the scenes you want to use. Once you have all of those scenes, it really does not take that much time to put it all together. Another bit of advice would be to get as many people you can to watch your trailer and get their feedback, especially if they are in the class or have taken the class before. This feedback will allow you to gauge where you are in the project and give you more ideas about what you can do with your project.
Danesi, M. (2004). Messages, signs, and meanings: A basic textbook in semiotics and communication. Studies in linguistic and cultural anthropology, v. 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.