Trailer cuts, sliced the way you want it

The film trailers I have watched span primarily action and drama movies, with the exception of one or two films. Action movie trailers generally have more scenes and quicker cuts than do drama and comedy movies, but even movie trailers within the action genre have some variance. I noticed that trailers for movies in last 10 years transition scenes much quicker than do films from longer ago in the same genre. A gangster film like Goodfellas took roughly twice as long in their scenes to transition than that of American Gangster, where the scene changed to the beat of the music. Marvel films like The Avengers cut exclusively to the downbeat of the music, giving me a pulsing, almost heart-rushing effect. Rock music has the effect of driving the trailer’s pace, whereas orchestral music in Goodfellas depends on visual cues and sound effects like gun shots to transition scenes.

In terms of length, The Breakfast Club had the shortest trailer at 1:35, while Forrest Gump had a 3:54 epic. Since I have seen both movies, I can attest to the fact that Forrest Gump contains vastly more material and settings than Breakfast Club, which is primarily set in one school. On average, trailers span about 2:10 for the average length. Dialogue becomes much more important in shorter trailers to explain the movie because the limited trailer time gives less room for scenes to explain the movie by themselves. The Breakfast Club is narrated throughout the trailer, while only the end of Forrest Gump has a narrator sum up the previous scenes in which the viewer is asked to see the world through Forrest’s eyes.

Title cards and typography became useful for movies with less narration, especially for a movie as disconnected as Pulp Fiction. With several A-list stars and multiple plotlines occurring, title cards explained the purpose of each character and scene by giving a single word to each part of the trailer. Words in bold red emphasized strong themes like “Loyalty.” Title cards were prominent in all three of the remix trailers, which depended on text rather than vocal narration to advance the trailer. With a remix trailer, it is likely too difficult to match existing lines in the movie to a re-edited sequence. Thus, the editor must rely on timed cuts and semiotics to cue the viewer that the scene changed.

Voiceovers are taken out of the original film and used in both normal and remixed trailers. They often overlay a video clip when the video clip attempts to add a particular meaning to the film. In the Forrest Gump remix trailer, many of the scenes contained overlayed voiceovers by Forrest which gave the video clip context. A narrator and title cards repeating themes like “gang life” or “opportunity” to better explain the trailer. With a more amateur trailer like that of The Notebook, title cards were used to explain the sequence of shots when voiceovers were not available. With a combination of sound cues, timed cuts, and title cards, movie trailers can be transformed into a new genre and done with relative success.

Trailers: The Avengers, Forrest Gump, Four Brothers, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, American Gangster, The Breakfast Club, Iron Man 3.

Recut trailers: Forrest Gump in the Hood (romantic comedy-drama film into gangster movie), WILLY WONKA (children’s movie into horror thriller),  The Notebook (romantic drama film into horror movie).

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