Friday, January 21, 2011

something for everyone

major films tend to have more than one trailer.

there's usually a teaser that comes out many months--or even years--before the movie's release date. then there's the first trailer, which follows the film's general marketing plan, and oftentimes takes a few risks. this is followed by a second trailer that's usually more tame, adhering to the typical trailer structure, and often targets new viewers--whereas the first trailer was mainly speaking to the movie's predicted audience base. finally, there's international trailers, home video trailers, TV spots, and more. as you can see, this whole marketing thing can be a pretty timely and expensive process.

let's use Battle: Los Angeles as an example of an elaborate marketing plan. here is the original trailer:

not the trailer you'd expect for a huge film about aliens coming to destroy our planet, is it? the music is soft, offbeat, nuanced, at odds with the pictures onscreen. there's no dialogue, just a deluge of cards. they decided to take a risk by doing the unexpected--selling this not as just an action flick, but as something artsy and profound.

now check out trailer #2:

in contrast to the previous spot, this trailer has dialogue set to music that's driving and matches the images onscreen. the whole thing feels like a traditional action film trailer. it functions as a complementary piece to the original, showing moviegoers a different side of the same film.

as with movies like Watchmen, Benjamin Button, and countless other major motion pictures, the first trailer is silent, quirky, artistic--but it's followed up by a second one that focuses more on story and uses a 3-4 act structure.

Battle: Los Angeles's second trailer actually tries to marry both approaches by using the song from the first trailer in the final act of its second trailer. to me this feels a little jarring--if they've already gone 3/4 of the way with a straightforward action spot, they might as well finish it off that way. but from a branding point of view, this is an attempt at linking both spots and making them feel cohesive.

finally, there's the international trailer:

international trailers are a completely different animal. they don't follow MPAA guidelines, they're crafted to be more straightforward and therefore more easily translatable, and they're immune to any and all kinds of American colloquialisms.

note that this trailer has no greenband at the head. that's because the MPAA solely rates films and trailers for American audiences. usually when my company is hired to create international previews, we're encouraged to show more skin and use stronger language than what the MPAA allows. that's because those things tend to be selling points for a film.

if you look back at domestic trailers one and two, you'll notice they're more card-heavy. but the international spot uses a voiceover. why? because it's easier to slap on simple subtitles than it is to hire a design team to re-create their motion graphics in multiple languages. (and cheaper.)

you also can't use cliches, sayings or any kind of American idioms in international trailers. for example, "step on a crack, break your mother's back" doesn't exactly translate to a foreign audience. so a play on words wouldn't work here.

it's also interesting to notice the creative approach they took in this trailer as opposed to the domestic ones. the international preview feels more like a documentary, citing a string of alien sightings from around the world, and culminating in the attack on Los Angeles. the whole thing almost feels like a news reel from the mid-1900s, when people went to theaters to get the news from abroad, which updated them on wars and foreign affairs.

i'll leave the discussion on home video trailers and TV spots for another post.

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