Editorials,  Movies/Entertainment

The Trailer Industry: The Contemporary ‘Pied Piper’

As anyone who sits in a theater watches a 2:30 trailer before their movie starts can attest to, the Trailer Industry is nothing short of pure magic.  It can simultaneously whip an unsuspecting crowd into a frenzy, or repel even the most patient and trustworthy fan of any genre or series.  Whether or not its a predictable trailer or something new, for that small duration of time even lamest film imaginable could be spun to look like the second coming of Christ, or vice-versa.  Sometimes after seeing a crappy movie which looked good in the trailer, I have to ask myself, “Did it happen again?  Did I just get led to the ocean and drown, again?  I heard music, it sounded nice and I followed.”  Well, sure enough I did.  Then, months later, I see another trailer that I assume will be for a sensational film and, like a rat hitting a feeder bar, I go get my ticket, go in the theater, then find myself drowned in disappointment.  Vicious cycle.

I don’t know why I capitalized ‘trailer industry’ when I wrote it above but sometimes putting the first initials in caps, I think, lends credibility to any product they produce (kind of like speaking in a British accent).  To me, they seem like low rent magicians who sometimes get it right and pull and rabbit out of their hat which ultimately surprises the audience.  How they do what they do just mystifies me.  But when they whip me into a frenzy, I stand up and cheer and forgive the “hack” for all previous lame tricks.

A frenzy can be good at times, a frenzy can work in favor of even the worst film on the planet.  What a frenzy cannot do, is maintain itself.  Frenzies are, after all, very short busts of emotion or energy.  Hollywood is also a mystery to me.  They create a movie and sometimes it can be as long as 3 years before it ever gets released.  Remember Hard Rain and Revolver?  Whatever length of time occurs between the phrases “That’s a wrap” and “Opening Night” people will undoubtedly lose interest.  The longer the wait, the longer you have to be reminded to get ready for it.  One thing I’m really tired of  is all this build up over a year in advance and then there’s all this advertising which is run ad-nausem until the hour the film opens.

I get disappointed when I hear about a movie, then 18 months go by without a word.  Then 6 months prior, you get nothing but the same, trailers and 30 second TV spots.  These clips get so ingrained in my head, that by the time the movie gets here, my experience is not one of wonder, but immediate knee jerk mentality or spider sense that tells me when the scene from the trailer ia about to occur on screen and I actually say to myself “That was in the trailer”, or “I knew that line was coming”.  Sort of a somber countdown to the last few remaining unfamiliar moments before you recollect the next 5 second sequence from the commercial.  OK, maybe I’m the only one that happens to but either way, I think the trailer and all the hype kills many of my movie experiences.  You visit the websites that keep a countdown clock until the opening weekend, which, among all the other ads, causes you to keep an increasingly hype-hungry vigil.  Then by the time you see the movie, when it’s over you stand outside the theater and you go, “well, that wasn’t the coming of Christ I built it was built up to be…what do I devote my time to now?“.  Maybe I can be less excited about it an advance so I’m less disappointed at the end but hey, I’m a fan and that’s what fans do right?…they get excited.

Basically, what I’m trying to say here is, if you give it all away up front, people get bored and your interest is severely dissipated.  You hold out until the end and you will get a frenzy that takes you all the way to opening night.  I don’t mean a mob of rabid fans mind you, but people eager to see something they probably didn’t know about and get them in a little more of a hurry to see it.  Kind of a tag line like “see it now” or” before it’s gone” and definitely before you have hear “out today, own it now“.  Most movies are forgettable and disposable entertainment.  You’ve got to motivate people and get them excited in a short amount of time, since our attention spans are just as short.  It CANNOT be like an election – campaigning and advertising for 2 years only to get bored half way through and be (in most cases after all that build-up) disappointed at the end.

So back to the point here, forget the issue of a movie not living up to the hype (that’s really subjective based on the viewer), it’s more frustrating when you waited for a movie that was so misrepresented or crappy because after seeing trailer, you were sure you this movie looked like a sure fire winner.  It’s the same as being lied to when you get to the theater and are disappointed because the trailer cherry picked the best parts to advertise.  That’s just demeaning to potential fans.  When a trailer looks cool, and the movie is crap, it is a disappointment.  Someone somewhere attempted to salvage the best parts of a crappy movie long enough to fool us into thinking it’s good and after we paid our ticket money, finding out we got swindled.  But maybe some (well, most) of my dissatisfaction should fall on the studio for green-lighting and completing production on a train wreck of a film.  It’s so easy to point a finger at the trailer.  But since they are representing what the studio is trying to sell us, maybe we should just be able to read between the lines when seeing a trailer and realize when the studio is trying to sell us crap.  Being end users and consumers, we have enormous power if we choose not to see something.

Trailers can be formulaic, and because of that, problematic.  If the trailer looks thin (or conversely full of explosions or cliche phrases) then the movie might have some pretty big faults.  Showing the same types of cuts or sequences for movies year after year, you can kind of anticipate what movies will sink and which will soar, but I still don’t have fool proof method of avoiding all cinematic disappointment but I’m getting better.  But I’ll ask you, who should we point a finger at if a movie is terrible and we were mislead by the trailer?  The studio for making the movie, or the trailer editors for selling us a lemon?  It’s a tough call in my opinion.