Urban Cinefile
"I did two period pieces so it was like, 'When are you going to get out of the corsets?' and I was thinking 'I just got into them!' "  -actress Frances O'Connor on her first international roles
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday May 22, 2020 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



ANDREW L. URBAN bemoans the fact that we have to sit through all the cheesy sounding American trailers - often an offence to Australian ears, and often a disservice to the films they are flogging. We should have our own voices - and our own trailers.

I'm very lucky; I get to see lots of films - about 6 a week - but as I see them in preview theatres, I don't have to sit through all those cheesy, phoney, laughably plastic trailers they run in the cinemas for you guys. I only have to sit through a few. . .

What about having an Australian ear?

It amazes me how the general public has failed to revolt against the imported American trailers in the same way we revolted against imported American trash on television. We talk about telling stories with an Australian voice - what about having an Australian ear? An ear that is offended by the schmaltzy and the fake: you know those voices, everyone can mimic them, with their forced melodrama and guttural heaving, and about as realistic as a Barbie doll turning a trick.

And the vocals are not all that I find unbearable. Listen to the script! Aimed at an audience with the collective intelligence of a shoal of goldfish, the scripts are nothing more than harangues and howlers, often in the fake menace of a puppy on guard duty: "He came to forget! But he couldn’t forgive!" Or "Her shame was theirs! Her life was her own!" But they can even make a simple date sound (faux) sinister, like in End of Days (see at left). The voice guy notes the date: "December….31….1999….the end of the millennium…." Well, sorry, but it's not the end of the millennium and all the snarling in the world won't change that.

A tone of fatal self importance

The better trailers use actual dialogue from the film - better paid writers work on the screenplay, you see. But even then they can't resist dropping in a corny line. Any Given Sunday, for example, a movie about organised religion in America, called football. "Any Given Sunday . . . .a legend will fall!" says the gravelly-voiced guy who does all these trailers, in a tone of fatal self importance (see at left).

Considering the zeal with which I dislike imported trailers, it is appropriate that a Sydney based company called Zealot (offering marketing services to film distributors) shares my eye rolling attitude. I asked them to set down on paper (manner of speaking) some of their thoughts on the subject of trailers in general, including the aspect of trailers for Australian films:

There are some fabulous trailers coming out of America, which is hardly surprising considering what a studio might spend to make one of them. But there's no reason why we could not take one of these trailers and format it for Australian ears ­ using our voices in our accents to read the script. Despite the fact that we have excellent voices here, they are rarely desired for trailers as the notion is that American voiceover offers a solidity to the audience's perception that the film is desirable "quality entertainment".

The film industries of the US and the UK demand design specialists

The film industries of the US and the UK demand design specialists to produce trailers and print campaigns for marketing. There’s no reason why Australian filmmakers, distributors, sales agents and audiences cannot have access to equivalent design expertise for our own films – and for the foreign film campaigns adapted for release here. Our aim at Zealot is to create and sustain a tradition of design excellence in film marketing within Australia.

Audiences may be forgiven for thinking that there seems to be two schools of thought in trailer-making. One is to tell the whole story in about three minutes – the other is to suggest a feeling for the film through mood and tone in about ninety seconds or less. It’s either a "triumph of style over content" – or a "you’ll laugh…you’ll cry…and everything in between" approach. This facile trailer-making attitude is not one to encourage. Like every decision in trailer making, the best creative is based on the film’s market positioning to achieve its targeted demographic.

Australian trailers
A trailer is a distilled, concentrated and intense 90 second glimpse of something that is essentially two hours long. As a result expectations are that it will present and represent the film: the laughter, the tears, the highs, the lows.

The challenges for some Australian filmmakers are often the same challenges for their trailer makers. Lack of time and money to shoot the cut-aways, the close ups, the all important coverage that they want and know they need but can't afford. All the issues that affect the film while it’s being made eventually make their way to the trailer makers, and every other marketing service linked to the film.

So it’s no wonder that some Australian trailers are perceived as different from American trailers, even somehow lacking. What do we do? Throw up our hands in despair because we don't have the same money to allow the same production values?

Creative solutions.

It's a waste of time and frankly counter productive. We could whinge all day that our audio doesn't sound as rich in our trailers as Tom's does in Mission Impossible but his budget for orchestrating his trailer music alone was four times what our average trailer costs. It’s ideas that will make our trailers stand out. Creative solutions. Lateral solutions.

The best creative comes from putting on the design experts – specialists whose job it is to create something to stand out in a crowded marketplace and give an audience a compelling reason to go see the movie.

Film Marketing Campaigns
Why do we see American film marketing campaigns for studio films holus bolus here? No adapting accents, no adapting for cultural reasons?

The distributors comment on how lavish, superb and outstanding international film campaigns are in general – well, no surprises there. Studio films cost fortunes, so why wouldn’t studios wish to leverage their returns with stunning marketing campaigns they can supply to the whole of the world.

An imported campaign costs the Australian distributor a fraction of what it would cost to create an equivalent campaign for an Australian film from scratch. Without the benefit of this level of marketing spend no wonder some Australian films suffer in comparison.

Global product

To audiences, Australian films are simply a part of the global product that is on offer. There's no use saying we can't compete, we must if we want a place in the market. Studios might have the money but it doesn't cost anything to take some of their better attitudes and adapt them to our situation.

For example, thinking about marketing at pre production stage is a smart thing a producer can do and it won't cost them a red cent. An early unit marketing meeting can bed down principles for the campaign to flow through to all the marketing elements, including trailers.

Thank you Zealot: we're convinced. Let's hope the distributors and the local producers take heed.

Email this article

Examples of trailers:

End of Days
28k; 56k; 100k

28k; 56k; 100k


Trailers by Zealot:


28k; 56k; 100k

What Becomes of the Broken Hearted

28k; 56k; 100k

See our extensive TRAILER LIBRARY

and have your say on TRAILERS

Zealot's Helen Campbell & Shaun Farrington.

If you want to know more about Zealot, contact Rhys Kelly: rhys@zealot.com.au


In Sydney's Sun Herald one Sunday in January, 2000, Rob Lowing rated some movie trailers for their honesty in reflecting the film. A couple of weeks later, Lynden Barber in The Australian, tackled the poor and often misleading nature of many trailers - not always showing the film's better elements, even. This article sets out to explore another aspect: why we have to listen to these sometimes ghastly, hammy, cheesy voices when we can have home made trailers with an Australian accent - for all films.


© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020