TRAILERS - WE WANT OUR OWN
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE CHEESY
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
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
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.
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?
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
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
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,
Thank you Zealot: we're convinced. Let's hope the distributors
and the local producers take heed.