Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?


The Tunnel Trailer

Yes, it’s like REC. Get past that.

What I like about this trailer is that it doesn’t presuppose that “Gee, another movie where it’s about ‘found footage.'” Rather, the setup is that there’s a voiceover and footage from the period in question working in tandem instead of one or the other being the device that moves the plot forward. Further, we have interviews with the people we see on camera so it’s obvious that some have gotten past whatever happen to this group so there is already a presupposition of life after this event. And what happens is orchestrated pretty well with the ominous music that couches the entire thing as a news story that goes awry. That’s where the whole comparisons to REC can start, and I think that’s legitimate.

What filmmaker Carlo Ledesma has done is unique in this trailer in that he’s shown us the beginning and the end, we see the happy faces of those reporting on a story only to see them solemn and without expression in the post period, but not showing the middle. The Blair Witch Project was all about the end, why did they disappear, and REC, same thing, what happened was more important than the events leading up to the denouement. Nonetheless, the production values of seeing these rubes going into a tunnel to report on a story is impressive for a film that will soon be available not in a theater or even at your local video shop but will be released through torrents.

For a movie like this it’s obviously all about keeping things vague and fairly ambiguous, that is unless you’re a 100 million blockbuster in which case they’ll show you everything, but I genuinely like that we follow this news crew to the bottom of this vast network of abandoned pipes only to have things go south. The teaser tantalizes us a little with the screams of grown men, the sight of blood, the disorientation of the camera that shakes as they run without knowing where they’re going.

Who knows what is going after them is alien or man-made but what should be apparent is that there is a good level of curiosity that’s being generated for a movie no one’s ever heard of before now and one, that if you’re really attune to what they’re selling, won’t cost you anything more than time as an investment. For free, this is a teaser that sells itself. [Twitch]

From Bedrooms To Billions Trailer

Is that The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” playing in the background?

SIDEBAR: I’ve watched a number of independent filmmakers struggle to find something good to play in the background of their trailers but a lot of times it seems like something constructed in an afternoon straight out of GarageBand. Watching the opening to this trailer got me thinking about whether there are restrictions, rights considerations, monetary payments that have to be made, when you use a song in the promotion of something like this. I would love to be Mr. Know It All but if you have any insight as to whether you have to pay anyone off to use it or it’s fair use I would love it know.

Now, one of the fun things about this trailer that made me sit, wonder at it, was its copious use of file footage. Decades old video that looks like it was on a VHS somewhere on someone’s bookshelf next to their dog-eared copies of Dungeons and Dragons booster packs, this is fascinating from a historical point of view. There is a looking back feeling you get in your gut that nerds understand when it comes to knowing how markets have shifted since the 80’s through the 90’s and now today with regard to how big of an industry this is. Seeing these geeks in the nascent times declare, without question, that they know where this is all headed you realize how smart and visionary they actually were.

Marrying that with the unbelievably noticeable soundtrack and the interstitials that tell us exactly where the market is today and you’ve got yourself a nice mix. The images of kids playing in arcades from the 80’s, from watching old interviews with men who were postulating exactly where video games were going to take us in the upcoming years, it all snowballs nicely as the editing keeps things peppy and lively. Seeing clips from games of days past, the faces of the more successful magnates of this business, those who didn’t quite understand the needs of the public and were routed accordingly, it awakened the more nostalgic parts of my mind along with the insatiable need I have for interesting looking documentaries; like King of Kong, both things are at play once again.

This simply looks like a breezy peek at the video game industry, obviously nothing contained will incite a mass insurrection of anyone or anything, but it just looks interesting and sometimes that’s enough. The filmmakers listed on this project, Anthony Caulfield and Nicola Caulfield, are also currently in pre-production on another documentary that deals with video games: the hunt for the perfect game of Pac-Man. Maybe this is the warm-up, I don’t know, but this trailer does all it needs to in order to hook the demo it’s going after.

Hood To Coast Trailer

I just could not stop watching this trailer.

Ballasted by an editing style that makes things light and airy, what you have here shares something in common with the incredible 30 For 30 film series on ESPN. For the same reasons why you were sucked into movies about subjects you didn’t realize you were interested in, so too will you find yourself drawn in by what this presents before you.

Sure, judging by its title I thought that the feature length debut by Christoph Baaden and Marcie Hume was about taking inner city kids to the beach but this trailer minces no words and simply lets the players of this doc do the explaining. And they do, quickly. It sets up why a thick sounding taiko drum beats in the background with packs of yahoos all getting into a positivity circle to cheer and ultimately reveals that this is a monster of a foot race with people of varying degrees of insanity each looking at it differently.

Now, to those of you who classify exercise as a little daily dalliance with your Xbox’s Kinect system this film might not look appealing, doesn’t look interesting, and certainly doesn’t look like how you would want to spend an hour and half, seeing people in fairly good shape doing something physical, but this transcends superficiality. It’s craziness. We hear that these racers stay up for 36 hours in a foot race to go really, really far and it’s beyond my ken to understand what would make someone want to to do this.

What I like about the trailer is that figures out that not everyone wants to see healthy people jogging. I don’t. So what’s novel about this trailer is that it focuses on laypeople. Those who aren’t in great health, those who are doing this because their family wants to do it, the psychopaths who want to go balls out the entire time, and the one old lady who may or may not live to see the end of this. It’s the diversity that saves this trailer from obscurity.

Plus, seeing these people from the planning stages and then seeing them literally as rubber hits road is a nice touch. The wellspring of emotion that’s captured as these individuals push themselves on the road to the finish line is quite compelling and is the reason why, I think, it will appeal not to everyone but the right kind of everyone.

Bad Writing Trailer

I participated in National Novel Writing Month mere weeks ago. I had an idea for a second novel for years and never thought I could get it down on paper. I found NaNoWriMo and, within days, I threw myself into book number two. The goal was to hit 50,000 works, the length of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby”, and I’m pleased to say I finished. By November 30th I had 50,628 words. I was spent, overwhelmed, delighted that I had finished a book that intertwined the crash of American Airlines Flight 191, a dead wife, a single dad, and reality television but the question that I am sure many of us wonder after the proverbial dust settled on December 1st was this: Is my story any good? So, God love Vernon Lott and his huge balls to put himself in front of the firing squad of professionals.

Finally, a documentary that meditates on the idea of what makes the difference between those who are good at what they do in the realm of writing and those who simply are not. Let me qualify that statement: it doesn’t mean that this is a hatchet job that will hack at the hacks but, rather, this trailer wants to soften a tough blow when it comes to the creative process, when it comes to writing.

There’s something that happens when we start with listening to the musings of our protagonist, a man who would be king of poetry. A man who looks like he’s completely indie in every way with his musings that are filmed against a man visibly looking to create something unique. You feel this sense of embarrassment for the man, a sense of superiority, as we know that since this a movie called Bad Writing, surely this bad. Of course it’s bad but then the transition happens.

It’s our man Vernon, the director of the film, in front of the camera as he navigates an intercom system. The operatic jingle which has been used in many a comedic situation starts to play in the background, the musical cue so clutch at this moment as we move from hopeful writer to hapless interviewer. Writer Steve Almond strikes first with talking about what it means to be a writer and how it isn’t predicated on being a prodigy, tacitly refuting any notion of that and that this is a  that it is a learned talent that can be taught and fostered. The trailer just takes off, straight up, from here.

Vernon busts out his poetic scribblings to be quickly assessed by some of the best contemporary writers producing work today. It’s not the judgment that Lott’s work is not very good, it is not, but it’s the commentary by these writers to assess themselves and pontificate on what good writing is, what it ought to do. It’s thrilling and frightening at the same time for those of us who would like to think we’re pretty good at stringing together nouns and verbs and that we deserve the right to call ourselves writers should someone at a dinner party ask us what we do. It had to be utterly horrifying for Lott to sit there and have his work snickered at, not in a mean way but in a way that shows you that we all might have to reveal ourselves at, well, not being very good at all of this. Once you accept that you may not be a very good writer I would have to assume that it does something foul to the artistic sensibilities you once thought you possessed.

I’m not kidding when I think this is the scariest trailer I’ve seen all week. Writers have been putting their souls on paper, forever entombing our idiocy or brilliance since some Egyptians thought it best to beat a papyrus plant, and it’s a documentary like this that is unsettling in a way. It lays bare our own limitations as artists as you hope you’re not the one with the most limitations.

Thought Of You Trailer

I’m not only a huge fan of The Weepies but I am an even bigger fan of animation like Fantasia that sought not to create a clever story with quips spoken out of the mouth of a mouse but rather to make something poetic in a way. To transcend normal storytelling and, literally, let the animation communicate something without ever saying a word.

Animator and director Ryan Woodward has made something, I think, which is simply exquisite. He takes something so simple as two animated characters sharing a dance and he takes it to another level. It’s dynamic in the way he uses effects to communicate not to us but to these beings we see before us. I don’t believe that what he wants us to admire is his technique, which itself is undeniably sharp and skilled, as I think he just wants us to watch this, to just soak in what’s happening on the screen.

Much like Fantasia, we’re seeing something set to music and the two elements, the action and the rhythm of the piece, act as one. I don’t mean to be all hoity about it but there’s no other way to describe what is on the screen. The styles he mixes in to create a moment, add some atmosphere, is more emotionally true than so many other live action set pieces that simply can’t get honesty out of their participants I’ve seen this year. The world of animation needs a guy like this putting ink to paper and while he doesn’t need any help from me getting attention, just check out the guy’s resume, you can see why he’s gainfully employed.

Always nice to be able and stumble across these kinds of things once in a while. Beauty in motion. [Twitch]

Note bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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