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Critique Please - Spec Trailer

Posted by Greaser 
Critique Please - Spec Trailer
January 19, 2011 01:27PM
I was hoping to get a critique on my first spec trailer. Took about 2 weeks time. How long would one normally get? I still have not seen the original trailer as I'm afraid that it would influence my thoughts.

I stripped the music track from the opening scene as it was imbedded and then added the same music from the soundtrack, yet allowed it to extend for the length of the trailer. I am aware that at times/scenes other music can be heard. I had no way of stripping that off without messing up the dialogue since no 5.1 was available.

Office appropriate IMO.

MPEG-4 800Kbps Streaming.mp4
4mb @ 47sec
Progressive

h**p://web.me.com/boxturner/MyTrailers/AHX.html
Please replace asterisks with tt.

User: trailer
pass: test0111

Please tell me what you think.
Thanks,
Tony
Re: Critique Please - Spec Trailer
January 19, 2011 02:16PM
There are some promising ideas in there, but I don't think you're home yet.

You need to put on more of a writing hat. You've got some inklings of rhythm in there, but you're not contextualizing them very well, so a lot of it comes off as melodramatic rather than dramatic.

- You edited with a natural "pillarboxing" on your image. Bad idea. Looks to me like you used a pan-and-scan (4:3) image of the film as your basis? You couldn't find a widescreen version? Even if it's 4:3, why didn't you edit in a 4:3 timeline? Those black bars around your entire image really do a whopper on your tone. It feels like a web piece, rather than a cinematic trailer. It would also be considered a substantial mistake for a web-bound media file.
- Good choice of opening image, as well as using it as a structural motif. The music seems melodramatic to me, but I don't think that's the disease; it's a symptom of something else (more on this later).
- I see very little logic in which dialogue was selected for the trailer, which shots are chosen for these lines, and how they're edited together. Which tells me you have a writing problem. Your opening image told me everything about your trailer: It's about neo-Nazis, neo-Nazis, neo-Nazis. After that, where do you go? That shot of him with the tattoo already told me everything about the trailer, and the rest of the trailer didn't offer me anything new. Is it a drama? Action film? Romance, even?
- Very weak choice to use almost exclusively talking-head, TV-style ECUs for a huge string of images. Your opening grabbed me immediately, and then it's an immediate let-down. The lines don't resonate because I don't know who the character is; all he is, is an abstract idea. You have to build up the humanity of the story before something like the "you came out of my body" line would mean anything. Right now, the line sounds like a bad indie movie, because we're not positioned to accept it yet.
- Did you beatsheet this thing? I think it would have helped. For example, you have all those inserts of neo-Nazi activity near the end. I would have put those in the beginning. Make the first beat ("pod", as I was taught by a trailer producer) about neo-Nazism. That's fine -- but put them together. Move those shots of the "White Power" tattoo and the violent images into the first beat. Then your second beat needs to start getting into, what kind of a film is it? Just saying "it's a neo-Nazi" film isn't enough. How is it different from a documentary? An action film? For that matter, who's in the film? What's the name of the lead character? Who
is the lead character? Aside from the abstract "turning" shot, the only shot you have of your protagonist is in the very beginning, in the scene with the (Jewish?) guy in a suit. It really makes it hard to follow the action, because you have no point of view. How does the girl with the nose ring (Fairuza Balk) relate to the story?

A cut like this looks like a first cut. Two weeks is a long time to spend to come up with this. But, I remember your older posts about how you're just starting out, so that's fine. Don't worry about speed yet, because you will not get fast until you get experienced. Focus on logic, storytelling, confidence, conviction, and especially shot choice. You can afford to be a bit slow when you start out, but if you're not good, nobody cares how fast you are.


www.derekmok.com
Re: Critique Please - Spec Trailer
January 19, 2011 06:12PM
Derek,
Thanks for the critique, it really helps.

I first brought all the scenes into FCP then moved them and cut them accordingly, to where I thought was right. I didn't have anyone to bounce ideas off, so I guess tunnel vision set in. I believe I limited my scenes down too soon. Once they were set I started playing with the audio track and that only further stifled my creativity. I felt boxed in after a while.


> You need to put on more of a writing hat. You've
> got some inklings of rhythm in there, but you're
> not contextualizing them very well, so a lot of it
> comes off as melodramatic rather than dramatic.

I do see your point, the scenes taken out of context makes it look a bit melodramatic. I assume this will be ironed out when I tell more of what the story's about, so when they do come up viewers will know why and feel more from the character. The biggest thought on my mind while working on this was "don't give the whole story away", "don't give the whole story away". How can I tell more about the story without crossing that line? I also didn't want people to know that he was reformed, just show the ugliness of Neo-nazism and how it's roll negatively impacted the lives of people around him wether they supported him or not.

> - You edited with a natural "pillarboxing" on your
> image. Bad idea. Looks to me like you used a
> pan-and-scan (4:3) image of the film as your
> basis? You couldn't find a widescreen version?
> Even if it's 4:3, why didn't you edit in a 4:3
> timeline?

It was taken from the widescreen version. I'm not sure where I messed this up. I view this in FCP and it looks fine, goes wide and to the edges of the frame, but details show it as 640 x 480. Can I do something about this now without distorting the image?

> - Good choice of opening image, as well as using
> it as a structural motif.

Should I do this again in my redo, throughout the length of the trailer?

>The music seems
> melodramatic to me, but I don't think that's the
> disease; it's a symptom of something else (more on
> this later).

Not being familiar with what's available and what would be appropriate is my fault. I'll also admit that I tool the easy way out and used what was in the movie, seemed dramatic to me. I do belong to APM and should just spend a day seeing what would fit better.

> - I see very little logic in which dialogue was
> selected for the trailer, which shots are chosen
> for these lines, and how they're edited together.
> Which tells me you have a writing problem. Your
> opening image told me everything about your
> trailer: It's about neo-Nazis, neo-Nazis,
> neo-Nazis. After that, where do you go? That
> shot of him with the tattoo already told me
> everything about the trailer, and the rest of the
> trailer didn't offer me anything new. Is it a
> drama? Action film? Romance, even?

Again, I assume this will come across better when more details are added.

> - Very weak choice to use almost exclusively
> talking-head, TV-style ECUs for a huge string of
> images.

More wide, dramatic shots?

>Your opening grabbed me immediately, and
> then it's an immediate let-down. The lines don't
> resonate because I don't know who the character
> is; all he is, is an abstract idea.
>You have to
> build up the humanity of the story before
> something like the "you came out of my body" line
> would mean anything. Right now, the line sounds
> like a bad indie movie, because we're not
> positioned to accept it yet.

More development. Got it.

> - Did you beatsheet this thing?

Not how you describe below.


> I think it would
> have helped. For example, you have all those
> inserts of neo-Nazi activity near the end. I
> would have put those in the beginning. Make the
> first beat ("pod", as I was taught by a trailer
> producer) about neo-Nazism. That's fine -- but
> put them together. Move those shots of the "White
> Power" tattoo and the violent images into the
> first beat.

Got it.

> Then your second beat needs to start
> getting into, what kind of a film is it? Just
> saying "it's a neo-Nazi" film isn't enough. How
> is it different from a documentary? An action
> film?

What's the most effective way to get this across?

> For that matter, who's in the film? What's
> the name of the lead character? Who
> is the lead character?

I have just the scene for this and had considered it for a while. After I boxed myself in I no longer had room for it.


> Aside from the abstract
> "turning" shot, the only shot you have of your
> protagonist is in the very beginning, in the scene
> with the (Jewish?) guy in a suit. It really makes
> it hard to follow the action, because you have no
> point of view.

Perfect. Got it.


> Focus on logic,
> storytelling, confidence, conviction, and
> especially shot choice.

That helps a lot. Can't thank you enough.

I'm sure I'll have more questions during round two.

Tony
Re: Critique Please - Spec Trailer
January 19, 2011 06:43PM
> I believe I limited my scenes down too soon.

Yes and no. I think that is what happened, but I think that's just a symptom. You must have watched the movie before cutting the trailer, right? (I actually haven't seen it, so I'm actually watching this with a clean slate) You need to figure out what the hook of the movie is. I just had to cut a 10-minute version of a feature I edited (but isn't done shooting). At one stage, I found it useful to apply the most bone-headed maxim: Which scenes are our best scenes? Which scenes show the actors in the best light?

For example, that scene with the mother could have played well. But you chopped out so much of it that it didn't mean anything to me. You only picked one close-up, depriving us of the tools we need to actually absorb the scene.

> The biggest thought on my mind while working on this was "don't give the whole story away",
> "don't give the whole story away".

That's true. But "he's a neo-Nazi" doesn't tell us enough to make us care. He needs character. What is there about him that makes us go "he's not just another neo-Nazi"?

If we start getting interested about a character, you're 60 per cent there. Trailers aren't supposed to tell the story of the film. It's supposed to give us enough of a taste of the film's character and content that we'd want to find out the rest.

> just show the ugliness of Neo-nazism and how it's roll [sic] negatively impacted the lives of
> people around him wether they supported him or not.

Well, then it's a propaganda infomercial. Also, we didn't even get that message from the trailer. "Neo-Nazis hurt people" will automatically ellicit the following response from most viewers: "Yeah, we know, so what?" A "message" isn't enough. You have to give us drama. He has to have personality. Not having seen the film, I don't know for sure, but it sounds to me like you should put the fact that he's been reformed up front. The true conflict sounds to me like a man who's changed, but his past will not forgive him, and he has to win back the people around him.

> Should I do this again in my redo, throughout the length of the trailer?

Don't know. But don't ever, ever fall in love with a technique. Technique unsupported by content is just empty flash. You have to decide what you want to say, how best to get the audience. Then figure out how to convey that with techniques. There probably is a way to keep your idea of opening on the single shot. But don't get your priorities backwards. Producers notice very quickly when editors get attached to certain motifs and ideas and refuse to change them even when the entire script has metamorphosed.

Make sure your desire to keep the technique is linked to a narrative and emotional reason. For example, I would say that the opening shot is his neo-Nazist tendencies distilled into its purest form. So, juxtapose it with his desire to leave it behind. Or, use the black areas around it to superimpose the violent images that haunt him.

> More wide, dramatic shots?

For one thing, pick the really good bits. This is a spec trailer, let it run longer -- two minutes isn't unreasonable if you have good material for it. It's different from cutting an actual trailer. You're trying to show off editing.

Then, even with the really good bits of dialogue, we won't get it unless we know what the dialogue means in a dramatic context, and right now I have no idea except for the first one when he points to the swastika on his chest.

> What's the most effective way to get this across?

Content. Show us more of the film, and don't always chop it to bits. Trying to force a loud, fast, montage-only style onto a drama film will only make the trailer look amateurish. Not everything can be cut into that fast sizzle style.


www.derekmok.com
Re: Critique Please - Spec Trailer
January 20, 2011 05:02PM
My 2 cents:

A critique is an opinion. It is not instructions on how to change your project. Some of my observations:

It didn't make sense to me - visually or story-wise. I didn't understand the edit selections. It didn't tell me anything. It didn't generate any interest. Dead title at the end. Images didn't fill screen - why?

SUGGESTION: Watch a ton of trailers here and pick the ones that make you FEEL SOMETHING and watch them over and over. What is it about them that moves you? Take notes.

When life gives you dilemmas...make dilemmanade.

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