Why Can’t We Be Friends?

The Video Trailer Remix Project was definitely one of the more entertaining projects I have completed during my time at Trinity. It gave me an opportunity to take a horror film, The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008), and transform it into a heartwarming film about friendship. In the process, I learned a significant amount about how music, lighting, and transitions can frame the theme of a movie. The project also taught me how many subtle details of film that we, as viewers, take for granted.

The Bernard Dick reading provided excellent examples of how film, space, and image are connected (Hence the title). The opening sequence of my trailer makes use of tight framing, which Dick says is used “to create an atmosphere of fatalism” (6). In the film, the clip uses tight framing of one of the stranger’s faces to demonstrate fatalism, which is the eventual death of the protagonists after being subjected to the taunts and harassment of the strangers. In my remixed clip, the music combines with the captions to demonstrate a different fatalistic conclusion, in which the ending is happy in that the stranger will become friends with the protagonists instead.

Additionally, both the movie and my remixed trailer demonstrate the denotative and connotative power of signifiers. My trailer uses the mask that the strangers wear to denote loneliness or fear of other people, as the strangers have to hide behind their masks. According to the Danesi reading, the mask could be viewed as a symbolic signifier because it stands for the loneliness and the need to compensate for this feeling by wearing a mask, or hiding from society. Through editing, my trailer uses this to provide the film with a new story. The film is given a completely new representation, as the strangers are now seen as more “vulnerable” characters in need of friendship, instead of ruthless and unidentified killers.

See, look at how innocent this maniac looks...more “vulnerable” characters in need of friendship, instead of ruthless, unidentified killers.

As stated earlier, the sequence and clips chosen could not have portrayed a light-hearted movie if it weren’t for the music selected as background audio. The song, We’re Going To Be Friends, by the White Stripes was chosen because it provides both light tones and lyrical sustenance to bolster the trailer. The music was necessary because the Sobchack reading, Genre film: A classical experience, pointed out that “any particular film of any definable group is only recognizable as part of that group if it is, in fact, an imitation of that which came before … consciously or unconsciously, both the genre filmmaker and the genre audience are aware of the prior films” (196-197). This is significant because The Strangers is a classic horror film. The inherent lighting, techniques, lack of significant dialogue, music, and other horror signifiers combine to provide all of the motifs that classify the film’s genre as “horror.” Motifs, like stereotypes, are hard to overcome. To achieve this, the music combined with the limited shots that were available to deliver a remixed sequence that represents a completely different genre of film. The music is key because it provides the most powerful signifier, in my opinion, to a lighter hearted genre. Honestly, it is so backwards that it makes me laugh, but hey, that’s the point of the project.

The final two clips of the remixed trailer provide a solid ending to the sequence, as they were edited to make the strangers seem harmless and reaching out for friendship. It was difficult to find a proper order at first, because the strangers are creepily stalking the protagonists to kill them in reality, but in the conclusion of the trailer it appears as if they are making the final leap for friendship. Without this final sequence, and certain captions, it might still seem as if the strangers were psycho killers as the Talking Heads might say. This technique was as successful as it could be, in my opinion, because only so much can be done to completely reverse the roles of the strangers.

After having my inbox clogged with messages from the class email list, I guess I was probably the only person not to have any sound problems with this project (fingers crossed). The most frustrating and difficult part of this project was the lack of useful dialogue, mood, and lighting that could be used to make a seriously screwed up movie like, The Strangers, appear so innocent and fun. To conquer this problem, basically the epitome of the project, I conquered the problem head on in a Shapiro-like manner, by throwing cow dung on more cow dung to completely reinvent the theme. I used a very easy-going, innocent and light-hearted song as the backdrop and surrendered the use of any meaningful dialogue. Instead, I chose to use captions and titles to convey the messages that music could not. My advice to future students is to simply have fun with this project. If you encounter problems, don’t view them as insurmountable roadblocks; rather, view them as opportunities to use the powers of symbolism, genre and motif against themselves. Oh, and also to save your project many times under different names because it sucks to have to start over after significant work is done…woops.

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