It’s complicated in more ways than one…

I was very scared going into this project because I have never done any type of movie or clip editing before this project. I was expecting a long, complicated process that would take days to figure out. Surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. After I went to the training classes, I realized it is not hard to get the hang of. Although I wouldn’t call the process easy or quick, it was very doable and followed a logical process. For my trailer, I decided to take the romantic comedy It’s Complicated (Nancy Meyers, 2009), and turn it into a suspenseful thriller. I took the fun and loving relationship between Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) and turned Jake into a stalker. He can’t take no for an answer when Jane breaks up with him and proceeds to follow her, eventually trying to hurt her. It was definitely difficult to create such a dramatic change in the relationship. To see the original storyline, you can watch the original trailer on Youtube. 

One of the first things I had to concentrate on was to change the genre of the movie. It’s Complicated is in the genre of romantic comedy, but I wanted to change it to a suspenseful and scary thriller. In order to change the genre, I had to manipulate some of the signifiers in the movie. In Marcel Danesi’s Messages, signs, and meanings: A basic textbook in semiotics and communication he states, “A sign is anything-a color, a gesture, a wink, an object, a mathematical equation, etc.-that stands for something (4).” Therefore, I took some of the signifiers, such as meaningful glances that Jack makes to Jane that would normally signify love, and changed them to signify jealousy and rage. It was surprisingly easy to do this; I simply had to manipulate the clip a little. I better understood Chuck Klosterman’s argument on manipulation in his book “Eating the Dinosaur” by doing this project. Klosterman argues that by simply putting a laugh track into many shows, the audience is manipulated into thinking that what they are seeing is (164.) By simply changing the background music to an eerie and suspenseful tone, I was able to manipulate the audience into thinking what they were seeing is scary, when really they were watching a man lovingly look at his ex-wife.

In Chuck Klosterman’s “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”, he discusses that “The main problem with mass media is that it makes it impossible to fall in love with any acumen of normalcy (4).” I completely agree with Klosterman after doing this project. I was able to take a typical Hollywood love story that most people would hold up to high standards and change it into a horror story. It shows how easily movies can be changed and how fake they are. And when we try and mirror our own lives off of something that is so fake, our lives tend to become fake as well. This is supported in Steven Shaviro’s book “Doom Patrols” in his chapter titled “Walt Disney”. He argues that our lives are just as fake as Disneyworld, because our desires and motives in life are based off of artificial realities and materials; we have become an artificial society (6). The easy manipulation of a movie trailer reflects how easily we can be manipulated in our lives.

One of the biggest things I focused on during this project was making sure my revision of the genre of the movie still made sense. It’s not enough to simply change it. Therefore, I had to explain why Jane would let a potentially dangerous man into her life. To do this, I showed clips of her life before Jack where she is lonely and her family is leaving her. These help explain the gaps in her life. Once I had the foundation of the plot laid, I moved on into the actual suspenseful part of the trailer. In order to separate the different phases of Jane’s life, I used different types of music. In the beginning, the music is happy and light to show that she has a fairly normal life, one without much drama or fear. However, once Jack starts to stalk her, the music dramatically changes and signifies that something bad is going on.  I relied heavily on music to reflect the mood of the clip. I used audio effects in between the change in songs so that the transition was smooth; each song faded into the next. I decided to keep some of the original soundtrack because I felt it helped represent the story well. It made the trailer really flow. By combing a trailer soundtrack and audio from the actual movie, I was hoping to achieve a more professional look. I also used text slides so that the audience knew exactly what was going on. To be honest, I knew the clips alone could not support themselves. The story still needed some explanation. However, I didn’t want the audience to be held down reading text. I wanted a fast paced trailer. Therefore, I relied on the clips to mainly tell the story, and the text as back up.

In addition, I made my trailer a montage. According to Bernard Dick’s Anatomy of a Film, a montage is “a series of shots arranged in a particular order for a particular person (64).” I wanted to use a montage so that I could show the passage of time and condense many events into a short trailer. I knew this type of editing would get the audience more intrigued. I also tried to use Eisenstein’s Theory of Montage from Bernard Dick’s book to manipulate the audience into what they were seeing. I would cut and combine two clips and put them together to create a larger meaning. For instance, I combined a clip of Jane’s daughter asking if her mother is scared to sleep alone in the house with a clip of Jack peering in the window to create the effect that he is stalking her. However, the daughter is really asking the mother if she is scared to sleep alone because she knows that Jane is lonely by herself. I used a slow motion effect in the end to create a more dramatic and over-the-top tone. I also used different kinds of clips in the montage. Some were fast-paced to relate to the thriller and suspense side of the movie. Short clips of Jake stalking her and being creepy add to the scary aspect of the trailer. I used longer clips to show Jane’s actual life. These longer clips are designed to help develop the story and make sure the message is clear; they explain what the movie is about.

Compared to many other people in the class, I didn’t have too many problems while doing this project. I would have to say the biggest problem I had was uploading it. First, my file was too big to upload it to the class site. Then when I tried to upload it to the shared server, the last 8 seconds of the clip kept getting cut off. After a long trial and error process and messing with the features on the export menu, I was eventually able to upload the whole thing. Another problem I had which was fairly unexpected is that I couldn’t find good music. I knew that music is an important signifier and would help set the tone for my entire trailer. I spent quite a bit of time trying to find good music that supported the message I was portraying. I fixed this problem by trying many different songs, and seeing which ones fit the best with the clips. I also had a problem with putting text over a clip instead of just making it a separate slide. However, after playing with the text features for a while, I learned that the text simply needs to go on the level above the clip. But I know I was very lucky in this project. Compared to other people, my problems were very minor.  I would recommend that students start early on this project. The first thing I would do is create a trial video and practice with slide and audio transitions, and also mess with the audio. Although I practiced a little bit before, it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know all the cool things I could do to make the trailer look better. If I had had more experience with Premiere, my trailer would probably look a lot more professional. Although this project was somewhat stressful and took a lot of time, I really did enjoy it and hope to do something like it similar in the future.



About bsmith8

I'm a freshman at Trinity University from Austin, Texas.
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