Prior to this assignment, I had never worked with any video editing software. At first, I was feeling extremely overwhelmed and inexperienced. However, as I spent more and more time with it, I began to really enjoy the whole process. It is tedious, time-consuming and incredibly frustrating at times, but, the finished product is rewarding. I chose to remix Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997) into a thriller. The original trailer can be seen here.
I re-arranged clips from this movie to completely alter the perceived genre of a feel-good drama. According to Thomas Subchack, a genre film relies on “preordained forms, known plots, recognizable characters and obvious iconographies.” In Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon is the troubled main character who eventually finds his direction in life with the help of a psychologist (Robin Williams). This predictable storyline has appeared time and time again in various drama films. There are no identifiable protagonists and antagonists, as the main character is usually struggling with their own demons. So, one crucial element that I had to alter was the lack of a bad guy. I turned Matt Damon’s character, Will Hunting, into a psychological killer. To make this more apparent, I applied my knowledge of certain cinematic techniques. Throughout my trailer, I chose several close-up shots of Damon’s face. As Bernard Dick points out, “a close-up can reveal a particular emotion…” such as rage and terror. I collected a series of close-ups that could easily indicate the wrath of killer or just sheer madness. These expressions can also be identified as signs. As Danesi says, “A sign is anything…that stands for something other than itself.” Bulging eyes and fists flying in the air connote fear and anger. Without words, these visual signs are the audience’s only clue to what’s going on. I also chose clips that made the other characters appear as victims. In the beginning of the trailer, the clips of Minnie Driver show her happy and in love. The shift in tone can be seen in the following clips of her crying and in despair. Similarly, I chose a clip of the psychologist with a scared, intense look on his face to promote this fear of Damon.
Another element of cinematic technique that I applied was transitions. I had a lot of fun with this because I needed to achieve that build-up of suspense. I chose to fade from one clip to another, particularly in the beginning as the suspense is rising. The purpose of these added transitions is to bridge that gap between scenes that originally had nothing to do with one another. The slow, dim-to-black transition repeated several times in the first part of the trailer coincides well with the slow, heartbeat audio in the background. They both serve to keep the audience intrigued leading up to the horror and thrill of the second part of the trailer. I remove the fading in between clips to achieve speed, action and thrill. The quick cuts between scenes effectively builds up to the climax, a scene where Damon is being strangled by Robin Williams. At this point, the heart beating stops and the silence provides even more suspense. An additional sound effect that I included was the scream at the very end. A scream signifies terror, so the woman’s shrill scream leaves the audience feeling frightened and further promotes this as a suspenseful, horror film.
I did encounter a few problems along the way. My video had some audio synchronization issues which caused a slight delay in the process. However, I ended up importing the individual clips that compose the video as a whole. I worked off of these but still, came across a few scenes that didn’t match up with the words being said. I avoided using these particular scenes and I also chose to emphasize the images instead of the audio. I used compelling, powerful clips that told the story on their own. Then, I included dialogue in the background separately with different scenes. I found that this silence enhanced the intensity of the trailer. Another problem I encountered was working with the heart beat sound effect. It dominates most of the clips, but since it wasn’t long enough to carry through, I had to copy it over and over. However, this created an additional problem because the audio was choppy and actually created separation rather than cohesiveness. I played around with the audio effects, made use of the “constant power” tool to transition between the sound clips, and did a whole lot of cutting and pasting.
Here’s my advice to future students: start now. This project was so much fun to do and the program has a lot of neat tools that you won’t be able to experiment with if you are crunched on time. Also, divide up your time. It is more beneficial to work on your trailer several days in a row than it is to try and complete it in one sitting. It will be exhausting. This is definitely not a project that you can procrastinate on and get away with so don’t even try. Don’t play it safe, either. What I mean by this is don’t just do the minimum requirements. Take some risks with your transitions, audio effects and scene sequencing. It’s extra work but it’s worth it, and, not to mention, more fun.