The Zoolander Identity

I was both excited and nervous when I found out we were going to have a movie mash-up project. I’m a bit of a YouTube junkie, so I love watching the various mock-trailers produced by the magic of video editing. However, I never thought I’d be capable of producing one of these myself. The only video editing software I’ve had any previous experience using is Windows Movie Maker. I didn’t know if my editing skills would be able to live up to the standards of mixed up movie trailers on YouTube. Fortunately, now that my project is complete, I’m satisfied with the end result and pretty eager to share it with my friends.

Zoolander has to be my all-time favorite movie. I have a strange attraction to comedies with a goofy satirical wit, so when I first watched it, I fell in love.

Katinka, the Russian henchwoman from the movie Zoolander brings Derek to meet with a modeling client.

The project called for a movie that I knew well, and since I’ve seen Zoolander about 20 times, I know it like the back of my hand. I thought for a while about how I was going to twist the plot into something completely different. Finally, it came to me. I would make Zoolander follow the model of The Bourne Identity. The new story is about an assassin who gets amnesia and must escape the agencies who are looking to recapture him. After finishing the project, I did a search for Zoolander  mash-ups on YouTube. Apparently someone had the same good idea as I did…you can watch their interpretation of the concept here. I felt pretty unoriginal when I found it, but I figured that my version is different enough. After all, it was a pretty genius concept. I don’t blame other people for coming up with it as well.

In order to achieve this, I played with the stereotypes of the action genre. As Thomas Sobchack states in his article “Genre Film: A Classical Experience,” specific genre films differ fundamentally from other films “by virtue of [their] reliance on preordained forms, known plots, recognizable characters and iconographies” (198). Action movies tend to have car chase scenes, shooting, explosions, and some kind of redeeming love story to satisfy the girlfriends who end up being dragged to these dude movies on dates. I noticed that Zoolander contains many of these visual elements in a comedic context, so I tried to incorporate all of them into my trailer. I also removed the sound from most of the clips I used, replacing it with music from The Bourne Identity soundtrack. I chose slower-paced,  eerier music to build suspense at the beginning, then switched to fast-paced metallic electronic music to highlight the pace of the action sequences.

I reversed the sequence of events in the original movie in order to make my trailer. Most of the footage at the beginning of the trailer is from the end or middle of the movie. I chose to narrate the trailer with captions instead of voiceover; mostly because using the sound from the original movie would not have made the trailer  seem too comical and I couldn’t find anyone with a “movie preview” voice to make voiceovers. For the titles, I chose a font that conveyed a sort of spy theme–OCR A Std–it looks like typewriter text. I used an iris transition to introduce Derek Zoolander as an assassin because it evokes a James Bond feel. I used fading transitions in the first slower half of the trailer to build suspense and convey the darkness of Derek’s amnesia. They also serve to emphasize the passage of time between clips and titles and the endings of certain sections of the plot. I used a few cross dissolves to show the passage of time while still maintaining a feeling of continuity. (Bernard Dick elaborates on the effects of these transitions in the “Film, Space, and Image” chapter of his Anatomy of Film textbook.) For the rest of the trailer, I use quick straight cuts in order to give a feeling of fast-paced action. After the explosion at the end, I used a fade to white to make it seem like the explosion has taken over the entire screen.

I also tried to use the Gestalt Principles of continuity and closure to portray Derek’s assassination of the Malaysian Prime Minister. Since Derek never succeeds in assassinating the Prime Minister in the original film, I had to play with the clips in order to make it seem like he does. Thus, the trailer cuts from footage of the Prime Minister in real life to Derek attacking a dummy, back to Derek attacking the real Prime Minister, and finally to Derek ripping the head off of the dummy. This hopefully portrays a dangerous side of Derek to the viewer. Later on, I used the principle of closure to make it seem like a miner is attacking Derek with a pickaxe. I also show a man falling off a cliff into the ocean and immediately cut to two men holding rifles and high-fiving. This makes it appear as if the two men shot the other one off of the cliff. Overall my editing choices were effective in changing the genre of the movie: I tested the trailer on a few of my hall mates, and they were surprised and entertained by the result.

I didn’t encounter too many problems while I worked on the project. This may have been because I chose to download a trial version of Premiere onto my laptop. When I first began cutting sub clips, I had to deal with the out-of-sync audio as well. However, Dr. Delwiche figured out how to solve the problem the next day. I knew exactly which parts of the movie I planned on using, so I was able to recover quickly. I picked up editing techniques on Premiere pretty easily. I was able to experiment with the different tools before beginning work on my project. My advice to future students would be to start early–give yourself time to make mistakes and revise the sequence. I switched clips around countless times; I changed the words on the titles; I couldn’t make up my mind on transitions and music. Allow yourself to make full use of your creativity by allotting enough time: I set aside 2-hour blocks of time each day where I would do nothing but work on the project. Also, YouTube is an excellent resource for both video and audio clips, provided you have a way to convert the files. SmartConverter is a free app on the Mac that converts any type of video (in this case, .FLV video ripped from YouTube) into a format that other local programs can use. For audio tracks, I use the site Just don’t click on any of the pop-ups. I really enjoyed doing this project because it gave me a chance to see the other side of the filmmaker’s thought process. I appreciate producers and film editors so much more now–it’s amazing how much their work affects the overall feel of the movie.

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