William Wallace the Heartless!

When I heard that we were doing a video editing project, I was flabbergasted. I had previously made music video mash-ups using Windows Movie Maker, but I never had the opportunity to use a professional program like Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. For this trailer project, I decided to remix the epic film Braveheart (Mel Gibson, 1995) into a psychopathic/thriller film. Basically, the esteemed and honorable hero William Wallace, who once fought for freedom against oppression, becomes a psychopathic serial killer terrorizing his countrymen via violence. The original Braveheart trailer can be found here!

William Wallace's true nature: a psychopathic murderer.

To convey the psychopathic motif in my trailer project, a series of concepts and techniques were used. In Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, the phenomenon of closure, or observing the parts but perceiving the whole, was used to present different aspects of William Wallace’s life. Adjoining different parts of his life in the trailer painted a coherent picture of Wallace’s response to his experiences, and his violent ideology. For example, the different parts of his life include his loss of a father, his multiple experiences with death, a childhood friendship and love, and growing up alone, which all sums to his psychopathic persona – he resorts to violence to express himself, and views the social status quo with contempt.

To further enhance the effect of closure, semiotics was used. In Messages, Signs, and Meanings: A Basic Textbook in Semiotics and Communication, Danesi proposes that meaning can be conceived through a dyad pair: the signifier and the signified. In relation to my trailer project, a series of literal and figurative symbols were used to amplify William Wallace’s violent nature. For example, the beginning frame shows a young Wallace standing on a grassy plain, with dark clouds rolling overhead. On a literal level, the clouds are gray and suggestive that the rains are coming. However, on a more figurative level, the dark clouds signify the darkness sneaking into Wallace’s childhood innocence, symbolizing the engulfment of Wallace by evil. Similarly, symbolism could be seen in shots where Wallace is riding a horse and fire is in the background. Fire is indicative that something is burning in a literal sense, but can also be symbolic of destruction, violence, lack of control, and impulse. By placing repeated shots of fire in the background and Wallace in the forefront, the psychopathic motif is reinforced, painting a drastically different picture of Wallace as a vicious murderer, where he was otherwise just riding a horse.

A variety of film editing and camera techniques were adapted from Bernard Dick’s Anatomy of a Film: Film, Space, and Image to amplify the psychopathic motif. In the beginning of the trailer, fade-in and fade-outs were used to bring each sequence of shots to an artful close. However, as the trailer progresses, the timing of the fade-in and fade-out transitions is shorten. The change in timing denotes a sense of urgency and speeds up the progression of the trailer. The linear sequences at the beginning of the film are also substituted for montage sequences, in which montage component shots are seen between each repeated shot of Wallace riding a horse in front of a background of flame. The purpose of the montage is to create suspense, achieve closure, and quicken the pace. The montage shots between the continuous sequence (Wallace on horse with fire background) thus serves as a kind of glue that colors and fills in Wallace’s past life experiences, summing up  in the final close up shot of him shouting like a maniac. This motif is further amplified by using sound bites from the Braveheart soundtrack, Revenge, which steadily speeds up and gets louder as the trailer progresses, preserving the suspenseful nature and producing a creepy mood, complementing Wallace’s dark character.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5: The editing software used for the movie trailer project

Perhaps the most difficult part of the trailer project was becoming familiar and somewhat savvy with the arsenal of accessible functions Adobe Premiere had to offer. In addition, making a trailer within a 60 to 90 second window can be somewhat challenging, especially when there was so much material I wanted to use. It was thus “difficult” to let go of some clips. In technical terms, perhaps the most frustrating thing was picking clips that did not have auditory interference, in which the voices of the actor were impossible to separate from the background noise/music. As such, some clips that portrayed the psychopathic motif quite well were forcibly sidelined.

While the project was a ton of fun to do, it was also time-consuming. Starting early is definitely a good strategy to employ, especially since one must also account for the myriad of technical difficulties that may miraculously appear. I would also suggest taking time to understand and really immerse yourself into the Adobe Premiere program. It isn’t everyday that one is able to gain access to such professional software. Transition effects are small essentials with explosive effects, so definitely learn how to use them effectively! If you build your tools now, it’ll be a lifelong skill useful anywhere!

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