Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Movie Trailer Ethics...

Is the function of a trailer to get butts in seats or to accurately portray the essence, or soul, of a film? Depends whom you ask, but increasingly the former I'd say. As a collaboration of money types and creatives, making a movie is always some unbelievably strange combination of art by committee, business by artisans, and snake-oil pitching by madmen.

What we know is that many trailers have little to do with the movies they represent. Typically, someone other than the storyteller, a marketer of some kind, creates a mini-representation of the feature length product that compresses and supersaturates key emotional and visual moments into a disjointed and disarming seduction bomb.

When it works, the trailer can be better than the movie itself. Here's one of several excellent trailers for Buffalo 66 (not the one I wanted to show you, but all of them are on the DVD I'm told). Of course, it should be noted that Vincent Gallo made his own trailers for his own movie - a privilege few will ever earn.

More often than not, the trailer is an overblown, misleading, patchwork quilt of cheap thrills. Notes on a Scandal is a good example of this. The movie wasn't great, but better than this lesbo-teen-lust-thriller teaser. Bad!

Movie trailers are bound by no cultural ethics or laws other than those of the corporation behind the production. Given that scary thought, it's no wonder that many of us have trained ourselves to come at them with psychic weed-wackers, in hopes of carving out our own ideas of what the forthcoming attraction is about. It's possible that I've been in Hollywood too long: I used to make a distinction between films and movies, but that line has blurred beyond distinction in my head as well as in reality.

Which reminds me... Trailers are interesting examples of mimesis (representations with their own rules apart from the thing they represent), since movies themselves are already representations.

Did you want to see this again?


Blogger Nick Z. said...

10 Things I Hate About Commandments

8:20 AM  
Blogger Nick Z. said...

10 Things I Hate About Commandments video via The Sherman Foundation

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to know where I would be able to get more information on ethics, laws, anything about movie trailers. I am writing a paper on this topic and am having a hard time finding resources. Please e-mail me at

1:21 PM  

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