It can be hard to get people to try new things. People as a group are difficult to influence, and, more often than not, would rather stay in their comfort zones and not experience anything new. ‘Why go visit a different country when my whole life is here?’, ‘sushi? That’s just raw finish, innit?’, ‘It’s easier to stay in and watch Transformers on DVD for the hundredth time than go and see Looper in the cinema, and I might not even like Looper, anyway’.
Why else would there be a whole industry (advertising) centred around getting us to be aware of new products if we didn’t need to be tempted, cajoled, and incentivised into checking out new things?
Most people think that they’re immune to this form of subliminal skullduggery, feeling so above the poor mindless minions who blindly accept what they see on TV, whilst still nonetheless displaying blind loyalty to brands of their own, who have more subtle ways of marketing. In short, we are constantly bombarded with messages, and they work on us subliminally. Turn on the TV, walk down the street, fire up your internet browser, and people are imploring you, charming you, shouting at you, just trying to get you to buy their products. The worst part? It sort of works.
The movie industry is no different. A film can be made with a huge budget, but is not considered to be in profit until it makes back its budget PLUS the P&A (print and advertising) budget; influencing you to go see the film can sometimes cost more than the film itself. The film marketing process encompasses all sorts of methods: actors are ferried around the world from press junket to TV appearances, film posters with pornographic shots of the actos are slathered all over towns and cities, and film trailers are inserted in front of similar movies, on TV and on youtube. In short, the movie industry works really hard to f*%k with your mind.
The last of these ways of influencing you, the movie trailer, is perhaps the most obvious and well-known. I used to look forward to seeing film trailers, I saw them as an integral part of the move-viewing experience. Along with the sticky floors, the styrofoam popcorn, and the BBFC age certification, trailers were all part of the excitement and glamour of a trip to the cinema. Everybody’s had at least one moment in the cinema where a trailer has rendered them incandescent in excitement for a new film, or where the first trailer for a feverishly-anticipated film is first shown. An effective trailer is an art form all of its own, in much the same way that iconic film posters are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
Only problem is, film trailers have changed. As the ongoing battle between commerce and art is waged in Hollywood, the pernicious influence of the great satan that is focus groups is starting to make itself known. You see, a film studio shows films to people from the general public deemed ‘normal’, who then grade a movie and have a surprisingly large say in the fate of a film. There are many films that have been re-edited into incoherence in the aftermath of a focus group wanting a happy ending or similar.
The same is true of trailers. Trailers are shown to focus groups, and the mindless drones that populate these things say that they want to see even more of the film. I’ll say it again: they want to see more of the film!
‘Well, go and see the bloody film then‘ is what the movie execs should say, but, with their view obscured by the dollar signs in their eyes, they obsequiously add in yet more footage, sometimes stooping low enough to include the final shots from the films they’re advertising. It used to be the case that you didn’t see anything from the third act, or in some cases nothing at all from the finished film and it would make you go crazy with excitement.
Unfortunately, now we’re living in an age where The Amazing Spider-Man had an astounding 25 minutes of preview footage released (edited together into one coherent narrative by Sleepyskunk). The best trailers do show you footage of the film of course, but they show just enough to leave the audience slavering for more, still with questions, counting out their cinema ticket money in anticipation of having those questions answered.
‘What can we do about this?’ I hear you ask.
Well, nothing really. The endless money train that Hollywood is intent on riding on at the expense of quality films doesn’t show any signs of stopping yet. All we can hope for is that the fan backlash changes some minds, or that the imaginationally-challenged (it is a word), film execs find a new plaything. In the meantime, we can rejoice in those few trailers that don’t resort to story-spoiling, and close our eyes and ears when the less subtle ones assault our brains.
Check out (what I think) is the best trailer ever, below: