On the advent of that film's teaser trailer a CNN article (11/20/98) put it this way:
"Star Wars" junkies eager to catch a glimpse of the first prequel, your wait is over: 75 theaters in North America got to show a sneak preview [italics mine] of the trailer for "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" among the trailers shown before other full-length feature movies.
The preview will appear nationwide on Friday. But loyal fans who paid close attention to the official Star Wars Web site learned there would be a sneak preview Tuesday in some theaters across the country.
Some people are apparently paying the full price of a movie ticket just to see the two-minute preview. Variety reported that nearly two-thirds of the 500 people in an afternoon showing of "The Siege" in Los Angeles walked out after seeing the trailer. Movie theaters across the country reported other fans doing the same thing.
Asked to comment, one fan who saw the trailer in Washington said "Unbelievable. I consider myself a harsh critic, but after the trailer I was applauding."
|"Yousa rare card!"|
Don't worry. I managed to watch the trailers for Star Trek Into Darkness and Iron Man 3 on YouTube with just as much excitement as enjoying the surprise of seeing it at the cinema. True, it's not part of the traditional theater-going experience, but watching and sharing film trailers through Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is a new normal. These social medias help elevate sneak previews as a stock worthy of trading, giving the film trailer cultural value and helping forge a budding amateur film industry. I'd go so far as to say that the movie trailer is becoming the new baseball cards of this generation.
|When read aloud laboratory rats exploded.|
"It's a paradigm shift." A what?The ability for the common man to make his own movies through video has become so common place that it eventually gave birth to the Godzilla of media: YouTube. The advent of home computer technology, creating high quality video has turned amateur hour into the Indie Film Society. My case in point: fan film trailers.
Full disclosure here: They annoy me. When that movie, the highly anticipated event hits my radar, like Star Trek 2, I want a glimpse of it. I want to get a sense of plot. I want to participate in the story event long before it completely unfolds before my eyes in the cinema. That's where the film trailer comes into its purpose and when it debuts on YouTube I'm not waiting to catch it at the cinema. And after a few clicks I'm on YouTube, I find the trailer link, and--bang!--its unfurled before my eyes. And...it's a fan trailer?!
I understand the impetus to create them. The audience is participating along side the poet, sharing in the event by composing their own art. This is no different than all the post 1977 Star Wars art drawn in art classes or on Pee Chee folders where the audience can create new continuing adventures and characters. How many fan trailers were churned out in advance of the latest Harry Potter or (shudder...) the Twilight movies? But more on fan trailers later.
"Quiet, the previews are starting..."My discovery of the first bona fide Iron Man 3 teaser trailer happened when I tripped across a reference to it on my daughter's Facebook page. (Why hadn't she told me? Doesn't she know what a ginormous fan I am of the movies?) Quickly I went to the site and after some serious fumbling and bumbling I managed to get the video loaded up.
Now, let me pause right here and say that I am from an old school of movie theater goers. When I see a preview for a new film that I am slobbering over like a St. Bernard, the viewing experience must be unsullied, uninterrupted. I need my headphones in my ears, and I don't need the...BLOODY STREAMING TO STUTTER AND STOP! I wait for it to upload in it's entirety. I want to see that download bar to go completely white. After this I go full screen, press my laptop screen right up to my face, adjust the volume about three-quarters full and I let 'er rip. The idea is to become lost in the moment and be hurdled into the mini story, as much as I feel in theaters when a real kick-butt movie makes itself known. In April of 1977, months away from my 12th birthday, Father and Step-mother took brother and I to see Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. Rather than embellish the moment, here is the movie trailer I saw...
|He who buys by the sword...|
But if I had a movie camera I could use the memorabilia to make my own Star Wars movies or at the very least a weird puppet show of sorts (I'm looking at you Seth Green). I'd want to keep the movies alive through the continuing antics of the characters. No camera or sense of theater? No problem. How many reams of art paper kept alive the antics of Star Wars characters, ships and other inspirations alive and well? How many sheets of three-hole punch paper retold Star Wars related fan fiction, even poetry, traded friend to friend?
What's this have to do with film trailers? Well, in 1978 some fellas made their own fan trailer (albeit a satirical spoof) of Star Wars called Hardware Wars, which to this day is a George Lucas favorite among fan films. (You can find part one here and part two here.) This was right at the onset of the rising home video rental era and here anyone could start trafficking in the film trailers, home made or otherwise. By the time The Empire Strikes Back rolled out in May 1980, Hardware Wars had become a cult classic. Our family enjoyed multiple viewings on a 16mm print checked out from the local library long before we watched it again years later on our very own VCR.
When did film trailers become a mass transaction of cinema, even a collectible? To help pay the bills, and give home viewers a real theater experience, studios began packaging their video releases with theatrical pre-show entertainment: Coke and Pepsi commercials, video and VCR maintenance, home rental industry adverts, and of course, trailers for upcoming films. All you had to do was put the video in, kick back with your theater-styled microwave popcorn and 20 ouncer, and let the entertainment blast you in the face. Maybe at the first or second viewing you resisted the urge to lay on the fast-forward button and get straight to the movie, but by the third or fourth viewing of Turner & Hooch, sitting through the trailers became a bother. They had lost their luster.
"In a world..."
|Mostly copies of Universal Soldier and Ernest Goes to 'Nam|
Another grand source of movie trailer collections can be found at Archive.org located in their Movies section. Here 833 film trailers have been uploaded into their community-fed library. Many of these trailers contain classic horror and sci-fi movies, while many others are from 1950s-60s sexploitation splatter-gore genre that are too lurid for my tastes. Give me giant tarantulas eating farmers over sex-crazed knife-wielding zombies any day. Really. Nonetheless, its a treasure trove of nostalgia frequented by many who long for a taste of a cultural pie whose flavor reminds them of a simpler age. This has not gone unnoticed by baby-boomer entrepreneurs collecting these film trailers and other cinematic bric-a-brac and selling them. DVD collections like Drive-In Madness, which you can sample here, feature a wide variety of film trailers and snipes packaged to convey a great many things about the drive-in theater experience.
"I just can't wait..."
|Just an eighteen inch puppet chewing on plastic. I hope.|
Now, I do prefer my film trailers straight from the horse's mouth, not some kid in his basement trying to give me the slip. Still you can't deny that the overwhelming enthusiasm of churning out your version of a movie you love. Usually, these fan trailers are Frankensteins, trailers from other movies or prequels that convey a vague time and place, and they are overlaid with music and minimal dialogue that mimics the totality one might enjoy in a movie theater. Sample this faux teaser trailer from Iathamfilm for The Hobbit. It's an amalgam of The Lord of the Rings and Dragonslayer. Several others Hobbit fan trailers exist and in the transaction of these cultural emblems on YouTube, the highest quantity of views and "thumbs up" by commentators, wins the contest of creative wills.
I believe the impetus behind these cinematic artforms is our intense need to participate in a cultural event beyond the reach of our great unwashed hands. When news broke that a fourth Transformers movie was on the boards, well, it didn't take long for the fans to start cranking out their versions, until the real thing comes along. Right at this moment, what's floating around on YouTube as Transformer 4 fan trailers are more satirical mashup using previous movies and foreign commercials featuring morphing household appliances than any serious envisioning what the new film might be about. This may indicate the public's enthusiasm for the franchise's collapse in quality. (I'm looking at you Spielberg. Executive producer my arse...)
While fan trailers need to encapsulate the visual/audio impact of a theatrical preview, invariably they come off like a plot-foggy teaser trailer because they lack key dialogue to give their sequence of scenes a clear sense of story. To fill in the "plot" gaps you can essentially rip off other film trailers for select scenes. My youngest daughter is a big fan of the Transformers cartoons and enjoyed the first movie, and four years ago, in anticipation of the second movie, yes, I took up the challenge to make for her my own visioning of Transformers 2. Using early trailers for Transformers 2, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and 2012, I ran them through iMovie and made my first and only fan trailer, bringing to life the potential terrors unleashed on our hero and the world...if you mashed together all three movies. I took the narration of Optimus Prime and selected key phrases to give sequences from the three movies a binding effect. I would have preferred using higher quality videos, but the editing, music overlay, and the flow of the "story" is one that I'm proud of, considering the resources I had. My daughter loved it and watched it repeatedly.
fan trailer for Revenge of the Sith is perhaps the most visually complex I have seen from any fan.
Very few of us who love and play the sport of baseball, or any sport for that matter, will go on to play professionally. For those having a taste of filmmaking, you can play along side many of these professionals, and the dream to play for the big leagues may no longer be necessary. Through the network of social media you can play to an audience of thousands if not millions. With these little fan trailers you create, they help satiate that hero craving in all of us.