January 10, 2008

Talking Back to Misleading Trailers

Last week in his email column, New York Times technology writer David Pogue sounded off against the misleading nature of some movie trailers, particularly National Treasure: Book of Secrets. Basically, Pogue was miffed that scenes so prominently featured in the teaser were no where to be found in the final $11.75 product and thought it amounted to false advertising.

This week he published some of the responses that email column got, including an interesting one from National Treasure's director Jon Turteltaub. Cinecultist enjoyed his trenchant response so much that we thought we'd quote it (especially because the column isn't up on the NYT site yet). We like mental image of Turteltaub watching a trailer for a movie he made and panicking that maybe he'd cut out the best parts. Poor directors, yet another thing to obsess over when trying to control your film.

“Yeah... the trailer issue is a weird one. At some point, we all wonder if there’s something misleading in the advertising if the scenes shown aren’t in the movie... but apparently, the studios and all their lawyers feel it’s not a legal problem.

“Basically, what happens is that as we film a movie, the ‘dailies’ are sent to the marketing department. They cut together the trailers LONG before we have had time to cut the movie together. The first trailer for Book of Secrets was finished when we were only halfway through the filming!

“Then, as we cut the movie, they get revised scenes and try their best to use what we give them, but often, the ship has sailed. They’ve finished a fun, great trailer without knowing whether the scenes will end up in the movie. Plus, scenes can get cut out at the last minute for all sorts of reasons... running time, they test badly, or they just don’t fit.

“What’s funny is that the filmmakers do exactly what you do. I was watching the final trailer for my movie, saying what you said: ‘Ummm....that’s not in the movie, that’s not in the movie, THAT’S not in the movie.’ But then I respond by saying, ‘Uh oh, did we cut out all the best parts???’

“The fact is, what works in a trailer isn’t necessarily what works in the full feature. Dialogue that is really blatantly clear and ‘explainy’ is GREAT in a trailer. Profound statements like ‘Let’s find that treasure!’ work in a 30-second commercial, but come out pretty lame in a real dialogue scene.

“For me, the biggest problem that comes up is when the trailers and TV spots don’t reflect the essence of the movie they are selling. You see that a LOT. The studio often feels that the movie they made isn’t a movie they can sell... so they sell it as a different movie. That can help fill seats on opening weekend, but it usually backfires. Personally, I think that’s what happened to Sweeney Todd. Perhaps they didn’t want anyone to know it was bloody, gory and a musical. So they hid that. What happens is that the wrong audience sees the movie on opening weekend, and the word of mouth is all wrong. Great movies can get lost because of this.”

Posted by karen at January 10, 2008 4:16 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?