GADZOOK FILMS Producing independent film in Seattle, Los Angeles and beyond.

26Jul/12Off

Cloud Atlas and the Myth of the Standard Length Trailer

There are two things to get into with the release of the 6-minute long trailer for Cloud Atlas (and additional director preface). One, it shatters the concept that a trailer must be short. And two, these are industry pros making, essentially, a Kickstarter video package. Check it out. Go ahead... I'll wait.

Didja see it? Wow, right? Epic. I haven't read this book and I LOATHED the sequels to The Matrix, but this might have me back in the Wachowski's court. Let's talk about the trailer. It's long, but to me it's just long enough. It touches on just about every aspect of the story it seems and, to a keen-eyed observer, appears to give away several major plot points and narrative directions. In trailers I generally hate it when they give too much away - it feels like the movie as a whole then has very little to say. Why would I want to sit through a 2-hour movie when a 2-minute trailer does a better job of telling the story? But that's sort of been the deal with trailers for a decade or more. Trailer editors are experts at condensing a story into it's best parts. For some movies that means showing all the big explosions and set pieces. For others it's capturing that moment that echoes throughout the whole story.

Compare, say, the trailer for Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon... with the first teaser for WALL•E. Pretty different, I'd say.

In the Cloud Atlas trailer - can we even officially call it a trailer now? - there's all of that and more. It starts off more like a short film and then contracts into the typical trailer format but for an extended amount of time. With the prelude you only just start to care about the characters (especially Jim Broadbent), which makes the visuals later on have a slightly greater impact. It's a very interesting concept and one I think filmmakers working on short subjects could learn from. I know I did.

Now let's shift to the director's preface. Or commentary. Or interview. Whatever you want to call it. It's scripted, sure. And hey, that's Lana Wachowski (formerly known as Larry)! She looks great! But you really see the passion these three have for the project. It allows all three a moment to connect and works similarly to those, ya know, anti-drug/anti-cancer ads where a group of people are all saying the same thing but the cuts between them make it that much more meaningful because they're saying it in their own voice.

I think if you're planning to crowdfund you can take this VERY simple technique with you. It's about the passion. Why should we care about your movie? What drew you to the story? What do you like most about it? What is the call to action? All of those questions are answered in this piece. Plus it's a third the length of the actual trailer, which is ALSO good. We want to see passion but we also want to see you know what you're doing and can back it up. They didn't overdo it. It's exactly as long as it needed to be.

What do you think? Again, book adaptations aside, this looks like it could be pretty interesting. On a filmmaking level how did it play to you? Was the trailer too long? Did the directors convey anything to you that pushed you one way or another?

Posted by Dom

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  1. That said, “Cloud Atlas” was one of the best films I have
    seen in a long, long time.


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