trailer cutter’s career
enjoyed my long career in trailer editing. For 25 years, I
was employed by various trailer production houses in Los
Angeles, editing trailers and TV campaigns for studio
movies. Working in entertainment media had its pleasures
…and its pressures and personalities (ever seen the movie,
“Swimming With Sharks”?) As time went on, my personal
tastes and goals changed and the documentary world became a
better “fit” for me – personally, creatively and
some of the movie trailers I edited. Commercial
entertainment trailers are always a collaborative effort
(involving the studio marketing people, a creative director,
a trailer script writer, focus-group testing, etc.) so I
don’t take sole credit (or blame!) for what you see here.
Below is a sampling of those projects …and some personal
memories about them.
…and some personal views
The Usual Suspects
Gramercy Pictures 1996
Director Bryan Singer’s breakthrough film featured a cast of
“unknown” actors: Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Benicio
Del Toro and Gabriel Byrne. The most enjoyable part of the
film is the “twist” ending that occurs 30 seconds before the
final fade out. I had to devise a trailer ending that
recreated the emotional impact of that moment …but didn’t
give it away.
E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios 1983
It’s now recognized as a landmark American film, but no one
was thinking that when the project was handed to me in 1982.
Before the release of E.T., outer space and alien movies
were not taken seriously. So the marketing people
decided the trailer should avoid those aspects and highlight
the prestige of the director, Steven Spielberg, who’s
“Raiders of the Lost Ark” had been a recent hit. The
studio OK’d a standard trailer script format known as
“laundry list narration.” It was a pleasure working
with Spielberg’s dramatic visuals and cutting to John
Williams’ soaring score.
At Play in the Fields of the Lord
missionaries are marooned in the Amazon jungle and
surrounded by indigenous people. Social constraints break
down as they loose their grip on reality and “go native.”
Given the weird milieu, the trailer ended up a pretty
standard, talk-you-thru-the-story style format. (I think it
would be handled very differently today, post-Avatar.) It
featured a fun cast: Kathy Bates, John Lithgow, Aidan Quinn
and Daryl Hannah.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Orion Pictures 1989
by Philip Kaufman, produced by Saul Zaentz
version of the 1980’s novel by Czechoslovakian writer, Milan
Kundera, was what studio suits call an “art film.” My boss
tossed me the project saying, “We don’t know what to do with
this, so come up with something.” It turned out to be one
of my most satisfying challenges.
Janáček’s chamber music
set the tone for the editing. The film tanked at the box
office, but AFI now includes it on their 100 best American
films list. A young Daniel Day-Lewis stars with Juliette
Mishima: A Life
in 4 Chapters
Warner Bros. 1985
Director: Paul Schrader, exc. Prod: Francis Ford Coppola,
music by Philip Glass
is a surreal biography of the Japanese artist, poet and
provocateur, Yukio Mishima (whose last “artwork” was his own
ritual suicide). Tho famous in Japan, he was completely
unknown to American audiences. It was decided the trailer
would have to be a music montage plus a bit of narration
(all trailers had narration in those days.) I wanted the
trailer to dazzle and overwhelm – which was pretty easy
given Paul Schrader’s bizarre images and the mesmerizing
intensity of Glass’ music.
BEST TRAILER AWARD
at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.
Sony Classics 2000
jittery, punk-style comedy won big at the Sundance Film
Festival and its commercial release found enough audience to
make it a cult hit. You’ve seen punk before, but rarely in
this milieu: SLC means Salt Lake City. Working on comedy
trailers is always a pleasure for me – cutting comedy puts
me in good mood all day long!
Ghosts of the
Toennies, promo producer
Cameron’s high-tech exploration of the real Titanic wreck at
the bottom of the Atlantic. I edited the “special features”
of the DVD release. These involved interviews with the
director (fresh off his “Titanic” fame). When my boss came
back from interviewing him, I expected to hear tales of his
rumored arrogance & ego. When I asked about it, she took a
pause and said, “He may be the most intelligent person I’ve
ever interviewed. An absolutely amazing mind!” Bill Paxton
appears in the video clip here.
Stallion of the Cimarron
Yes, I’ve cut trailers for animated features. This touching
story is set on the American frontier and takes the
perspectives of both the Native-Americans and the white
settlers. The movie did not secure the “shelf life” of some
other animated classics. I’m not sure why. If you have
young kids, watch the DVD with them. You’ll both love it!
Character voices: Matt Damon & James Cromwell.