Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Art of the Trailer: Selling true stories.

Certainly in the running for one of the most talked about and soon to be most honored films of 2012, was Steven Spileberg's long gestating project, Lincoln. The collaboration between a master filmmaker and the consummate actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, has allowed audiences to witness a historical epic set around a brief but crucial moment in the life and presidency of a figure many believe to be the greatest man to have ever held the office.

Historical events and personages have always provided Hollywood, and movie makers around the globe, with some of the most compelling story material available. Historical epics, no matter how accurate or fictionalized, have provided audiences with wonderful experiences in movie theaters for more than a century.

This time on Art of the Trailer, I've highlighted two upcoming films that pull their stories from historical context. 42 tells the story of two courageous men who broke through barriers many thought were unbreakable. A story, in fact, that finds its seeds planted with the story of Lincoln as well.

Chadwick Boseman in 42
The other is the trailer for Emperor, a story set at the end of World War II that follows a decision that held the weight of shaping world events for decades after the surrender of Japan.

The challenge of trailers like these are to sell something more than just the story; the story is widely known and as history, so is the ending. The art of the trailer is to establish a point-of-view for a story we may not know, as seen through the eyes of a spectator to that history who's role may not be familiar.

In the case of 42, we watch events unfold through the relationship that builds between the lead players. Men who accepted the challenge to change other people's entrenched attitudes. In the case of Emperor, we see things through the eyes of a man who's name isn't generally well known as a part of the historical text, yet was charged with advising Gen. Douglas MacArthur in his actions directly following the end of the war.

Matthew Fox in Emperor
To then set these personal stories against convincing backgrounds of period and place and convey, in just minutes, that world and its intricacies, are the challenges in elevating the craft of a marketing trailer to the level of art.

Here are the trailers for 42 and Emperor. Do you feel they convey enough to convince you to buy a movie ticket? And if you're ready to buy the ticket, does the craft exercised in the trailer approach the promise of artistic merit in the full length film?

42 is written and directed by Brian Helgeland and stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. The Warner Bros. release is scheduled for U.S. theatrical release on April 12th.

Emperor is directed by Peter Weber and stars Tommy Lee Jones as Gen. Douglas MacArthur and
Matthew Fox as General Bonner Fellers. The Lionsgate U.S. release is scheduled for March 8th.

Thanks to Warner Bros. and Lionsgate. Special thanks to RoadsideFlix for making the Emperor trailer available without auto-start or ads. Photo from 42 by D. Stevens, ©Legendary Pictures Productions, LLC. Photo from Emperor by Kirstie Griffin, ©Fellers Film, LLC.

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