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We were standing in line waiting to buy tickets to Joe Dirt and eavesdropping on conversations ranging from tales of the heavy partying the night before to the extravagance of current movie prices when we heard a comment that struck and intrigued us. "I hope we get a seat in time to catch the previews. I like them more than the movies most of the time," the girl behind us said. "Me too, most of the time the movie sucks," her date responded.

We looked at each other and nodded; they were right. Many people that we know have told us they enjoy movie trailers--in many cases more than they enjoy the movie itself. So we decided to sit down in the office of one of Americana's very own Think Tank Fellows (who happens to work at Craig Murray Productions making movie trailers), Don Wilson. "How," we wondered, "were these popular forms of Americana made?"

"A call will come in from a client at one of the major studios telling us they're sending over reels of a new release, and they need ideas on how to market it. Almost always, the first rough cut is what they send, so it has bad temp music or no music at all. We see it in its worst shape, and we're supposed to be creative…it can be very challenging!"

"We have very few restrictions as to what scenes we can use, and, yes, quite often we have shots and dialogue in the trailers that are never seen in the finished movie."

"After the film comes in, we sit down and watch it together, then individually. The writers meet, brainstorm ideas, then they each write scripts for the trailer. We'll select maybe ten scripts and send them to the studio for feedback. Once they greenlight a script, then we begin the editing process. Suddenly we are under a deadline. No matter how many times a client will tell us they want us to take our time and make it great, what they really want is a lot of product as fast as possible, but I do think our best work comes under pressure, no time to over-think things, instinct and experience work in a more pure form."

"Unfortunately, sometimes our first cuts are our favorites and never see the light of day. No matter how well liked they are in the beginning, it seems the studios can't accept that they can be good this early in the campaign. We often joke that we should take our first ten cuts and hide them from the studios until the panic of the movie's pending release sets in and then send them."

"Music selection for a campaign is nearly as important as the pictures. We will often spend entire days listening to CDs and searching the Internet for new music or that perfect cut that just slaps you on the forehead. The right song can pretty much carry a campaign on its back. The trailer for A Bug's Life was in a doldrum until we found The Who's 'Baba O'Riley.' The verse starts off 'out here in the fields…' you know, where the bugs are. Man, that song absolutely brought that campaign to life."

"There are sometimes fifteen to twenty versions of a trailer and probably one hundred television spots created to end up with one trailer for theaters and maybe five or six television spots. It seems every two or three days there is a 'new direction' coming from the studio as to how they want to market the movie. Rough cuts are tested in shopping malls all over the country and as results come in, the focus on what the public likes becomes the predominate direction to follow. Giving away too much of the movie is not important in terms of how the movie is marketed. Getting the movie to open well and get momentum early on is what's important, and it is an art form to pull that off. "

"These things are style setters. We are always looking for the hippest graphics and super clever ways to juxtapose things whether it is that way in the feature or not. We know what we're doing, and we do it well. I can't tell you how many times we've taken a really bad movie and gotten it to open in the top four or five positions. Curiosity will get people at least one or two more weekends and if we can do that, we've done our job!"

"But I must say that the job is a great one and when I sit back and realize that millions of people will see my work and millions of dollars will be spent at the box-office because of my work, I get a bit humbled."

April 2001

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