I volunteer for Brooklyn’s Spectacle Theater, a film collective run by its members. This entails working the ticket booth, selecting movies for screening (which I’ve not yet taken advantage of- if anybody out there has some desperately obscure movie that deserves the light of day, let me know), and editing trailers for upcoming films.
So far I’ve edited several trailers, including ones for ‘Blackboards’, ‘Massacre at Central High’, and most recently, ‘Year of the Woman’. All good fun and a great excuse to practice my FinalCut skills (and I recommend all three movies, wildly different in tone). But. BUT. Where my trailers are straightforward presentations of the movie’s tone and feel, with a bit of a hook (hopefully) to spur potential viewers to want to see more, there is one man, one editor of trailers at Spectacle, whom I hereby crown King of the Star Wipes.
A bit of explanation for those unfamiliar with the Simpsons or early video editing machines:
Earlier video editing systems ran your two scenes to be cut together (your A and B image) through a box that allowed you more control over how A and B joined. Instead of just cutting, you could now do all sorts of wipes:
…fades, and effects (many a 90s music video suffers from overuse of Paint Effect).
Now in this context, a Star Wipe seems negative, a flashy use of an effect not only unnecessary, but one actively detracting from the material at hand. This is often true, when done by amateurs. However, as someone who appreciates the ‘go big or go home’ school of acting/editing/flair, if it’s laid on with a trowel, it moves past distraction to its own stylistic level of excellence. So it is with C. Spencer Yeh’s trailers. Fire wipes, bullet effects, and Bonnie Tyler’s ‘I Need A Hero’ as backing music for the ultraviolent Japanese ‘Battle Royale’? Shock cuts and a bombastic Wall of Sound song for ‘The Sadist’? Yes, please.
While I edit with the Zen credo of ‘what the movie is lies completely within the movie itself’, extracting what I hope is a film’s essence from whatever lies between a film’s beginning and end and presenting it to the viewer, Spencer chops across time and space, using pop songs and effects drawing attention to themselves to present the movie as pure spectacle. Neither of us are more ‘right’ in our philosophy – the point of a trailer is to make the viewer want to see the movie, by whatever means necessary. Whether that’s presenting a nugget of what’s to come or grabbing attention with unusual juxtaposition ultimately doesn’t matter. Though I have to say, Spencer has truly outdone himself with his latest outing. Upon seeing this trailer for ‘American Hunter’, his completely balls-out style so perfectly serves the film I cannot imagine it edited otherwise.
Now we all need to go see this movie.
Some thoughts about the film itself:
The look of the film confuses me. The crappy film grain and washed-out lighting imply a miniscule budget, yet the copious car crashes, explosions and well-timed martial arts scream ‘sky-high Bruckheimer budget’.
How did they manage to hire a full cast of fighting experts who all look like 8th grade biology teachers?
Pet eagle + flag bikini in the same shot.
“Let’s do it” = extras, clear the set.
Lucky for everyone reading this in the NYC area not stranded by Hurricane Sandy, the film’s showing THIS FRIDAY at MIDNIGHT. See you there.