Showing up early to the movies to catch the coming attractions has become an American pastime all its own. This weekend at the Indiana University Cinema, a group of filmmakers and film lovers are gathering to celebrate the art of the film trailer at the second annual Trailer Fest Film Festival, a festival for films both real and imaginary.
“In a world,” as they say, with short attention spans and filmmakers with limited production budgets, a film festival celebrating the art of the film trailer seems like the perfect event. The idea for the festival began with festival director Chris Rall, his wife Sue, and his fellow Bloomington filmmakers Tony Brewer, Kevin Evans, Matt Traughber, and Steve Llewellyn. They had made a roller derby-themed zombie movie a few years ago named Eight Wheels Of Death, and created a few fake film trailers to play before the film’s premiere at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. These trailers were for horror spoof films that they had no intention of actually filming in their entirety, films like Daughters Of Seitan (a fake film about vegan vampires) and Deadlifter IV (a fake film about a bodybuilder zombie).
After putting together these trailers, Rall and his friends thought it would be fun to create a film festival dedicated to the fake movie trailer (several festivals already exist for real film trailers). Last year, they organized the first annual Trailer Fest Film Festival in Bloomington.
Submissions for last year’s festival included both trailers for fake films and trailers for real films. The winner of last year’s festival, the Australian film Long Shadows, was for one of the real films. This year, Rall and the fellow organizers have created a separate category for trailers to actual films. In order to keep with the original spirit of the event, these “real trailers” don’t qualify for the grand prize.
Other categories in the film festival include Drama, Horror, 18 and Under (for young filmmakers), and Sci Fi. They intended to have a “Comedy” category, but despite their popularity at last year’s festival, there were no comedy submissions this year.
Film trailers have turned into an art form of their own, with their own conventions, tropes, sounds, and visual effects. I’m sure many are familiar with these cliches: dramatic music, the deep-baritone voice over, a record scratch to indicate a change of expectation, or big block letters flying onto the screen.
“Part of the fun of making a fake trailer,” Rall says, “is exposing those tropes and laughing at them. It’s interesting to see how filmmakers will identify those things, highlight them, make fun of them, or really focus their entire film on that.”
A good film trailer, according to Rall, is a delicate balancing act between showing some details, but not revealing too much. “A good trailer in general for a real movie shows just enough of the plot that it builds excitement. It gives you an idea of overall feel of the movie, but it doesn’t show so much of the plot that you know what happens and how it all turns out.”
A good fake film trailer is a different kind of challenge. Rall says the filmmakers need to demonstrate that they’ve conceived of an entire plot of the film without giving it all away. “They need to plan out just enough shots to create this trailer and make it looks like they’ve got two hours worth of footage.”
The second annual Trailer Fest Film Festival takes place Saturday November 12th at the IU Cinema at 7:00 p.m.