It’s How You Spin The Tale

Over the years, I’ve listened to people who don’t work in the arts dismiss the effect that each aspect of the arts industry has on the overall picture.  When I try to explain that the sum of the parts is what makes the whole so effective,  my comments are usually met with rolling eyes and jovial smiles that lead me to believe that my comments aren’t taken seriously.

Recently, I watched a spate of re-cut movie trailers where the original intent of a particular movie was skewed to fit another genre altogether.  While the dialogue in the first three examples are unaltered from the original movies, the music (which sets the tone) and the editing create a completely different movie than the one you may have seen in theaters.

To ensure that movie descriptions aren’t colored by my own interpretation, the plot description for each movie has been copied from the IMDB website at  The genre listed on the IMDB website will also be provided.  This will allow readers to compare the original movie plot line to the re-cut version implied by the reworked movie trailer.

Jurassic Park

This is how the IMDB website described this science fiction / adventure movie:  During a preview tour, a theme park suffers a major power breakdown that allows its cloned dinosaur exhibits to run amok.  But with a little creativity, Jurassic Park becomes a romantic comedy.

I’ll bet you weren’t expecting any of that to happen, did you?

Stephen King’s IT

This drama / horror / mystery mini-series adapted from Stephen King’s novel by the same name has a way of scaring people before the first scene hits the screen:  In 1960, seven outcast kids known as “The Loser Club” fight an evil demon who poses as a child-killing clown. 30 years later, they are called back to fight the same clown again.  That’s pretty scare stuff until it becomes a movie the entire family can enjoy together!

How many of you would consider taking your children to watch that movie in theaters after watching such a heartwarming trailer?

Mrs. Doubtfire

And now for the well-loved Mrs. Doubtfire starring Robin Williams and Sally Fields, and directed by Christopher Columbus.  Who doesn’t love Robin Williams in this comedy / drama?  After all, the IMDB has this for quick teaser:  After a bitter divorce, an actor disguises himself as a female housekeeper to spend time with his children held in custody by his former wife.  But what happens when it gets a new lease on life  and the trailer leaves you terrified to walk through the theater doors to watch the movie?

The trailer gives a whole new meaning to the crazy antics of Robin Williams, wouldn’t you say?

When Creativity Comes Calling

My point in all this is to strongly underscore the importance of the parts of movie making that are rarely thought of by most movie goers.  The wrong music can ruin a scene.  The wrong word here or there and the scene takes on a different meaning than the one originally intended.  A continuity flaw, and the audience begins to question the storyline.

Minimizing and marginalizing the importance of every aspect of film making is a dangerous slippery slope to start on.  Every member of the crew plays a vital role in the creation of a movie.  And in the hands of the wrong people, an otherwise good movie can become so much less.

The Cable Guy

One of the best examples of this is the Jim Carry movie from 1996, “The Cable Guy.”  Filmed and released as a comedy /drama / thriller, it seemed to miss the mark by a mile.  The IMDB described the movie thusly:  A lonely and disturbed cable guy raised on television just wants a new friend, but his target, a designer, rejects him, with bad consequences.

As a comedy, it failed.  As a drama it failed.  As a thriller, it failed.  But imagine how much better it would have fared if everything about the movie made it a horror / mystery / thriller?  All of a sudden, scenes from the movie start to pop out at viewers who have seen the movie.  Now add to that a soundscore that rivals the one in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh.   Now the movie works because the parts come together to make the whole that much more effective.

Clint Eastwood as Ed Asner

Now that I’ve given you a fair bit to consider, let’s make one last movie stop.    In 2009, the animated movie “UP” was released in theaters.  Labeled as an adventure / drama, it caught the imaginations and hearts of scores of movie goers.  The IMDB described the movie this way:  By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years younger, inadvertently becomes a stowaway.

Likewise, the 2008 Clint Eastwood movie “Gran Torino” labeled as a drama that the IMDB described thusly:  Disgruntled Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski sets out to reform his neighbor, a Hmong teenager who tried to steal Kowalski’s prized possession: a 1972 Gran Torino.

There were similarities in both movies.  Both movies had grouchy grandpas with good reason to be grouchy.  Both movies had youngsters that were mentored by the main characters.  And both movies dealt with serious moral issues.  So was it any surprise that when the audio from one movie was spliced into the video of the other movie, the trailer still told the story it meant to tell without hoodwinking the audience?

Watch and see for yourself!

It certainly makes you stop for a moment and consider just how important everyone’s job is when it comes to movie making.  Once that realization is made, it’s easier to understand how this rule applies in other parts of the arts.

Elyse Bruce


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