The Life of Pi Fan-Made Trailers: All Sizzle Without the Steak

I saw the 3D trailer for Life of Pi ahead of Prometheus last week and was eager to write about it since it’s that rare type, the single scene trailer, that’s simple to describe and easy to discuss. Alas, that trailer has yet to be made available online. What did lead the search results were fan-made trailers, one of which I’ve embedded above as an example of what you can do to promote and advertise a coming attraction when you have no access to the finished footage of the feature. (Often, fan trailers are made after the release, when the feature is available for use.)

The trailer above may also be categorized as a sizzle, a term that emerged from the contemporary practice of pitching a tv and movie ideas, that’s been borrowed and redefined by advertisers, publicists and marketers for their own specific needs. Originally, a sizzle was a mocked up visualization of a concept or story idea. As the Producer’s Guild website explains: In the 21st century, “most producers must bring video to an exec to pitch their show, especially reality/non-fiction TV….By seeing a sizzle reel the buyers can better (literally) see the idea in action. They can get a better sense of the look & feel of the show. And finally, they can gauge the producer’s professionalism.” Such sizzles are typically based on footage shot especially for the purposes of exploring and manifesting the concept/premise to be sold.

Trailer boutiques have long been putting out “sizzle” reels (also known as promos or demo reels) to showcase their work and explain their brand. Typically short–about 5 minutes or so–such a “sizzle reel” demonstrates the visual artistry and marketing chops of a given a/v advertising company based on a selection of their “best” or most compelling work.

Lately, the definition of sizzle has been expanded yet again to comprise visualizations of a movie or TV show that has yet to be made using special shoot or borrowed materials. Recently, I’ve done some work for Jijo Reed, a former trailer-making client who’s started a new business devoted to producing professional quality promos and pitch materials for books and scripts that have yet to be developed into moving pictures. It’s called SizzlePitch, and basically what Jijo and his editors and copywriters do is create an “as if” trailer out of stock or borrowed footage. With the professionally produced and visually appealing sales tool that result, aspiring filmmakers can raise money, seek distribution, and attach talent.

The fan-made trailer above is actually a sizzle, since none of its visual, sound, verbal and graphic elements are from the film, scheduled for a December 2012 release. The distributor and production company logos are wrong (WB and Legendary instead of Fox and Rhythm & Hues); the footage is from Titanic, 10,000 BC., Angels and Demons, etc., while the music cue is taken from the trailer (and possibly the soundtrack) of Inception. The copy, though prolix and uneven, seems original.

Regardless of my complaints about the copy, I have to credit the editor for his or her skill in finding relevant and appropriate scenes from other movies and to splicing them together in such a appealing and emotionally affecting manner. Life of Pi is exactly the kind of material to inspire such a labor of love, and possibly a platform for the display of the producer and editor’s talent.

Here’s another fan-made promo/sizzle/trailer that showed up in the top 5 results. It uses still photographs of wildlife and maritime scenes as well as a more restrained copy treatment to tell the story. Thoughtful editing and the zoom feature (pushing in and pulling out of an image) produce the effect of motion. Toward the end, a recording of an especially moving passage from the text (read by?) heralds the incredible and uplifting character of the story, which we can only hope the movie will likewise capture.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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2 Responses to The Life of Pi Fan-Made Trailers: All Sizzle Without the Steak

  1. Pingback: Sizzling Update — Getting to Greenlight with help from the pros | REVIEWS OF PREVIEWS

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