When it’s all in the trailer, why are Pakistani films failing at it?
KARACHI : “These days, movie trailers practically tell the whole story. I think it’s really harmful,” the American surrealist film-maker David Lynch said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone. “For me, personally, I don’t want to know anything when I go into a theatre. I like to discover it, get into that world, try to get as good a picture and sound as possible, and no interruptions — so you can have an experience. And anything that putrefies that is not good.”
Lynch’s comment cannot be truer in the context of modern cinema where film marketing has become as much as, or even more important, than the process of film-making itself. In an attempt to attract as large an audience as possible, studios churn out multiple trailers leading up to a film’s release, consequently giving away its story before audiences even set foot in the cinema hall.
Even though Pakistani cinema is still in its infancy, it’s still not too early to talk about the quality of our trailers. “To be honest, I haven’t seen any great film trailer come out of Pakistani or Indian cinema,” film-maker Jami Mahmood told The Express Tribune. “And most Pakistani film trailers are made so basic, to create mass appeal, that one can see the story and critical plot points and easily predict the climax. It’s diluted and dumbed down massively, for bigger appeal.”
According to Jami, “A good trailer creates enough questions and intrigue in my heart that I can’t live without the answers to them.” He cited the recently released trailer of Victoria and Abdul as an example of a good trailer and Tom Cruise’s The Mummy as a bad one. “All you do is open the door for a moment into the world of the film and shut it. We must want to enter this world after seeing the glimpse.”
While Jami thinks local film-makers haven’t mastered the art of cutting a trailer, Project Ghazi producer Syed Ali Raza believes they are getting better. “I think Pakistani film-makers are learning every day and getting better every day. With every new film that graces our screens, there is an increase in our competence. It is a learning process, and yes, we are getting better at it,” he said.
Ali calls trailers “a necessary evil with an unquestionable purpose” but also believes cutting a trailer is an art. “Trailers are key when it comes to creating interest in the film and marketing it successfully. But in return, they visually betray the story and give prejudice to the audience.”
The producer shared a very interesting take on the subject. “We work for years to sell an experience, taking care of the visuals and audio to make sure the overall experience is worth the money people spend. Condensing that whole effort into roughly two minutes of work and having it play on smartphones, laptops and TV (all of which do not compare to the big screen) is not justice from a technical standpoint as well.”
However, for Ali, a successful trailer must “set the film apart in its genre and show the audience how the experience will be different.” He said, “The trailer must have its own story, free of the confines of the three-act prison. It should partially reveal but still retain the suspense and minute-by-minute reaction the audience will experience when actually watching the film on the big screen in its entirety.” He added that a trailer is designed to reveal an aspect, which provokes interest and opinion in the entirety reserved for the big screen, and not the entirety itself.”Manto helmer Sarmad Khoosat echoed this sentiment and called the trailer “a preview of the film.” However, the film-maker did say he understood why trailers have become so revealing. “Films these days have become more about ‘how’ than ‘what’. In the last two years or so, I haven’t seen any film that relies on what happens in the story, but how it happens. Narratives have become so thin.” Sarmad also counted in other factors like PR companies as part of the reason. “There are other hired parties who have to sell and market the film. They even have different editors. Only an auteur oversees the cutting of trailer.”
Anjum Shahzad was on the fence about trailers, saying that they were of some good, but also harmed the film experience. “A trailer is a tool for attracting the crowd. Its job is to tell the genre of the film,” he stated. “On another note, film has evolved from theatre, and there are no trailers for theatre performances. But then, how can you attract the audience without a trailer?”
The Mah-e-Mir director said trailers were helpful in making people decide whether to watch the film or not. “But as far as over-revealing is concerned, the fact is that marketing has taken over everything. It’s the marketing companies’ job to market the film and they do everything they feel right to do so, in the process, giving away everything the film has to offer.”
Whether we are able to figure out the exact purpose behind the film trailer or not we know for a fact that they play seminal role in attracting the audiences. There are two Pakistani films scheduled for Eid release and none of their trailers have become the talk of the town. It’s high time that we start introspecting!