It’s rare for a trailer to set a cinema audience alight, but the trailer for Billy Elliot managed to do just that. Maybe it was the flame-coloured Compacta BT typeface, or the pounding metal guitar sound of Marc Bolan and T Rex, but the audience reaction was the kind usually reserved for a cinema full of geeks catching their first glimpse of the new Star Wars movie.
But this wasn’t a hugely anticipated film; sure, Cannes critics loved it, but that hadn’t filtered down to general movie-goers. So what had created such a buzz? Fraser Bensted, promo editor and director at London’s Picture Productions and creator of the Billy Elliot trailer, is bashful about its impact, but admits it does have a rare pace and vitality. Bensted should know, he has cut trailers for hundreds of movies, both British and American because, he says, “American distributors know that a UK company can create a different perspective for marketing a film internationally.”
Bensted began work on Billy Elliot in February, when he produced a sales promo for potential distributors. His brief called for something like the East Is East trailer, “Something that focused on the comedy and story rather than the gritty ‘it’s grim up north’ setting,” says Bensted. The producers Working Title didn’t know, but Bensted had actually cut the East Is East trailer, so they’d come to the right place.
“From the promo it was a fairly simple step to the trailer, but then things changed with its phenomenal success at Cannes,” says Bensted. While the original trailer had focused on the film’s energy and Billy’s dancing, Working Title now wanted more of the plot in the new version, including the family’s troubled relationship and background of the miners’ strike.
“I cut in things like the police chase, which added a wider context without detracting from the energy of the film, and used three really strong songs from the film – I Love To Boogie and Twentieth Century Boy by Marc Bolan and The Jam’s A Town Called Malice,” says Bensted.
Obviously the graphics – text and layout – had to illustrate this strength and vitality, and these were created by the graphics studio department at Picture Productions, before being cut in using Avid, a process that Bensted worked on with designer Dawn Pranceyo and the client. The block-like text and layout were based on the “Frankie Says…” T-shirts of the era in which the film is set, but “they also refer to the big, blocky style of The Full Monty as well; because obviously clients are looking to capitalise on UK successes,” says Bensted. “Where once the titles would simply have been created on Avid using Bola – very simple and straightforward – now they’re incredibly complex. With these ones we took the files supplied by the poster designers, then deepened and varied the colour tones and gave it a 3D effect to heighten the impact of the text,” explains Bensted. The result is striking, and bold which, combined with the music and clips from the film, produces a trailer that is arguably more dynamic and multi-textured than the film itself. And as anyone who’s seen the film will know, that was no mean feat.
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