We watch a lot of movie trailers here at ScreenCrave, and, as we inch closer to summer with its ever-increasing torrent of new films, we’re seeing more and more previews with each passing day. As we do so, we can’t help but notice some similarities, repetitions, and clichés among them. Here at Trailer Park, we’ll be offering a rundown of those clichés, where they come from, and which trailers share them. For our first installment, we’ll be breaking down one of summer’s most ever-present previews: The Indie Dramady Trailer.
The problem with the Indie Dramedy Trailer is common; it tries so hard to be unique that it ends up being just like the rest in the genre. Let me first note that some of the movies on this list are personal favorites (ahem, Welcome to the Dollhouse), but, that said, their trailers have unfortunately fallen victim to trailer clichés. But we shouldn’t blame the indie auteurs? Is it the auteurs–it’s companies that purchase the rights to distribute and advertise these indie gems, and their marketing consultants, that screw up a good thing.
10. Hand Drawn Fonts
Used in: Year of the Dog (2007), According To Greta (2009), Submarine (2010), The Science of Sleep (2006), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Juno (2007), Away We Go (2009)
Hand drawn fonts aren’t as cool as they use to be. Let’s thank Wes Anderson for bringing them to our attention, but also putting them in the subconscious of every other advertiser in America.
As Seen In: Juno
9. Blankly Staring Into Space
Used In: Beginners (2011), Submarine (2010), Greenberg (2010), Garden State (2004), Me And You And Everybody We Know (2005), Away We Go (2009), Hesher (2011), American Splendor (2003), The Squid and the Whale (2005)
‘Staring Into Space’ moments aren’t only a cliché, but also bad advertising. It tells the audience that there will be moments in the film when nothing is happening, just characters staring off into space, daydreaming about who knows what. Instead of previewing blank stares, wouldn’t it be better to show a cool dream sequence? (Although those can be just as cliche sometimes.)
As Seen In: Away We Go
8. Smoking Is Cool
Used in: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004), Clockwatchers (1998), The Science of Sleep (2006), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Rodger Dodger (2001), Adventureland (2009), Hesher (2011), American Beauty (1999), Slacker (1991), Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
This is an indie dramedy, so you know there will be plenty of moments filled with melancholia. What goes perfect with tears, breakdowns, and staring into space? Cigarettes. Who needs advertising when we’ve got the cool kids smoking grandpa pipes?
As Seen In: Adventureland
7. Cute Noises (Wink, Camera Shutter, Record Scratch, Etc.)
Used in: Cedar Rapids (2011), 500 Days of Summer (2009), Thank You For Smoking (2005), Cyrus (2010), Roger Dodger (2001), Juno (2007), Broken Flowers (2005), Sunshine Cleaning (2008), Boogie Nights (1997)
Indie dramedies are filled with cuteness, from the interesting names to the matching outfits, but when you add sound effects like winks, needle scratches, and Polaroid clicks, the cuteness becomes too much. It’s like when you get a bellyache from eating too much candy. A lot of trailers are guilty of this. One of the worst sound effects is when the trailer starts off with a needle scratch, but there is no record player in sight. What is the point?
As Seen In: Thank You For Smoking
6. The Fight Scene
Used in: Cedar Rapids (2011), High Fidelity (2000), Youth In Revolt (2009), Ghost World (2001), Sideways (2004), Broken Flowers (2005), Paper Man (2009), Punch Drunk Love (2002), Adventureland (2009), Hesher (2011), Happiness (1998)
This is just to show you that indie movies aren’t all tears and witty dialogue, there’s also some action, which usually goes like this: geek gets punched in the face by some jock at a party. The end.
As Seen In: Ghost World
5. Moving In Slow Motion (Or Time Lapse)
Used In: Safety Not Guaranteed (2012), Youth In Revolt (2009), Donnie Darko (2001), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Garden State (2004), Sideways (2004), Thank You For Smoking (2005), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Hesher (2011), Boogie Nights (1997), Cashback (2006)
I’ll be the first to admit that a time lapse, like the one in Zach Braff‘s Garden State, looks cool, but that movie has so many motion controlled sequences that it’s ineffective; and the trailer includes almost all of them. The whole trailer is just one indie trailer cliché after another.
As Heard In: Garden State
4. Quirky Dancing
Used In: Beginners (2011), Cedar Rapids (2011), The Science of Sleep (2006), High Fidelity (2000), Greenberg (2010), Lost In Translation (2003), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Sideways (2004), Cyrus (2010), Punch Drunk Love (2002), Adventureland (2009), Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995)
Maybe there won’t be fighting, maybe there won’t be smoking, but by God there’ll be quirky dancing! Indie trailers always preview that brief moment in the movie when the oddball lead character shows their unique spirit by doing a quirky dance.
As Seen In: Welcome To The Dollhouse
3. Quotes Of Validity
Used In: Submarine (2010), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Me And You And Everybody We Know (2005), Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995), Happiness (1998), Synecdoche, New York (2008)
Quotes in a trailer are like meeting your friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend; your friend desperately wants you to like this person, so they tell you all sorts of great things about them, but none of that really matters because at the end of the day, you’ll have your own opinion. A trailer is already a movie’s promotion; just make the best trailer possible and skip all the quotes. If it’s good, people will like it.
As Seen/Heard In: Little Miss Sunshine
2. Jumping Into Pools
Used In: Submarine (2010), Cedar Rapids (2011), Garden State (2004), Lost In Translation (2003), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Paper Man (2009), Adventureland (2009), Gigantic (2008), Hesher (2011), Boogie Nights (1997)
Looking through some of these trailers, I was pretty shocked to find so many with the same clip of people jumping into pools. It’s unfortunate that this has become a cliché because it can be so meaningful and beautiful when done right (I’m looking at you, Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate). It’s best to leave these out of the trailer, just so there could be a moment of ‘shock and awe’ when watching the entire movie.
As Seen In: Submarine
1. The Indie Rock Soundtrack
Used In: For Every Modern Indie Movie, There’s An Indie Rock Soundtrack
And just so you know this really is an indie movie, let’s mention the indie band doing the soundtrack. Too much? Trailers are trying too hard to be indie.
As Seen In: Greenberg
These are just some of the clichés that should disappear from Indie Dramedy Trailers.
What are some of the clichés you see? And which do you think should disappear?