Monday, January 27, 2014

Movie Trailers As Literature: American Hustle

I admire those who can put creative power into small spaces. I enjoy the great lyricist who can entice you with a few verses. I also enjoy the work of those who put together movie trailers. Granted, few movie trailers are great, but some rise above the crowd.

Take, for example, the official trailer for American Hustle.  It starts out with Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper looking at a Rembrandt that Bale says is a forgery. He asks the central question: Who is the real artist here, the painter or the forger? Then the trailer hooks me with the next phase: Led Zeppelin hammering out Good Times, Bad Times as clips from the movie are reeled out in rapid-fire fashion. As soon as that song hit, I knew I had to see the movie.

Why was that trailer successful? Two little things: It leads with a philosophical question that ties into the Abscam investigation that is at the center of the movie, and then it adds a song that says this is going to be a snappy experience for the movie fan. Simple, concise, edgy. (Just a warning: Good Times, Bad Times isn't in the movie, which was a minor letdown.)

The lesson here for writers is to achieve the same thing in each chapter, or in each section of a chapter. Each little section can be its own little movie trailer. Hook together enough of those "trailers" and you have a pretty darned good novel. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

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