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Confessions of a Trailer Editor, from Online Trailers and Spoilers to Finding the Right Song (TRAILERS)

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood June 19, 2013 at 3:01PM

Wired has a fascinating interview with trailer editor maestro Mark Woollen. Never heard of him? Well, maybe you remember being enraptured by the trailers for "The Tree of Life," "The Social Network," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and Nicolas Winding Refn's upcoming "Only God Forgives," all of which Woollen expertly constructed. Highlights from the interview below.
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Mark Woollen
Joe Pugilese Mark Woollen

Wired has a fascinating interview with trailer editor maestro Mark Woollen. Never heard of him? Well, maybe you remember being enraptured by the trailers for "The Tree of Life," "The Social Network," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and Nicolas Winding Refn's upcoming "Only God Forgives," all of which Woollen expertly constructed. Highlights from the interview below.

Read the entire interview at Wired.

On the online trailer phenomenon:

When I began, trailers were not on the Internet. That’s changed dramatically over the past several years, especially with fan participation. We have instant critiques, for better or for worse. Everything has gotten faster... I was in a meeting with a director a couple of years ago. We had cut something that was on the short side, and he made a crack about it feeling like a trailer for a trailer. It’s bizarre that a year later, that’s become an actual thing people are doing. But I’m not a fan of that phenomenon. Honestly, I will say that my best experiences as a moviegoer are when I go in knowing as little as possible about a movie. That’s so hard to do these days.

On the importance of finding the right song for a trailer:

Sometimes 70, 80 percent of the job can be trying to find that perfect [music] piece. Trailers are all about rhythm, pacing, and feeling. That’s why it’s important to always be listening to things. I go to South by Southwest every year, trying to build my bag of songs that I’m going to hold on to for the right moment. I’d had “Creep” on my iTunes for five or six years kind of kicking around before the Social Network trailer. You’re always looking for the right project to line things up with. And then when this project came along, I started to consider that song.

On the attitude that contemporary trailers give away too much information about a film:

I’d tend to agree. You probably have to ask: Why is that? The studios want to have one weekend to capture the largest number of people. As I understand it, the data they get back is that people want to know more story—they want to know more before they make an investment. Now it may not be what you, me, or the readers of your magazine consider the right approach. But that’s what they’ve come to.

On trailers that have inspired him:

The easy ones to go to are any of the Kubrick trailers—they continue to be influential, inspiring.

This article is related to: Interviews, Mark Woollen, Trailers, Trailers


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.