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Dueling notes from marketers and filmmakers

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Therefore, many studios leave nothing to chance when crafting the perfect movie trailer. The viewer’s initial reaction can mean the difference between a box office dazzler and a dud. In this regard, studios scrutinize every millimeter of film before sending the trailer out into the world.

“If there wasn’t a release date, a movie trailer would never get finished,” says Scott Ogden, former creative director at trailer company Flyer Entertainment and the newly named producer for Herzog & Co.

He’s joking … kind of.

Given the high stakes associated with moviemaking these days, often anyone with an investment in the movie — financially, creatively or emotionally — wants to sign off on the trailer. The advertisements go through layers of approval, from the studio’s head of marketing to the director to the producer to — if it’s a big enough picture — the head of the studio. The “Prince of Persia” trailer that ran during the Super Bowl went all the way up the chain to Walt Disney Studio chairman Rich Ross and his boss, Walt Disney Co. chief executive Bob Iger, both of whom provided notes.

Each note is taken into consideration as the trailer goes back to the drawing board. “I’ve known trailers to go up to 60 versions” as they run through the approval process, Ogden says, although he adds that the mid-30s are more common.

After the trailer’s visuals are approved, a composer comes onboard if the editor isn’t using a licensed track or library music. And the different chiefs weigh in again, often with different agendas.

“The filmmaker has the ultimate goal of artistic vision, the marketer has the goal of marketing and selling the film, and sometimes those two goals don’t meet,” says composer Starr Parodi. “If we have two sets of notes that are completely different, we just wait until they can agree on an idea. There have definitely been times where we’ve had to juggle a lot of different ideas.”

While the scorer rarely has to revise his or her work after the trailer is test marketed, it can happen. “These days, they usually would rather replace it with a song or a trailer library,” if the studio decides to go in a different direction after testing, composer Veigar Margeirsson says. “It used to hurt me to no end when I was starting out, but it has nothing to do with me doing a good or bad job; it just happens not to fit that particular thing.”

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