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     – a trailer cutter’s career




I’ve greatly enjoyed my long career in trailer editing.  For 25 years, I was employed by various trailer production houses in Los Angeles, editing trailers and TV campaigns for studio movies.  Working in entertainment media had its pleasures …and its pressures and personalities (ever seen the movie, “Swimming With Sharks”?)  As time went on, my personal tastes and goals changed and the documentary world became a better “fit” for me – personally, creatively and spiritually. 


Below are some of the movie trailers I edited.  Commercial entertainment trailers are always a collaborative effort (involving the studio marketing people, a creative director, a trailer script writer, focus-group testing, etc.) so I don’t take sole credit (or blame!) for what you see here.  Below is a sampling of those projects …and some personal memories about them.



               Noteworthy theatrical trailers
                                    …and some personal views


The Usual Suspects


Trailer: movies\The-Usual-Suspects.html


Gramercy Pictures  1996 

Director Bryan Singer’s breakthrough film featured a cast of “unknown” actors: Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Benicio Del Toro and Gabriel Byrne.  The most enjoyable part of the film is the “twist” ending that occurs 30 seconds before the final fade out.  I had to devise a trailer ending that recreated the emotional impact of that moment …but didn’t give it away. 



E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial 


Trailer:  movies\ET-the-Extra-Terrestrial.html


Universal Studios 1983

It’s now recognized as a landmark American film, but no one was thinking that when the project was handed to me in 1982. Before the release of E.T., outer space and alien movies were not taken seriously.  So the marketing people decided the trailer should avoid those aspects and highlight the prestige of the director, Steven Spielberg, who’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark” had been a recent hit.  The studio OK’d a standard trailer script format known as “laundry list narration.”  It was a pleasure working with Spielberg’s dramatic visuals and cutting to John Williams’ soaring score.




At Play in the Fields of the Lord


Trailer:  movies\At-Play-in-the-Fields-of-the-Lord.html


Universal 1991 

American Christian missionaries are marooned in the Amazon jungle and surrounded by indigenous people.  Social constraints break down as they loose their grip on reality and “go native.”  Given the weird milieu, the trailer ended up a pretty standard, talk-you-thru-the-story style format.  (I think it would be handled very differently today, post-Avatar.)  It featured a fun cast: Kathy Bates, John Lithgow, Aidan Quinn and Daryl Hannah.



The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Trailer:  movies\The-Unbearable-Lightness-of-Being.html


Orion Pictures  1989

Directed by Philip Kaufman, produced by Saul Zaentz

The film version of the 1980’s novel by Czechoslovakian writer, Milan Kundera, was what studio suits call an “art film.”  My boss tossed me the project saying, “We don’t know what to do with this, so come up with something.”  It turned out to be one of my most satisfying challenges Janáček’s chamber music set the tone for the editing.  The film tanked at the box office, but AFI now includes it on their 100 best American films list.  A young Daniel Day-Lewis stars with Juliette Binoche. 


Mishima: A Life in 4 Chapters


Trailer:  movies\Mishima-A-Life-in-4-Chapters.html


Warner Bros. 1985

Director: Paul Schrader, exc. Prod: Francis Ford Coppola, music by Philip Glass

The film is a surreal biography of the Japanese artist, poet and provocateur, Yukio Mishima (whose last “artwork” was his own ritual suicide).  Tho famous in Japan, he was completely unknown to American audiences.  It was decided the trailer would have to be a music montage plus a bit of narration (all trailers had narration in those days.)  I wanted the trailer to dazzle and overwhelm – which was pretty easy given Paul Schrader’s bizarre images and the mesmerizing intensity of Glass’ music.


The trailer won BEST TRAILER AWARD at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.



SLC Punk

Trailer movies\SLC-Punk.html


Sony Classics  2000

This jittery, punk-style comedy won big at the Sundance Film Festival and its commercial release found enough audience to make it a cult hit.  You’ve seen punk before, but rarely in this milieu: SLC means Salt Lake City.  Working on comedy trailers is always a pleasure for me – cutting comedy puts me in good mood all day long! 



Ghosts of the Abyss

 Trailer movies\Ghosts-of-the-Abyss-documentary.html

Disney-IMAX  2003

Barbara Toennies, promo producer

James Cameron’s high-tech exploration of the real Titanic wreck at the bottom of the Atlantic.  I edited the “special features” of the DVD release.   These involved interviews with the director (fresh off his “Titanic” fame).  When my boss came back from interviewing him, I expected to hear tales of his rumored arrogance & ego.  When I asked about it, she took a pause and said, “He may be the most intelligent person I’ve ever interviewed.  An absolutely amazing mind!”  Bill Paxton appears in the video clip here. 



Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Trailer movies\Spirit-Stallion-of-the-Cimarron-trailer.html


DreamWorks   2002

Yes, I’ve cut trailers for animated features.  This touching story is set on the American frontier and takes the perspectives of both the Native-Americans and the white settlers.  The movie did not secure the “shelf life” of some other animated classics.  I’m not sure why.  If you have young kids, watch the DVD with them.  You’ll both love it!  Character voices: Matt Damon & James Cromwell.


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