We should write trailers

The film trailer is a work of art. Sometimes. Maybe often. Not really always. For every trailer that is genuinely better than the movie it’s trailing, there are clunkers. I don’t want to suggest that we should write trailer moments into our scripts but I wish we could edit the footage.

I think about this a lot because I do video editing and it feels to me like writing. It’s very much the final edit and the bits of my brain that I use at Final Cut Pro X are the same ones I use when writing.

Which is partly why I just find trailers so fascinating. And this comes up today because of Star Wars. I’m not a big fan but I remember the shivery anticipation when the trailer started for The Phantom Menace. How did that work out again? It’s also interesting because originally that trailer went out online on some crappy PC-based postage stamp thing and it was Apple’s QuickTime engineers who lobbied to do it properly. When they did and it worked out so well, that was really the start for high quality trailers.

Well. That’s high as in the video quality. Have a look at this collection of the trailers for all the Star Wars movies, including the new one. I’m surprised to say I think The Phantom Menace looks the best. I’m appalled to say how ferociously bad most of these are.

Watch the lot on The Verge

The creator and the audience: the irony of Star Wars

Okay, it is occasionally argued that the reader or viewer knows more about a piece of work than its writer. Bollocks. I’ve been told by reviewers that my Doctor Who dramas are unquestionably, undoubtedly, certainly based on things I’ve never actually heard of.


There is this thing with Star Wars. George Lucas keeps fiddling and he says that the original version was unfinished. He says that all his fiddling is making the movie into the film he always wanted it to be. I could be alright with that. There’s a song called Anchorage by Michelle Shocked that I adore and later on in her career she changed a couple of words. I found that very hard, somehow, but it’s her song and that’s it.

Except some of Lucas’s fiddling is juvenile.

He’ll take a scene and fill the background with CGI aliens that are distracting from the dramatic purpose of the moment and are sometimes just crap anyway.

Then he’ll go all Old Man’s Attitude on a scene. Originally, Han Solo is cornered by a baddie and kills him. Han is therefore a bit interesting, a bit less squeaky-clean than most of the characters, a little bit more than one-dimensional. And, most of all, his enemies are serious. Later we’re going to hear more about them and it’s more and more of a thing. But in the subsequent versions of the film, the baddie shoots first. He does so because Old Man’s Attitude says decent heroes don’t shoot until the baddie has. Lucas is fussed about the word decent whereas I am fussed about the word hero: because the baddie shoots first and we want Han to survive the film, the baddie must miss. From about a pixel away. Baddie is therefore ridiculously amateur and unthreatening.

That’s what you want: baddies who are unthreatening.

All this comes up now, though, because of a news story in The Atlantic that features someone called Harmy who has spent years recreating the original version of Star Wars from the various versions. You literally cannot buy the original film now but over the years there were Laserdisc and VHS versions and the like that are being scraped and utilised to rebuild the movie as it was. Fine.

I appreciate the craft and the determination. I wouldn’t if Lucas’s changes weren’t so often truly, deeply poor but they are so I do. What really interests me though, is that The Atlantic has also got this quote:

People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians, and if the laws of the United States continue to condone this behavior, history will surely classify us as a barbaric society…

Today, engineers with their computers can add color to black-and-white movies, change the soundtrack, speed up the pace, and add or subtract material to the philosophical tastes of the copyright holder. Tomorrow, more advanced technology will be able to replace actors with “fresher faces,” or alter dialogue and change the movement of the actor’s lips to match. It will soon be possible to create a new “original” negative with whatever changes or alterations the copyright holder of the moment desires. The copyright holders, so far, have not been completely diligent in preserving the original negatives of films they control. In order to reconstruct old negatives, many archivists have had to go to Eastern bloc countries where American films have been better preserved.

That’s George Lucas making a speech to the US Congress in 1988. The Atlantic points out that this was to do with the then hot-topic of bastards colourising black and white classics. The Atlantic says:

Some argue that here Lucas was railing against outsiders being able to alter a directors work, not against directors being able to update their own pieces. Which raises the question of who truly owns something like Star Wars—a huge cultural phenomenon—once it is unleashed. Lucas addresses that in his speech too. “American works of art belong to the American public; they are part of our cultural history,” he said.

I think the word you’re looking for is ‘busted’.

Read the full piece in The Atlantic and learn more about what drives this Harmy.

Star Wars productivity advice

Make better films.

I’d start with the scripts, myself.

But if you’re not George Lucas, there is apparently still much advice can you take, mmm, from the films of the Wars of Star. Writer Yael Grauer knows more about Star Wars than I thought existed and has found eight apposite quotes to help us in our work.

Spoiler: one of them is the one you just thought of – “Do or do not, there is no try.” And one of them is just “Ready are you?”. But overall the eight have interesting points, starting with number 1 where she says you could benefit from reframing a job, from looking at it all in a different light:

“Deliver more than you promise. The best way to be always certain of this is to deliver much, even when you promise nothing.” ―Master Tho-Mes Drei, Jedi Master and Jedi Temple instructor

Somewhere on your journey, you’ll hit a point where you have enough work coming in that walking away from a client doesn’t feel like a sacrifice. As a Jedi, you are sworn to protect the peace and justice of the Republic. Therefore, you would follow both the letter and the spirit of the law of any contract you sign, putting effort into each project that you’re obligated to complete. That means you may find yourself in a non-ideal engagement you’re committed to finishing, even though you’re dreading every minute of it.

This is where business coach Pam Slim, award-winning author of Escape From Cubicle Nation and Body of Work, recommends defining specific benefits to your plight. Maybe it’s realizing an assignment will look great in your portfolio, or perhaps the money from a project will pay your healthcare bill the month. “Sometimes making it super concrete can create a positive correlation for you in getting something done,” Slim said. Focusing on the direct reward of completing a project can take your mind away from the challenges.

8 Jedi Mind Tricks for Freelancers (and Star Wars Nerds) – Yael Grauer, Contently (4 August 2014)

Seriously, I could do without the Jedi bits. But I like the points her full article makes.

I have no clue what to say. Star Wars: Scene Maker

Disney has released a new iPad app that, wait, take this from the mouth of a horse:


Become the master of your own Star Wars video universe! Create your own scenes, choose your favorite characters, control their actions and dialogue, record your masterpiece, and share your Star Wars story! The Force of your imagination is with you!


· Create your own Star Wars universe and bring it to life with imaginative play and countless options.

· Select from 3D environments with 3D models of your favorite characters, weapons, and ships.

· Use dialogue straight from the Star Wars films, or record your voice and apply a Darth Vader, Rebel Pilot, or Storm Trooper filter to put your words into any character’s mouth!

· Switch between three cameras, each of which can track or follow the action, to record your scene from multiple angles!

· Chooose a musical score taken from the Star Wars films, write your own iconic Star Wars “Title Crawl” and end credits, and share your finished scene with your friends!

If you get the free app – it’s a big download but it’s free – you’ll hear all of this again but done in the style of a movie trailer. You’ll also get the Star Wars theme, which I do like, I have bought the soundtrack, repeated so often that you won’t like it, you will throw away that soundtrack.

I do just wonder what I would’ve thought of this when I was a kid and Star Wars first came out. I also wonder how much the in-app purchases would’ve cost then. Now they are £1.99 each for Death Star Attack and Cloud City Something or £2.49 for the pair.

Without those, you get the full game/scene experience, just with only a plot from Return of the Jedi. Do you remember when everybody knew that Return of the Jedi was the worst Star Wars film? We were so young.

Get the app here.

Ideas come from here. Exactly here. And here.

I’m not a fan. “Oh, JK Rowling’s neighbour had a boy who went to a school, that’s where she got Hogwarts from.” If you can actually trace an idea back to a specific source then either bully for you or where’s the lawsuit? I think it diminishes art to disassemble its parts and claim this bit came from here, that bit was stolen from there.

But since I’m not fussed about Star Wars, bring it on.