Far Flung on Play Trailers


A while ago, I wrote one of these column things about marketing for Oxford shows, specifically the all-pervading spread of certain shows. It’s truly viral, infecting every JCR notice board, Facebook events calendar and Twitter newsfeed. And now the marketing agents have turned their powers on Youtube. Yes, now every show that’s competent enough to get its actors in costume more than a week before the event has a trailer. Most go something like this:

Unassuming classical music should be playing from the start. Not something too recognisable, a piece that treads the line between utter pretention and populist anthems, while still suggesting ‘high art.’ Chopin works. An object comes into focus s-l-o-w-l-y. This should give the impression that this object is central to the plot, even if it’s just the coolest looking prop. Fast cut (possibly accompanied by a sudden, menacing sound effect purchased online) to the most attractive member of the cast. Linger. See how pretty he/she/it is? Don’t you want to see them, I mean, this play? More abstract objects. Water, fire, sky – anything ubiquitous enough to carry any number of associations. At least one person in the production team has done Drama GCSE, they’ll be able to think of something.

There now follows a short clip of two actors vaguely interacting, to show that this play has acting in it.

After that, there should be a voice over – a central line from the play, or a speech by the poshest actor. This should give away nothing, or everything – there is no room for compromise. An interesting variation on this theme is to have the whole trailer narrated, accompanied by moody shots of the actor walking through a space that is definitely not the theatre (though the audience may end up wishing they were there instead). It should close out with the information about where and when the play is (though that should be all the information given – why would we want to know who the characters are, or what the set up for the play is?) and then fade to black, because that’s sure to distinguish it from the rest.

In the end you end up with the same information a poster gave you, and an association of images with various film effects, like a Tumblr account had a love child with Windows Movie Maker. At best they show you a key plot point of the play, devoid of the tension present in a live performance.  At worst, they’re boring. Universally though, they are no measure of a show, and play absolutely no part in deciding whether I’m going to buy a ticket or not.

Frankie Goodway