If you can't tell a book by its cover, can you tell a movie by its trailer? Just for fun, we did a side-by-side comparison of the trailers for two very different Vermont films that will premiere locally in the next couple of weeks. Then we asked the filmmakers — who, coincidentally, are both named David — about the inspiration behind the marketing.
Director: David Giancola (Illegal Aliens, Addicted to Fame, Icebreaker, Time Chasers [which was featured on a memorable "Mystery Science Theater 3000"]).
Stars: Sean Young (Blade Runner), Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2), Sam J. Jones (Flash Gordon), John James ("Dynasty"). Look for locals such as funnyman Woody Keppel in supporting roles.
What it's about: A young car thief becomes the target of government agencies after he stumbles upon a dangerous invention.
Random impressions of trailer: Skyscrapers! Gunshots! Car chases! Helicopters! Fights! Portentous dialogue about "something that can change everything ... the whole world"! Hey, is that Sean Young in the plaid blazer?
Best line in trailer: "There must be a reason you didn't share the news about the giant magnetic surge in lower Manhattan."
What inspired the movie: Giancola says, "It kind of started with using the device of teleportation as a way to speed up a story, to tell a story quickly, because of the ability to bounce around from place to place. I'm a big fan of science fiction. I thought, What if there was a teleportation device that kind of had a mind of its own? What if it took you where you wanted to be or needed to be subconsciously? Or where fate should place you? And then things got really interesting."
Where it was shot: All the actors were filmed in Vermont, Giancola says. "Then we sent second-unit crews everywhere" — including Miami, Fla.; Arizona; New York City; Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, Calif. — "and did a fair amount of green screen to make it work for our budget."
Despite all the movie's action scenes, says the director, "the hardest sequence to film ... was in a fictional store called ValMart." Why? Big-Box stores don't welcome film crews, and every brand name on the shelves requires clearance to appear on screen. Giancola eventually created his superstore from "a mixture of places," including a furniture store and "a partially abandoned Kmart. When I started the movie," he adds, "I didn't think for a second that doing something like that would be so complex."
Target audience: Says Giancola: "What we've got is a mixture of these stars from the '80s ... and then the leads are young. It's got kind of an '80s sensibility about it, but it's got a strong streak of humor. I'm calling it 'Back to the Future meets a James Bond film.'"
Rather than aiming for a theatrical audience, Giancola plans to sell Axcellerator to video on demand "in as many territories as we can." Distributors, he says, refer to his target demo as "the flyover state audience. Anyone who's had a hard day at work and wants some escapist entertainment, this is the movie for them."
See it Friday, January 25, at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, at a benefit screening for the theater and the Rutland Free Library; many of the stars will be in attendance.
Title: The Silver Screen Roadshow
Director: David Metzger (American Vinyl)
Stars: Lauren Patterson, Elsha Van Apeldoorn, Dennis McSorley, Natalie Miller
What it's about: Two estranged sisters set out on a road trip to find a theater with a functioning film projector.
Random impressions of trailer: Luminous black and white with ragtime music, à la vintage Woody Allen. A woman and an 11-year-old girl have a snappily edited debate on the relative merits of digital and film, interspersed with intertitles that include glowing blurbs.
Best line in trailer: "Finish your chocolate milk, kid. I'm gonna take you to a goddamn movie theater."
What inspired the movie: Eating at Snap's Restaurant in Bristol last New Year's Day, Metzger saw an unusual pair in a booth, he writes in an email: a well-dressed twentysomething and "a little girl who was wearing her pajamas." Those "two disparate people" inspired "a movie about two sisters reconnecting."
A second inspiration came from a friend who told Metzger, "The next film project I do, I need to open up my heart and put that on screen," he writes. "That it needs to be personal. That led to the idea of the main character searching for a movie theater with a working film projector, and that it was going to be about my crazy love of movies, classic cinema and filmmaking."
Where it was shot: Burlington — including movie theaters Main Street Landing Film House and Merrill's Roxy Cinemas — Vergennes, Middlebury, Crown Point, N.Y., and Bristol, where Metzger returned to the project's origin at Snap's Restaurant. "It was amazing and surreal to re-create the two characters sitting in the exact same booth as the people who inspired the story," he says.
And was the movie shot on film, the medium for which it makes a case? No, Metzger admits, but he hopes that question means "we did a decent job making it as film-like as possible."
Target audience: "All ages and all people," says Metzger. "I hope anyone who watches this film can escape this crazy, dark world for 73 minutes. The films of the '30s and '40s (that I love!) were made for audiences to escape the darkness and horrors of the Great Depression. I just wanted to create something with a lot of heart and magic anyone can embrace."
See it Wednesday, February 6, at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center in Burlington.