RTVF alumnus sheds light on the art of trailer-making

Guest speaker Chris St. Pierre’s speech felt more like going to the movies than attending a lecture.

St. Pierre told a classroom of about 40 students in Moudy Building South on Monday night how much effort is required in the post-production process of marketing movies.

St. Pierre, an alumnus of TCU, showcased movie trailers he has worked on, such as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, “Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and “Watchmen.”

He said shuffling through hours of footage of the movie involves fast-forwarding and learning to identify significant shots to make previews and television spots.

“The cool head-turns or the big epic shots are going to make it,” St. Pierre said.

Editing hours of dialogue and compiling footage takes an average of months, he said. The marketing aspect overrules the project, St. Pierre said. Editors need to decide what shots best tell the same story in an average of 15 seconds, he said.

He said it’s especially difficult to edit bad movies, using “The Forbidden Kingdom” as an example of how incoherent dialogue can make the trailer editing process challenging.

Eventually the studio was forced to hire someone who sounded similar to Jackie Chan to dub over his lines for clarity, he said.

Joe Wurtz, junior radio-TV-film major, said he did not realize the post-production process involved making trailers and television spots.

“You don’t normally hear about this aspect of the film industry,” Wurtz said. “It’s great to know there are jobs where the sole purpose is making movie trailers.”

St. Pierre said he immediately moved to Los Angeles when he graduated in 2004 and landed a job at MOJO, a post-production advertising company that specializes in editing theatrical trailers for blockbuster movies.

“At (TCU) you’re going to learn your basics, but you can’t just learn everything in school,” St. Pierre said. “You do that on the job.”

St. Pierre said he started off at the bottom of the chain at MOJO, where he fetched coffee, washed dishes and drove finished projects to clients.

“You can’t be above that though,” St. Pierre said. “You’ve got to be eager to learn and earn your wings.”

St. Pierre said the best thing that’s ever happened to him was when the production assistant ahead of him got fired for accidently releasing the footage of the Harry Potter logo because it allowed him to be promoted.

During his early days at MOJO, St. Pierre said the responsibilities increased with each task until he was assigned to edit together “Sweeney Todd” using only raw footage of the day-to-day shoot. He said it took him two months with the help of the original screenplay.

St. Pierre said the TCU community is very well-networked throughout Hollywood and said he still speaks to many of his classmates in the Los Angeles area.

Ruth Lopez, sophomore RTVF major, said the presentation was a good experience because of the advice St. Pierre offered.

“It gave me the opportunity for one-on-one contact with a professional in a field I’m interested in,” she said.