A top winner at Sundance 2018, The Miseducation of Cameron Post’s trailer is comedic, quirky, and bears a loveable brand of eccentricity not unlike a Wes Anderson production, taking on the difficult subject of gender and identity and conveying a difficult experience in a relatively light-hearted way.
The first minute or so focuses squarely on sound effects and light percussion. “All that’s needed is your signature,” Cameron Post (Chloë Grace Moretz) is told, and after a reverse cymbal and a small interruption in the, the outsized sound of her pen etching her signature is accompanied by the roaring sound of the truck acting as a sound bridge, which we then see leaving the conversion therapy camp to which she has been driven. This interleaved succession of sounds smartly conveys the swiftness of the process.
At 0:13 we hear clapping at a very steady BPM accompanied by a title card simply stating “1993,” presumably providing some context for the historical setting here. As we noted in our post at SynchTank earlier this year, clapping and snapping in trailers is a trend that has seen growth over the past four years or so; especially here it arguably helps the trailer underscore the fact that this film is particularly rooted and grounded in relationships and explores what is essential to humanity and identity. The rhythm follows an asymmetrical compound pattern, lending to its sense of dynamism.
As another humorous one-liner comes in at 0:35, the reverse cymbal sound enters again, serving as an aural bookend. The title cards for awards enter at 0:36, naturally synched to the clapping. This time, Cameron’s counsellor take centre stage in terms of dialogue, and accordingly it seems the clapping is a little more spare, ceding some room to the ticking sound that was introduced at the beginning of the trailer. We can the reverse cymbal sound again at 0:51 as another one-liner comes through; clearly, the editing follows that of most comedic trailers before it as a style that emphasizes deadpan delivery of the punchline.
As much as this is a complex and multifaceted subject, though, things take a tonal turn at 0:54 as we’re introduced a little more to Cameron’s fellow campers and they speak about their experiences. French electro-pop / indie group BLOW’s 2016 track “Don’t Wait For Us,” which enters at this point, offers both a fresh sound with its spare hand snapping and grooving, straight-eighth note guitar track drenched in clean reverb. The fact that the riff is in a minor key lends it a bit of a sombre grounding that, again, feels appropriate given the subject matter. “You better be ready for the dark days,” croons BLOW singer Quentin Guglielmi – a choice phrase, to be sure. The rest of the trailer follows with a series of pauses in a progressively more dramatic rather than comedic vein, with a nod to the convention of visual montage and the music coming back a little higher in the mix each time.
The choice of music is also interesting in that it’s somewhat rare to find in a trailer the straight use of a piece of music by a band that is relatively obscure. Of course, it likely helps that the film itself is a relatively indie affair, with distribution handled by the smaller company FilmRise. In terms of editing and sequencing, the musical choice helps to successfully bridge the tone of the trailer from a comedy to that of a drama – the trait for which this trailer is most notable, and rather successfully so.
– Curtis Perry