Fans create their own trailer for ‘John Carter’

Fanmade trailers are certainly nothing new on Youtube and elsewhere online. And yet, Michael Sellers’ and Mark Linthicum’s home-grown trailer for the upcoming “John Carter” movie is one that has gone viral, with well over 100,000 page views. Viewers comment that Sellers and Linthicum’s edit should be used instead of the official trailer.

Even the official “John Carter” director took notice of the video.

Sellers, a Burbank, California, resident who discovered “John Carter” at age 11, and runs the fansite The John Carter Files – all about the classic Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, and especially the upcoming March 9 release of the film adaptation – spoke with CNN Geek Out about what makes fans want to improve on official trailers in such a way.

CNN Geek Out: What did you hope to accomplish with this video?

Sellers: It started out as a form of DIY therapy – we had been watching the Super Bowl in excited anticipation of seeing the “John Carter” TV spot. We were disappointed by the spot that played in the game and kind of a had a slightly boozy, post-Super Bowl moment of inspiration in which we said, basically: “Come on, we can do better than that!”

So we downloaded all the spots and trailers that were available online and cut a new one from all the old clips. When we started cutting it we were just doing it for fun but by the time we were done we knew it played well and might help if anyone saw it. At that point we started thinking, you know, if we could just get this out there and people could see it – who knows, it might have a positive effect?

We realized the most likely outcome is that it would just be seen by a very few people so we didn’t have major delusions – but we thought, every little bit helps, every person who decides to see the movie and likes it and talks about it adds to the possibility that it’s a success.

So we uploaded it to YouTube and hoped that people would start seeing it and start talking about it. Nothing much happened for a couple of weeks until the film’s director Andrew Stanton [“WALL-E”] tweeted about it and said: “Great fan trailer! They get it!”

It took another day before it gathered much momentum – but now for the last two days it’s been getting a lot of attention. Now that it’s out there and being seen we hope it converts some skeptics.

CNN Geek Out: Were you influenced by other fan trailers? Are you excited to see the movie?

Sellers: We were influenced almost entirely by the books and our knowledge of the story that was lurking inside the trailers and TV spots that we were seeing and I suppose, secondarily, a lifetime of other trailers that we’d seen and been affected by.

It’s beyond being excited – it’s actually very emotional. Like a lot of people who were so affected by Edgar Rice Burroughs, I’ve been carrying this movie around in my head for decades. The story is so visual and cinematic that you can’t help, from the first time you read it, think – what an incredible movie this would make if they could just match Burroughs’ imagination. The problem was, for all these years the technology was just not able to credibly depict what Burroughs had written. Now the technology has finally caught up to Burroughs’ vision – and we’re going to see it. If I just stop for a moment and imagine being in the theater when this movie starts  … I get teary eyed at the feeling of “deliverance” that I know I’m going to feel.

CNN Geek Out: Do you think the movie might be missing something?

Sellers: If I were to base my expectation purely upon what I was seeing in the trailers, yes, I would be very concerned that something was missing because it was feeling kind of hollow – all spectacle, not much substance. But I know the story that it’s based on – and I know that the director is Andrew Stanton and he’s the guy that made a movie Wall-E and Finding Nemo so I know that we have a masterful storyteller working with material from another master storyteller. So no I’m not worried that it’s missing something. All my worries have to do with the business side of this – will it get enough audience opening weekend so that positive word of mouth can carry it? Will we get sequels? I worry about all that, but not about the film itself – it will deliver.

CNN Geek Out: What do you think studios can do better in general in adapting genre, promoting genre releases? Why create a fan trailer?

Sellers: We’ve reached a point with CGI and VFX that audience aren’t wowed by them any more and that’s a good thing. These are tools that need to be employed in the service of a great story, which usually starts with great characters. The audience – all humans, really – have a deeply felt ability to connect with a great story and the studios can’t lose sight of that. It’s all about story and the trailers need to convey the scope of the production value without becoming a slave to it. They need to make us care about the people or the characters – if they do, then the spectacle, the action, the special effects – all of that works. If they don’t make us care about the characters, then none of that works.

In thinking about it, it seems to me like the notion of two guys sitting on the couch watching the Super Bowl, being disappointed by the multi-million dollar trailer for their favorite movie and saying hell, let’s fix that – and having the tools to do it and the means to get it ‘out there’ – that’s a story which, even if you were the guys in the middle of it, is thought provoking. It makes you think about the implications when – as one blogger put it–”random Youtube guy” with Windows Moviemaker or Final Cut Pro and a few hours to spare is able to do something that 10 or 15 years ago would have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment and software–it’s just astonishing and empowering. And to then be able to put it out there and have a chance for it to be seen and have an impact – I think we’re very lucky to be living in a moment where that’s possible.