The Trailers for Ghostbusters (2016) and the Art of Editing Comedy
Tony Zhou

As a trailer editor, I love this breakdown because it is so on point — these microscopic decisions are what my entire day is made of. However, I would have to add the biggest difference/problem between the two trailers, and why the British one is SO much better…

The American one “pops the balloon” too early! For the joke to be set up right, as you say, requires a “doom and gloom” opening, the establishment of a real, scary, deadly, enormous THREAT… then, the balloon pops when the guy says “Except you girls…” and we cut to a shot of our goofy looking heroes who look wholly unprepared to take on that threat. Funny!

But the American one DESTROYS that setup by showing the funny Ghostbusters logo BEFORE we get to the moment of comedic contrast (often called “the rug pull”), the moment when you see the heroes are just goofballs. I like the balloon metaphor, because it is SO important to always be inflating the balloon until the “pop” moment, and anything else (i.e. the Ghostbusters logo) is just “letting the air out” of the balloon before you can pop it.

As you also astutely point out, the reasons studio trailers (and movies) often, well, stink, is because of the millions of layers of studio notes, etc… I GUARANTEE you the addition of the logo was a studio note, not the editor’s decision. An exec said “We got this great logo, we gotta show it to people up front or they’ll lose interest”. And, as always, the editor had to say “…okay, um… (debates saying something)… sure.” And such is the life of the professional editor ;)

GREAT essay, as usual. So many of us working in the film industry -especially editors — LOVE your stuff, and eagerly await the next one. Keep it up!