How the Cover Song Conquered Movie Trailers

Alex Pappademas
July 31, 2019
The New Yorker

Every story, as movie trailers never tire of informing us, has a beginning. The story of the cover-song trend in movie trailers began nine years ago, when the veteran trailer editor Mark Woollen found himself grappling with a difficult assignment. This was not unusual for Woollen, who is known for producing iconic, inventive mood-piece trailers for tough-to-market, tougher-to-summarize films by such directors as Terrence Malick, Steven Soderbergh, Michel Gondry, and Alejandro González Iñárritu. The brilliantly odd trailer for the Coen brothers‘ “A Serious Man,” punctuated by a rhythmically recurring shot of Fred Melamed bouncing Michael Stuhlbarg’s head off a chalkboard? That was Woollen. The trailer for Todd Field‘s “Little Children,” which used the sound of an oncoming train in lieu of music? That was Woollen, too. There are some films that can’t be marketed by traditional means; Woollen is the trailer auteur to whom auteurs turn for a nontraditional solution.

In early 2010, Woollen’s company, Mark Woollen & Associates, was tapped to produce a trailer for David Fincher’s “The Social Network.” As Woollen remembers it, it was March or April; Fincher was still busy in the editing room, and Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross had not yet written the movie’s score (which would win an Academy Award). With the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the election of 2016 still years away, the Facebook story seemed like curiously dry material for Fincher, the director of “Fight Club.” “It was kind of getting beat up in the press,” Woollen said. “Like, ‘How can you make a movie about Facebook? Are you gonna make a movie about eBay or Amazon next?'”

At first, Woollen wasn’t sure how to cut a trailer for a Facebook movie, either. But the answer turned out to be sitting on his hard drive. A few years earlier, while searching for something else, he’d downloaded an MP3 file from what he described as “some GeoCities-looking kind of Web site.” The file was a 2001 live recording of the song “Creep“—the first hit single by the British art-rock band Radiohead—as performed by Scala and Kolacny Brothers, a two-hundred-member girls’ choir from Belgium. The recording had a lot of the things that a trailer editor looks for in a piece of music. “It has this gentle introduction, it has moments that build and swell and rise, and then it can come down and land nicely,” Woollen said. “I felt, like, Here’s a track I can build a piece around.”

More important, the music seemed to work on a thematic level. Woollen, who was not a Facebook user, had been kicking around ideas about connectivity and loneliness. He played the choir recording on repeat while driving to work and thought about “lost, lonely voices that felt like they were speaking from the depths of the Internet.” In his business, Woollen said, “You’re always talking about trailers that invite you in, saying, ‘Come and see us, come and see us.'” He liked the counterintuitive notion of building a trailer around a song whose refrain is “What the hell am I doing here / I don’t belong here.” “The irresistible ingredient,” Woollen said, “was one hundred Belgian girls singing ‘You’re so fucking special’ in full voice.”

The finished trailer is an unsettling masterpiece. For fifty seconds, it plays like an ad for Facebook—a montage of photos, status updates, and unseen hands confirming friendships with the click of a blue-and-white button. Then, at the one-minute mark, a pixelated image of Jesse Eisenberg’s alarmingly dead-eyed Mark Zuckerberg fades into view. Woollen said that he was nervous about showing Fincher a cut that held back the director’s own footage in favor of stock photos and family pictures supplied by the staff of Mark Woollen & Associates. But Fincher liked it; the first time he screened “The Social Network” for the studio, he played Woollen’s trailer first.

Read the full article

Mark Woollen (Joe Pugliese / Wired, 2013)

Secrets of a Trailer Guru: How This Guy Gets You to the Movies

Jason Kehe and Katie M. Palmer
June 18, 2013
Wired

Meet Trailer Editor Mark Woollen. He May Be the Most Visionary Director in Hollywood

Boris Kachka
November 5, 2014
Vulture (New York Magazine)

From ‘Schindler’s List’ to ‘A Hidden Life,’ the Unsung Hero of Awards-Season Trailers Is Mark Woollen

Anne Thompson
Aug 13, 2019
IndieWire

Mark Woollen & Associates

The Social Network
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Gone Girl

The Best Movie Trailer Ever Came Out Eight Years Ago. It’s Still The Best

I wish I was special.

Adam Epstein
July 19, 2018
Quartzy

In 2009, shortly after The Social Network—then known only as “the Facebook movie”—was announced, Mashable ran a story with the headline, “No, You Cannot Turn Facebook into a (Decent) Movie.” Even after it was reported that the brilliant filmmaker David Fincher would direct Aaron Sorkin’s script about Mark Zuckerberg and the early days of Facebook, the Huffington Post published a story proclaiming “The Facebook Movie Puts the zZzZ’s in Zuckerberg.” Some months later, after the film’s cryptic, one-minute teaser trailer hit the internet, the Atlantic remained skeptical, predicting that The Social Network would be “deadly dull.”

People said the film sounded “like parody,” that it looked like “a train wreck,” that the whole thing was “asinine” and made them “weep for humanity.”

Then, eight years ago this week, that all changed. On July 16, 2010, Sony Pictures released the first full-length theatrical trailer for The Social Network, made by the artsy trailer house Mark Woollen & Associates, upending the narrative surrounding the film almost overnight:

Read the full article

Mark Woollen & Associates - Logo

Mark Woollen & Associates

The Social Network
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Gone Girl