Sometimes being a tease is a good thing
Well written, brilliantly acted, superbly directed, “BOSS” is quite a series. TNT licensed the episodes (originally broadcast on Starz) to air throughout Latin America, and we were lucky enough to get to edit the promos. You can watch one of the spots here.
Most broadcast promos are fairly similar in approach. You want to tantalize the viewers into watching whatever you’re promoting without giving away too much. Simple, right? Just make the audience want to watch the show, then tell ‘em when it’ll be on.
You need to reveal enough of what’s going on to give them a sense of what the episode’s about. But if you give away too much, you run the risk of spoiling the suspense. Promos that do this—and we see them all the time, especially with modern movie trailers—are pretty much counterproductive.
When the viewer has all the mysteries presented and then solved in short order, she doesn’t really need to watch the actual movie or episode any more. She already knows what’s going to happen.
So our approach is to take the producer’s script as sort of a loose framework or starting place, and then we branch out from there visually. We love to pull in shots from multiple story lines so that we can tease each one without giving away the answers. We sidestep. We dissemble… insinuate… prevaricate. The promo still builds in intensity, but because multiple story lines are teased simultaneously, questions are posed but left unanswered. The viewer still has a reason to tune in.
When “BOSS” first started airing on TNTLA, the producer wanted to try something different for several of the promos. He wanted to compliment the more “straight ahead” spots we were doing with additional interstitials that highlight other salient aspects of the series and make it worth watching.
Because “BOSS” is so rich in well-crafted characters, he felt that introducing several key players in unbroken scenes without voiceover would be quite different stylistically. That alone would get the spots to stand out on air. And the characters, compelling in their own right, would be more than enough to create intrigue for the viewer. Please note: these promos were created in standard definition at the request of the network.
Promos typically move quickly. You’ve got a lot to say in only 30 seconds, and you want to create a general feeling of excitement so that whatever you’re promoting also seems exciting by association.
With the character interstitials we created, however, we wanted to do just the opposite. We wanted to slow down. We wanted to focus on one character at a time, like voyeurs… too fascinated by the spectacle to look away. We let the characters’ actions speak for themselves—there is almost no dialogue and no voiceover whatsoever until the end page. As a result, we think these promos feel more like mini operas—full of pathos, human failings, and tragedy—than typical promos.
What do you think? Are these promos too “out there?” Or are they effective?
Special thanks to friend and TNTLA producer, Mickey Dubrow, for giving us the opportunity to edit and sound design these promos for air.