In this movie fan’s humble opinion, John Madden’s Miss Sloane is likely the most underrated film to come out of Hollywood in 2016. We can all speculate why it didn’t get its due at the domestic box-office: maybe it was the politics surrounding this, admittedly, very political film (which opened just a few weeks following the U.S. presidential election); maybe it wasn’t quite the Oscar hopeful people were thinking it would become – although Jessica Chastain did score a Golden Globe nomination for her absolute knockout of a performance. But taking it on its own merits, this House of Cards-meets-Sherlock political thriller manages to nail the balance of handling heavy political themes with grace, while also being incredibly (and likely, too) entertaining – all anchored by Chastain’s classy-yet-powerful performance as the titular lobbyist.
So it’s not surprising that this performance became the backbone to the equally classy first teaser trailer for Miss Sloane – a powerfully effective (as well as rewatchable) tease which landed on multiple sites’ Best Of 2016 lists, including our own and The Playlist‘s . Following the film’s digital release in the U.S. last month, TrailerTrack caught up with editors Robert Walker and David Herrera of Ignition Creative to talk in-depth about the creation of this awesome piece. Watch the trailer below, and read on for the full interview:
TT: Likely an obvious question – how did you land on Keaton Simons’s ‘When I Go’ as the music for this piece?
Robert Walker: Because I was using Jessica Chastain’s speech throughout the trailer I knew we needed to find a single piece of music that would build throughout the piece, and had enough different sections to support the story-lines being teased. The first dialogue we hear in the trailer is about lobbying, which could come across as dry and uninteresting so the music had to be mysterious and build anticipation. Our music department pulled many tracks for us to try out and “Where I Go” was clearly the strongest. Then we had the instrumentation broken down in to different tracks where I was able to manipulate them to create more dynamics. Additionally, our in-house composer, David James Rosen, created supporting music to make it feel more cinematic.
TT: It’s not particularly often that you do end up getting a teaser trailer for a film like this (and even rarer that it ends up sticking as the ‘main’ trailer right up to release, as it did in this case). From an editor’s perspective, are there any challenges or benefits of working on a shorter teaser as opposed to a more regular 2:30 trailer?
David Herrera: The teaser approach allowed us focus on the emotional struggles for power, dealmaking and the betrayals of D.C. politics rather than only the issues themselves. In our current, politically-charged landscape it’s important to balance these two factors in order to avoid potentially alienating viewers who prefer to keep their politics separate from their entertainment.
RW: A teaser trailer is always exciting because you can favor theme, mood and emotion over the general plot synopsis that most trailers require. It’s particularly effective for a movie like Miss Sloane where there are twists that you don’t want to reveal. And the creative challenge comes when we ask ourselves ‘are we showing enough to grab the audience’s attention and interest without revealing too many twists?
TT: How far along was the film when you began working on this trailer?
DH: Initially, we were tasked with working on a promo piece about Miss Sloane for Cannes Film Festival. For that, because of the timing, we were working with content from the editor’s first assembly of the film, and in some cases pulling from scenes in their earliest iterations. However, when we were assigned to work on the film’s trailer, we had content from the director’s cut, and later versions that incorporated Max Richter’s stirring and haunting score. It was really exciting to get the chance to work on promo materials for this film, from the early phases through to the final cut, — it’s an illuminating experience for editors to watch a film evolve from its earliest form to a highly polished, emotional and impactful final version.
TT: How did the use of Sloane’s ‘lobbying is about foresight’ speech as, essentially, the backbone of the whole piece come about? Were there other approaches and structures that you experimented with before settling on this particular one?
RW: Three editors — Eric Archer, Dave Herrera and myself — all cut different approaches. We experimented with longer trailers and other mysterious teasers themes. Many of them highlighted the opening speech from Chastain but it was the director, John Madden, who mentioned that perhaps we could use it as a single grid. And, we found it put more of the focus on the unique power and intellect of the Miss Sloane character and the world of lobbying a backdrop.
TT: I have to ask: did director John Madden provide any creative input or guidance along the way?
DH: We worked closely with John Madden and the filmmakers to ensure the trailer offered up a unique perspective, placing the audience inside the political arena in a way that they’ve never seen on screen before, while avoiding to reveal to viewers the surprising twists and turns in the final half of the story. Our initial direction was to shape the piece around Jessica’s outstanding portrayal of Sloane, focusing on the unique qualities of her character — intelligence and tenacity in equal parts — that make her an indelible player in the dangerous game of deal-making and power politics. As part of the trailer we initially planned to show the rise and fall of Sloane’s career as she challenged the powerful by becoming an advocate for a just cause, however, it was important not to expose too much of the political issue itself. We needed to give the audience a sense that Sloane is the smartest person in the room, the kind of person who is one step ahead of her competition because she will take the risks others won’t. And this required careful balance; to position her as a force to reckoned with, but not invisible to the threats unfolding around her.
In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. Known equally for her cunning and her track record of success, she has always done whatever is required to win. But when she takes on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds that winning may come at too high a price.
Also starring Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, Sam Waterston and John Lithgow, Miss Sloane is out now on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVD in the U.S., and will be released in UK cinemas on May 12. A big thank you to the team at Ignition Creative – check out more of their film, TV and video game marketing work at ignitioncreative.com.
(images and video courtesy EuropaCorp)