When Dan Beers' feature film debut, "Premature" debuted at SXSW, Eric Kohn wrote that the indie teen comedy, which borrows the premise of "Groundhog Dog," "maintains a consistently enjoyable feeling due to a shrewd script that foregrounds the genuine emotional connection between the characters in spite of the ubiquitous silliness around them." Given that the film, which IFC Midnight released on July 4, follows a teen's ongoing premature orgasms, it's not surprising that it had a tough time getting a green band trailer approved by the MPAA. Below, Beers explains the process of cutting a green band trailer for a red band movie.
My movie "Premature" is red band by nature. It's a teenage sex comedy about a high school student who has to relive his failed first attempt at having sex over and over again until he gets it right. The trigger to re-start the day is his premature orgasm. There are words and phrases uttered such as: "ball-o-caust," "jizzikinesis" and phrases like "Her pussy inspired The King's Speech."
After spending the two and a half years making the movie, I thought all the hard work was over. Pitching and selling the concept to Film Nation, co-writing the script with Mathew Harawitz, watching Film Nation miraculously pre-sell the majority of the territories of the movie internationally, receiving the green light, successfully casting a movie of mainly unknown faces, shooting on a tight 24- day schedule during a hot and grueling Atlanta summer, slogging through post production, submitting to SXSW, getting into SXSW, and lastly having IFC Midnight acquire the movie out of the festival. It was a whirlwind two and a half years. We had made it. The hard work was done and it was time to sit back and take a breather. But there was one thing I didn't consider: the green band movie trailer.
I just presumed we would cut the mother of all red band trailers and that would be that. But when you have your movie rated (ours being a hard R), the digital outlets, such as iTunes and Xbox, require you to deliver a green band trailer approved by the MPAA. And being that the main thrust of our audience was going to view the movie digitally, we needed to make sure we had the appropriate sales tools to encourage audiences to watch the movie. But how were we going to cut a green band trailer that was at all funny out of a movie like this?
Film Nation had initially cut a very raunchy red band trailer for the movie's premiere at SXSW. After acquiring the movie, IFC Midnight started to work on it's own version, using the original trailer as a blue print. The first version was to be the green band. They removed all the curse words, some sexual innuendos, and a few simulated orgasms. I saw it and while I was disappointed to see some of the funnier elements removed, I understood the process and was ultimately happy with what was done. They submitted it to the MPAA and this was the reply:
"Content will only be considered for restricted (red tag) trailer. For other uses, including a green tag theatrical trailer and VOD trailer, please address explicit sexual content and dialogue throughout. Please revise and resubmit. All changes -- added/deleted content must be viewed in context; therefore, all revisions will be reevaluated prior to any final approval."
We were flatly denied approval due to the general explicit sexual content and dialogue. Okay, so back to the drawing board. We went through another pass, sanitizing the trailer, removing many of the funnier R-rated elements, but holding onto the PG-13 jokes, or what we considered to be PG-13. We resubmitted the trailer a day later to the MPAA, confident we would be approved again. This was the response:
"Overall content still has too many graphic sexual references for use as a greenband trailer, including:
--girl sliding her hand down his body, and his orgasm reaction
--"wet spot" references after talking about his orgasms
--"fill a bucket" orgasm references"
For a movie whose premise directly deals with orgasms, we were not allowed to say the word orgasm. We couldn't say wet spot. We couldn't show a hand going down a pair of pants. Nor could we joke that a teenage boy could fill a bucket with his bodily fluids. While I was disappointed that we were losing more and more jokes, I was more concerned we were going to have difficulty explaining the concept of the movie if we couldn't use certain words.
Ultimately, we used quotes from critics to cover up the wet spots. We also lost the words orgasm and wet spot, but to my surprise, you could still glean the concept without the use of R-rated words. Lastly, we cut the father saying his son could fill a bucket at the end of the trailer, but the button for the green band is still very funny. In this case, less was more.
My advice if you are making an R-rated movie with risky subject matter, consider what you're going to show in a green band trailer in advance. I know it may sound ludicrous. It did to me. But I may have not felt so compromised by the trailer if I had thought of alternatives. That said, it all worked in the end, because as the The New York Times so aptly wrote about "Premature: "This is still a movie about ejaculation-enabled time warps."
See the green band and red band versions of the trailer below: