Fringe Website Live!

Happy Treason Day, everyone! The Fringe website officially went live on July 1st, which means that, hurrah, I finally have content to analyze. So let’s dive right in:

THE VIRTUAL POSTCARD TABLE

…and my verdict is: awesome. (Although it is sort of weird that the vertically-designed cards are, like, twice as large as the horizontally-designed ones. I get that it’s a presentation thing, but still…)

And as a student of marketing, it’s a pretty fantastic way to survey, at a glance, a variety of approaches. Here’s two extremes, both by companies I know nothing about:

Bohemian RAPPsody

I’ll confess that this is one my eye simply drifts over – there are bodies doing something interesting, but there’s just too much information. At a glance, all I see is tiny text and tiny figures:  it requires me to peer fairly closely to decipher it, and it’s simply lost in a table full of other images.

Threads

I’d point to this one as being more successful: it’s a simple, clear image and title. There’s more information on closer examination, but it immediately hits you with something distinctive. (Bonus points for an image that asks a question that the show has to answer: “Why is the cute white girl wearing a paddy hat?”)

My personal favorite, however, has to go to…

Font of Knowledge

Ba-dum-bump, the Shelby Company, of which I’m a long-time fan. Regardless, I think they knocked it out of the park with this one: it’s arguably cluttered as well, but I’d say it succeeds, again, by having an immediately clear, distinctive image and title. Beyond that, it has an *aesthetic*: it promises all sorts of hard-boiled noir goodness.

Those are just images, though. The Fringe site being the cutting-edge piece of technology it is, it promises us something more fantastic still: images that *move*.

VIDEO TRAILERS

Let’s get to it. Here’s two that I found hugely successful:

COOL IMAGES

Cards on the table that I have known  – and have worked with – Kirsten for many years (also that I’ve seen this particular show in other Festivals, and highly recommend it). And this: yes. It’s a single joke, a simple joke, that’s both nicely executed and doesn’t wear out its welcome.

Here, on the other hand, is a company I know nothing about, but successfully caught my eye with this. Again, its strength is its simplicity: it doesn’t tell me what their show is, it *shows* me. Shadow puppetry is awesome, and this did exactly what a trailer is supposed to do: pushed my interest from zero percent to well over fifty.

STAND-UP COMEDY

Here’s an interesting contrasting case. I think that these are two excellent stand-up comics: and I think that one trailer works, and the other doesn’t.

Both groups chose to excerpt their shows for their trailer. If I had to guess, I would suspect that Mary’s excerpt is from the beginning of her set, while Billy’s is from the middle. (I’m happy to be corrected, if I’m mistaken.)

Mary’s excerpt feels like an introduction: we can hear the audience getting to know her, and we do, too. It feels, weirdly, like the first couple of minutes of a date: the awkward getting-to-know-you phase, and she comes off as absolutely charming.

In Billy’s excerpt, we can hear that the audience is *loving* what he’s doing. I’d say his material here isn’t amazing – it’s mostly puns – but the audience is grooving on it because of the relationship that he’s already established with them. They have an affection for him, so they enjoy his company and want him to succeed. The issue is, he hasn’t yet established that relationship with *us*, who are watching at home – so we’re eavesdropping a relationship that we’re not really a part of.

They’re both obviously skilled at what they do. But I walked away from Mary’s trailer feeling a great deal of warmth to her and the show; I walked away from Billy’s feeling like a detached observer.

TOO FREAKING LONG

I’ll confess that I stifled a groan when both of these came up, at the sight of the time listing in the corner: both are about seven minutes. That’s not a trailer: that’s a short film, and if you’re doing what I’ve been doing – i.e. sitting down and watching all of these in a row – well, I was getting pretty goddamn restless.

Two quick observations, then: the content of one of these videos is very strong, the content of the other one is not. But both of these videos would have been exponentially more successful by simply pulling out their most successful two minutes.

A LITTLE TOO META

I know Les pretty well – we’ve seen each other on the circuit for years. I like him, and his shows, a lot. So seeing him on the screen generated a lot of warmth from me. The issue is that it worked for me because I’m *already* affectionate towards the guy – for someone who doesn’t know anything about him, this video doesn’t convey what they need to know. The people a video like this will work for are the people who already know him. What’s frustrating for me is that he’s a skilled writer/performer – but the video doesn’t convey that. So what does it look like to someone who knows nothing about him?

Possibly something like this. I’d speculate that if I knew who these people were – if I already liked them – I would find this charming. But I don’t, so I don’t.

FAR ENDS OF THE BELL CURVE

So here’s my least favorite trailer on the site:

“You, yes, you darling audience, have no idea what these four women are capable of.”

That’s…accurate, yes. One of them’s a dancer? I guess? Another one does…something into a microphone?

See, for all I know, this show could be absolutely amazing. But what really rubs me the wrong way about the language of this trailer – and the language of their show description, as well – is that it assumes that I’m stupid.

Its braggadocio suggests that I would be amazed by the very idea of creatively skilled women! But…I’m not a fifties sitcom dad. I’ve been working alongside amazingly skilled women for the bulk of my career. I *know* that women are equally capable of producing amazing artistry. I also know that women are equally capable of producing lazy hackwork. What I *don’t* know is which category this show falls into, because the trailer didn’t convey that to me.

…as opposed to this trailer, which didn’t bother to *tell* me anything, because it was too busy *showing* me.

This is, hands-down, my favorite trailer on the site. I’ve never seen either Tamara Ober or Present State Movement – though I’ve wanted to, as they’ve been very successful at Fringes past. And now, I think I see why.

See, it’s interesting because this trailer shows off what she can do physically – and marries that to some very cool filmic stuff. It’s not just about what she can do with her body, but what she can do with her *presentation*. And it’s the combination of elements of here – the song, the movement, the stop-motion – that adds up to something I found very compelling. Yeah, I’m game to see what she can present onstage.

But hey, don’t take my word for it. For any of this — there’s a ton more videos and images on the brand-spankin’-new Fringe Festival site. Go forth, and analyze.

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