editorsCall in sick, ignore your loved ones, and put on a pot of coffee: the trailer competition for The Nines begins today.

The delay in staging the competition has probably led to some over-thinking: What about people who haven’t seen the movie? What about film school students? What about people who are actually video editors for a living — is it fair for them to compete?

Allow me to recontextualize a bit.

This is the video equivalent of one of the scene challenges I occasionally throw on the site. Given the same criteria — and in this case, the same clips — the goal is to see who can come up with the coolest, slickest, strangest and/or most awesome piece of digital video. You may be using Final Cut instead of Final Draft, but the instinct is the same. It doesn’t matter who you are, or whether you’ve seen The Nines yet. If you have a good idea (and/or mad editing skillz), you should compete.

Like the Scene Challenges, the prize here is bragging rights. In addition, I’ll be congratulating the winners at our big debut screening in Austin on September 28th.1 I’ll even play the trailers if we can get DVD’s in time.

There are two categories for the competition:

1. Best Pure Trailer

By “pure,” I mean that all of the footage used in creating the trailer comes from the clips provided. You can mangle them, run them backwards, or color-correct them to obscurity. You can throw in titles, motion graphics, and other user-created content. But you can’t mix in footage from Donnie Darko or The Magnificent Seven. Because that’s for the other category…

2. Best Mash-Up Trailer

All those things you couldn’t do in the other category? You can do them. If you want to grab the nuclear explosion from The Sum of All Fears, go for it. This isn’t an invitation for flagrant copyright violation, but rather an urge to explore the boundaries of creative fair use. There’s no commercial aspect to any part of this competition, and if YouTube (or whoever) lets you post it, that’s good enough for our purposes.

Speaking of YouTube, that’s a pretty obvious place to let the world (and the judges2) see your work. Simply include “thenines” (one word) as a tag, to help us find it. But you’re also welcome to post wherever else you want — MySpace, Zannel, etc.

No matter where you post it, be sure to leave a link to it in the forums at lookforthenines.com. That’s where we’ll making our list of trailers to check out.

I expect that most people will use music from their favorite films and bands. Again, the YouTubes of the world seem to be just fine with this. 3

The official trailer for The Nines plays as a sort of thriller. Feel free to ignore this tone. Just as you can turn The Shining into a comedy, you can do pretty much anything with The Nines.

I’m sure there will be more questions in the comments, so keep checking back as I add updates to this article. And check the forums at lookforthenines for other suggestions from competitors. But for now, get downloading.


There are 120 clips, with an average length of about four seconds each. The longest is 0:28, shortest is 0:01. It’s pretty raw footage — you’ll hear me yelling “Cut!” and shouting off-camera interview questions. Erik Beeson, who helped get the footage online, feels that the winners will be the ones who do the best job with audio editing. I disagree. I think the winner will be the one with the best original idea, and decent execution.

There are two versions of footage to choose from: DV and MPEG-4. The DV is big and beautiful. The MPEG-4 is small and nimble — and not as bad as you’d think. Both are available by torrent:4

Here’s the deal: If you’re using the torrents, you have to help seed. That means keeping your client open after you finish downloading, so others can share.

If all this talk of torrents scares you, there is also a directly-downloadable version of the MPEG-4 footage:

If anyone else wants to mirror for a day or two, I’d be much obliged. Leave a note in the comments.

The Deadline

All entries need to be online and viewable by 6:00 a.m. PDT Tuesday, September 25th.

Keep checking back

There will be refinements and clarifications, I’m sure. Leave questions in the comments section, and I’ll address them as soon as I can.

Good luck!

  1. Ryan and I will be there for a Q&A. Tickets are on sale now at the Alamo Drafthouse.
  2. The judges being me and some other recruited folks from the movie.
  3. The one sad scenario I can imagine is if someone creates an absolutely amazing trailer that would be cool to include on the DVD — but can’t because of music licensing issues. Using Alex Wurman’s score — or your own original music — is a way around that, but is likely too limiting.
  4. Thanks to everyone who started downloading these yesterday, and has kept seeding.