Compare Writer/Director Rian Johnson's Sizzle Reel for 'Looper' to the Film's Trailer

We've discussed pitch/sizzel reels and mood/tone films a few times on No Film School before, but it's interesting that so many of them are now finding their way online. Rian Johnson -- writer/director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom -- with the help of his good friend Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who stars in the just-released film), put together a fake trailer for his new film Looper long before production on the movie began. Check out both videos below.

For comparison, here is the final trailer for the film:

Video is no longer available:

Here is what Ryan said about the making of this fake trailer:

This is a strange curiosity I thought might be interesting - just after I finished the script for Looper but before we began preproduction I asked Joe to record some voice-over, and with help from my friend Ronen Verbit constructed this "fake trailer" using clips from other movies. This is a fairly common thing to do when you're trying to get a movie off the ground, but it was the first time I tried it. It was meant to show more some of the film's tone, and to show how the odd concept could be presented in a clear and compelling way in the marketing. Zach Johnson did the sketches. Note that we hadn't begun the casting process yet, and the clips were chosen just based on their visuals and not by who is in them.

This is the first pitch reel I've personally seen for a big Hollywood project that has used somewhat crude animation to help tell the story (though I'm sure it's far from the first that has done it). It's basically a storyboard animatic, but in this case they've replaced the background with a real-life photo (which I think helps tremendously). I already mentioned in a previous post that I think voiceovers are very difficult to get right for an entire piece, but I think it worked well for this pitch reel. Of course, it helps to have an A-list actor, but in my opinion it works very well either way.

I know some people have mentioned they have a hard time watching these since they almost always feature clips from other films, but I'm curious to know if people feel differently about this one because of the animation? I think at the very least, it's clear that the tone of the pitch reel matches the tone of the trailer perfectly, and that's a testament to Rian Johnson's skills as a writer and as a director.

What do you guys think? Do you think the animation helps make this more original?

Link: Looper clip-o-matic trailer -- Vimeo

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I think the animation helps to explain things that would have been hard to do with footage copied from other films.

October 14, 2012 at 4:57PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


In this case, the sizzle reel seems to represent a movie I would have much rather seen... and I pretty much enjoyed Looper. This just oozes a much grittier and darker tone than what we saw in the final product, and the irony is that these mock trailers are meant to sell the mood and tone of a film; in my opinion barely any of this darkness made it into "Loops".

It is Interesting to see the use of the crude animation, but it totally makes sense. Thanks for sharing this!

October 14, 2012 at 7:49PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


It's always good to see these films to get an idea of how much may or may not change between the pitch and the final execution... but the mere existence of such "sizzle" reels isn't exactly news. They're done all the time. Especially in advertising. Either to pitch an idea to a client or to run focus group testing on said idea...

October 14, 2012 at 9:56PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Yes..the animation is HUGE. Otherwise it's just like so much confusion what
does this movie have to do with Seven...etc.
Not really anything we haven't seen before. If you like it
try Assasins w/ Stallone and Antonio Banderas.

October 15, 2012 at 5:11PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


The sizzle reel reminds me of the huge problem I had with the movie. The sizzle reel shows the type of movie I was expecting and wanted to see. Unfortunately [SPOILERS] after he breaks the rule he sits in a farm for an hour and then kills himself.

The first hour was great, the second hour tried so hard to give me something I didn't expect that it bored and disappointed me.

October 19, 2012 at 12:19PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I don't think that in this case the animation really helped sell the idea more than another clip could have, but it does give the sense of some sort of instructional video on the world of the future, which to me really works. As to having "a hard time watching [sizzle reels], I really enjoy them. By using clips from other films, not only do sizzle films show a potential investor/producer what a film might be like without spending any real dollars, they go beyond the actual images of a film to the core mood and abstract constructs that will be behind the movie not matter what the finished product.

October 26, 2012 at 11:45AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM