A version of this article appeared in The Age, May 25, 2012.
In the office of a St Kilda production company, Mark Hartley and Jamie Blanks are lamenting the decline of the movie trailer. Where are the booming voiceovers of yesteryear? ''It's a lost art form, the voice-over,'' Blanks muses. ''It might be retro to bring it back soon.''
Though Hartley and Blanks have both cut trailers professionally, their interest in the form goes back to the early days of their friendship. ''When we were in high school, Jamie used to work in a video library,'' Hartley says. ''After hours we used to load up the boot of his car with every VHS in the store … and we would transfer every trailer we could find on to U-matic and make these trailer compilations just to watch.''
Since then, both have gone on to directing careers. Blanks has made a string of horror films in America and locally; Hartley is best-known for the 2008 documentary Not Quite Hollywood (which he frankly describes as ''one long trailer'') but plans to move into features with a remake of the 1978 ''Ozploitation'' classic Patrick.
In the meantime, they've joined forces to assemble Corman at Ya!, a 90-minute program of classic trailers for the films of legendary exploitation producer Roger Corman, screening for one night only as part of the St Kilda Film Festival.
Roger Corman – now there's someone who always knew the value of a good trailer. Hartley and Blanks are particular fans of the frequently misleading methods used to promote schlock such as Cover Girl Models (1975), from Corman's New World Pictures – courtesy of the editing talents of Joe Dante and Allan Arkush, young guns who would also become directors in their own right.
Corman is famous for his focus on the financial bottom line, but he's always been a complex, enigmatic personality; even during his exploitation heyday he had a parallel career as a distributor of European arthouse fare. ''Side by side with Night Call Nurses , they'd be releasing the latest Ingmar Bergman or Fellini movies, and Dante and Arkush cut the trailers the same way,'' Hartley says. ''Corman said to Dante and Arkush, 'I know we're selling art here, but we're still going to do it via tits and ass.'''
Despite everything, Hartley defends the ''earnestness'' of the early black-and-white sci-fi cheapies which Corman directed as well as produced. ''It was very much about telling a very serious tale without tongue in cheek,'' he says, though he acknowledges there are exceptions, such as the 1961 parody Creature from the Haunted Sea. ''Well, you know, when you've got a couple of table-tennis balls left over, what else are you going to do but turn them into a monster?''
Corman remains prolific as a producer, even if most of his recent work has been made for television or DVD. Hartley remembers speaking to the great man after a screening of Dinoshark (2010) and seizing the chance to suggest a follow-up. ''I pitched him Piranha-Saur, and he told me the rules. He said, 'Mark, we need a very extreme death in the first two minutes, then nothing for the next 30 minutes, and then build it up towards the climax. Send me two pages and I'll send it to the SyFy channel and I'll see what I can do.'''
So what happened? ''I was really, really keen to do it,'' Hartley says, ''but then Patrick got the go-ahead and I figured I should concentrate on making a film with a slightly bigger budget.'' Talk about opportunities missed.