Meet the Genius Behind Fringe's Mind-Bendingly Good Promos!Fri., Apr. 29, 2011 6:13 PM PDT by Jennifer Arrow
Are you a crazed Fringe fan? If yes, then you must already know the work of one Ari Margolis, the behind-the-scenes savant who created a little marketing masterpiece we like to call "Strawberry-Flavored Death," the promo that (a) shattered all our pessimistic assumptions that Fox moved the show to Friday to die and (b) brought Ari's brilliant advertising to our attention once and for all.
We squeak with joy every time a new Margolis original comes out, and we decided it was high time we talk to Fringe's secret weapon about which universe he's from anyway and how he'll be tantalizing us with Fringe goodies for the remainder of the season!
Q&A with Fringe Promo Mastermind Ari Margolis
When did you start working on promos for Fringe?
I work at the Special Ops department here at Fox, and we get assigned to different shows, so I was working of Fringe from the beginning along with a couple of other people in our department. I did a couple for the premiere, these short 15-second spots with little soundbites from the cast, kind of teasing and it would end with static, just to tease the show and then it slowly grew.
I was working on it all first season, doing interview pieces and stuff like that, and we have different people going to the sets so I would give them questions, and they would get content for me and then I would cut it up and stuff. Then that started to grow and I would go to set and talk to the cast and then started going to interview with Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman and things just started growing.
And then in the second season for the premiere I did a promo that fast forwarded through the entire premiere episode, which was actually based on this trailer that I had seen, I think it was a European trailer for Femme Fatale. So it fast forwards and then stops so you can see a little bit and then fast forwards again. It even shows you the entire credits and end credits. The trick was that when you fast forward you can cut out frames because I didn't want people to see certain things but you want to give viewers the impression that they have seen everything without actually seeing everything.
And the Friday night death slot promo that I'm in love with, did you do that on your own or were you asked to do it?
Well, basically, I started to get more noticed towards the end of the second season. I did the Fringe noir black-and-white movie trailer and then a movie trailer for "Over There," then for I did a second movie-trailer promo, for "Entrada."
What happened was, I think sometime after that there was an announcement that the show was moving to Fridays and everyone started freaking out. So I looked up Fringe fan reactions and what I noticed is that people really liked the "Entrada" trailer and people would say, "Why would Fox do all this cool promotion if they're just going to move the show to die?"
When I read that I thought that we need to address that, so that is how the idea got launched, from the reaction, people just seemed convinced that that was what was going on and if people begin to believe that then people will stop watching the show. Everyone I work with is a big fan of the show so we tried to figure a way to let people know that we are behind the show and that we are moving it so it can do well not go away. So that is how that whole idea came about.
Where are you from and how did you learn know to do all this?
I went to film school at RIT in Rochester, N.Y. and then came out here with a friend of mine, Jim Morley. We came out here to be writer/directors and started at that, writing scripts. We made a feature film called black days which is like a film noir which premiered at Sundance. So we have been trying our hand at the whole thing and we have had some success with a couple of scripts here and there so this is kind of the job to pay the bills. And I have been here a while and have gotten to work on some shows that I really like like 24 and Arrested Development but this is the dream job because Fringe is my favorite show. When I first saw the show I thought it was cool and it would be cool to work on but by the fourth episode I was like whoa and that is when the show really started to click in for me and then by the end of the first season I was just very excited about the show.
And what is the Special Ops department?
Special ops is a part of Fox marketing and it's headed up by Dean Norris and we get to do all kinds of cool stuff. There is an on-air department and a creative services department and we do a little bit of everything. We do some on-air stuff, web stuff, we do sizzle reels and sometimes…we did an Idol special…so we get a little bit of everything. And we have a cool name.
...What's the process of cooking up these trailers?
Well, I kind of have a lot of freedom at this point because I have built up a lot of trust and have a good report with Jeff and Joel, so usually what will happen is I will read the scripts when they come in, and that's where the ideas start to hatch.
Then usually I will just do a rough cut of something because I have a lot of freedom but if it is something really elaborate, I will script it out first and then show it around internally.
For the big trailers we show them to Jeff and Joel first because we want to make sure that they're cool with it. I am super sensitive about not revealing too much because I don't want to spoil the show for anyone but I want to make sure that the executive producers are good and comfortable with it too.
It's been just crazy as of lately because they've mentioned me a couple of times in the press and then we had a live Twitter thing and Jasika Nicole me a shoutout on Twitter and that's when all the messages from fans started pouring in. So it's been kind of crazy because you don't really expect it. It's all about the Fringe fans, they're just the best fans. Working on promos for Fringe is more than a job because I love the show so much.
Also, one other geek detail you'll appreciate, I wear a Fringe shirt every Friday (including right now) and alternate between a normal Fringe one and alternate-universe Fringe Division one, depending on where the ep is set. And when it's set in both, it's a coin toss!
So what can we look forward to for the rest of the season? Is there anything you can tease?
I am planning on completing the movie trailer trilogy with a movie trailer for this season's finale, "The Day We Died."
Can. Not. Wait.