Pump up the volume

By Published on .

Sandwiched between the end of feature trailers and the main attraction's opening credits at AMC cinemas is a cell phone PSA that disguises itself as a promo for a teen cheerleading movie, "Pump Up: The Movie." The purposely cliched story tells of a male cheerleader named Sam Owens determined to make it to nationals with his squad, the Hummingbirds, against all odds, until his dream is ruined by a ringing cell phone in the audience. Not the audience at nationals, mind you, but in the movie theater, as pointed out by a child on the screen. The spot, directed by Mike Neleson, was sponsored by Best Buy and conceived and produced by its in-house advertising team, to entertain and get people to turn their cell phones off. And while the spot already had an authentic look, The key to keeping the charade alive until the final moments of the :60 was to make the spot sound as much like a real trailer as possible, a job that fell to composers and sound designers at Minneapolis music house Brahmstedt White Noise, led by founder Ken Brahmstedt, who designed sound effects, composed music and created ring tones for the campaign.

For the soundtrack, the BWN team looked to the trailer's rock and jock inspiration, the adrenaline-fueled techno pop that backs movies like "Bring it On." "The gag is only going to work if people think that they're actually watching the trailer for a movie that's coming out," says Brahmstedt, emphasizing the fact that the music had to be original while sounding typical, and he worked with sound designer Chris Heidman to write five different songs for the spot. "The cutting of the music would follow the images, and we had to stay true to the formula and throw as much in as we could," Brahmstedt says. "Some are just blurbs, and you move on." The trailer's kicker is backed by the title track, "Move That Thing," a bass-heavy jam with intended cheesy vocals like "Throw your hands in the air/Wave them like you just don't care." The songs also inhabit a game- and viral video-filled website for the trailer as part of AMC and Best Buy's "Silence is Golden" campaign. "Move that Thing" is also available as a downloadable ring tone.

The scope of the project wasn't the only perk for Brahmstedt, who enjoyed designing for a large theater's surround sound. "We got to do all the bombastic sound design with explosions and my feeling is that you can never get big enough in this case," he says. "Every time there was a white frame, the audio would blow up. That's just true to form." But the most time-consuming element was the climax of the spot, when the familiar Nokia ring tone echoes through the theater. "In those last few weeks," says Brahmstedt, "we were putting the ring tone in, and it was like rocket science. Comedy and timing are the magic. We did them over and over again."

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