Get Shorty! Cutting Effective Trailers

EditorThat's a wrap; wind reel and print - but did you remember about the trailer? It's often the last thing a filmmaker thinks about, but it might be the first indication anyone has of what the feature is about, how good it is and whether or not to spend some of their hard earned pay on going to see it next week. It's your pitch to the punters, so let's make it a good one. Here's how.

Slash Mareel at Home in his SuiteA trailer should be no longer than two-and-a-half minutes - shorter is even better.

I'll write that again because it is important and I will write it in bold, as well.

A trailer should be no longer than two-and-a-half minutes - shorter is even better.

Now you are 90% of the way towards perfecting the art of the trailer. Keep it short, keep it snappy, keep it pacey. Now it's time to tackle the remaining 10% of the essentials and we'll follow that with a quick check-up on the absolute never, never -do this at your peril- do not do's; if you get my meaning.

EditressTen Elements of an Effective Trailer

1 Quick Cuts

  • Cool shots driving a simple story.
  • Shot length down to 1/3 second over pumping driving music
  • Don’t let style get in the way of substance

2 Graphics That Grab You

  • Cool graphics are a great plus
  • Be creative, be different
  • Make sure trailer graphics are a change from film title graphics

Editor's Book - Some Cutting Remarks3 Original Music

  • There’s plenty of affordable music about.
  • Always use legally cleared music.

4 Tell the Story

  • But don’t throw it all away!
  • Spell it out if you need to
  • In broad strokes, using narration
  • Leave the audience wanting more

5 Use Positive Reviews

  • From creditable press outlets, known film critics
  • Use big bold quotes, white typeface against black
  • Clear the quotes with those providing them

6 Sound is critical

  • It has to be great.
  • Spend time on the sound mix
  • If you cant understand an actor neither will a punter
  • Br prepared to go for ADR just for the trailer if necessary

Editor at Work7 Star Power

  • If you’ve got one – flaunt them
  • Even a cameo of an aging star pulls weight
  • Use them extensively in the trailer

8 Shorter is Better

  • One minute, two, but no more than two-and-a-half
  • ALL cinema trailers are less than that c/o MPAA

Editor - film9 Come on With a Bang!

  • Grab attention
  • An explosive image
  • A memorable line of dialogue

10 Go Out With a Bang!

  • Close on the best shot or best line


Editor - graphics1 Don’t Use a Features Editor!

  • A trailer is short and punchy
  • Feature editors are used to playing thjngs out

2 Don’t Fear Out-takes

  • Use them in the trailer of they are right for the job
  • Hollywood does it all the time
  • Shooting for the trailer is OK too!

3 Don’t show nudity

  • Squeaky clean for PG13!
  • Don’t flaunt sex and be careful about trailer violence

4 Nothing dragged-out

  • Sound bites not lengthy dialogue
  • Every shot used should be concise

5 Don’t bore your audience

  • Get to the point dummy
  • Within the first ten seconds

6 Uncleared music is a no-no

  • It could cost you more than if you paid for it

7 Poor picture quality is a no-no

  • Visuals must be as good as your feature
  • Plan for trailer footage

8 Don’t steal other people’s shots

  • Sooner or later someone will recognise it

Editor in B&W9 Don’t tell them the ending

  • If you do, you are stupid

10 Not too Long

  • Short is best. Short. Got it? Good.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Netribution welcomes contributions that cover tricks of the trade for filmmakers. If you have some insider knowledge you would like to share, write us a short paper on it and we will circulate it to the filmmaking community for the benefit of us all.