Movie trailers have become a polarizing thing. Some people hate them because they often give too much of the movie away. I love trailers and have worked at marketing companies that produce.
Trailers are their own art form and, just like feature-length films, are not easy to execute. The best actually win awards. Sometimes, the filmmaker will be involved in their creation, but more often than not, it will be a studio executive who will oversee the process.
Contrary to what many people may think, sometimes it’s actually best to have someone who is not the director – who has been living with the material for years – to be in charge of the trailer. When someone works on a project for a long period of time, that person can lose perspective on what elements of the film will sell to audiences.
I will grant that there are quite a few trailers that show pivotal plot points and that can be frustrating. However, I would argue that the film, itself, is often at fault for that. Many times a film only has a few moments within it that are “sellable,” i.e., are able to be taken out of context of the film and shown to the audience as defining what they’re about to see.
As a writer or a filmmaker, it is actually one’s job to create “trailer moments” when writing a project. These can often be lines of dialogue or visuals that may lie in between the set pieces (the bigger, often action-oriented scenes that a filmmaker may not want to give away) that help define the movie. As a writer, one should be very aware that the scenes between the set pieces are important and not simply filler. If a writer doesn’t create these kinds of scenes, then trailer will have to sell the set pieces and the reveals – the scenes that tend to be giveaways.
I would argue that the better the movie, the better the trailer that can be cut from it. There’s simply more material to pull from that doesn’t give away plot points. If a trailer gives too much away, often the film is not worth seeing.
Next time you’re online, take a look at the difference between the two trailers below for the comedies “Bride Wars” and “Borat.”
The first one gives the punch lines (if you can call them that) away. You see the results of the joke setups – Anne Hathaway is on the orange end of a bad spray tan, Kate Hudson winds up with blue hair. That’s really all they have to sell with that film. And that should tell you something.
The “Borat” trailer teases the jokes. People want to see how much further that character is going to go. And if you’ve seen the movie, you know that they haven’t given away the best parts of it.
A good trailer gives you a window into what you’re paying for and doesn’t ruin the film. Rarely do I go to see a movie without seeing a good trailer. I will base a film-going decision more on the trailer than critics, word of mouth or past experience with a filmmaker. Next time you hit the theater, don’t skip the trailers.
Gina Hall is a writer/producer with more than 10 years experience in television, documentary and feature film production. She is a graduate fo USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and lives in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter @GScottEnt.