A movie trailer is really the sales pitch for the movie, so it has to be done right to draw attention, getting people involved and wanting to go see the film, but at the same time not giving too much away.
Let’s take a brief look at some key points that will help to take your trailer from good to great.
Let the Story Speak For Itself
In other words, don’t tell the audience how great and wonderful the film is. Keep the tone modest and unassuming. Let the story speak for itself.
A good movie will be able to portray that it’s a good film in the trailer; if the trailer is done right. There’s nothing more off-putting than watching a boastful trailer that goes on – rather blatantly – about just how great the movie is.
Always show and don’t tell.
It Should Be a Teaser
I’ve seen movie trailers where I thought the film looked like it would be really good. Then, when I did see the whole movie I realised I’d already seen all the film’s highlights in the trailer.
Two reasons this can happen. The makers of the trailer give the actual story away instead of just offering a teaser. Always a major mistake. The second reason: There is nothing more to the film, no meat. In other words the trailer makers put all the movie’s highlights into the trailer because that was all there was to the movie.
Hook People Immediately
Just like the opening pages of a book, the trailer – even more so than the movie – really has to hook the audience in the very first few seconds. If they are not engaged instantly, then you will lose their focus. They may watch the remainder of the trailer, but chances are their mind will be wandering onto other thoughts, not really absorbing what they are watching.
First impressions count with movie trailers just as much as they do with anything else in life.
Keep It Concise
While trailers can vary in length from 30 second movie snippets, up to 3 or 4 minutes long, you still want to keep the trailer concise; even if going for the longer version. As mentioned above it should serve as a teaser to the main event – The movie itself.
You also don’t want to bore your audience. After all, a trailer is basically an ad. Your audience isn’t settling in to watch a movie here. It’s just a movie commercial that has happened to come on the TV or in the cinema as a prelude to the movie they did pay to see.
Keep it brief, concise and whet the appetite of the potential audience.
Capture the Movie’s Mood For Optimum Engagement
Every movie has an over-riding mood throughout the film. Drama will be dramatic, horror will be scary, romance will be light and feel-good.
The defining mood of the film really needs to come through in the very short trailer. After all, it’s the mood and tone that will drive the movie, so this needs to be conveyed in the trailer as well. Without effectively capturing the movie’s mood in this brief snippet, you will lose your audience.
End With a Bang
Whether you follow the classic three act storyline for the trailer or not, it still needs to build to a crescendo and end with a bang. Obviously the more dramatic the nature of the film, the bigger the bang, but all film trailers, no matter what the genre, should culminate in a satisfying crescendo that leaves the viewer panting for more.
A Great Trailer Needs Great Music
Apart from the story, the action and the voiceovers, the real winning component of a great movie trailer hinges on the music. Speaking about the mood of the film again, music is the very best way to get this across to the audience. However, there is more to trailer music than just having a music track playing throughout it. SFX play a big role in trailers as there is a very limited time to get the movie’s message across, and sound effects can really help to dramatize the trailer and highlight key scenes and plot points.
Some trailer music is purpose-built for the trailer, while some may be sync licensed and adapted into the trailer along with the SFX. Whichever way you decide to go, the music really needs to fit the tone of the movie and it needs to capture the audience’s attention and keep them in its vice-like grip until the very end of the trailer.
To search for some awesome trailer music, check out the selection of trailer and cinematic music available for sync licensing on music licensing site – Songtradr.
At the end of the day, unless the movie is good it can be very hard to make an awesome trailer. The bottom line is to first make a great film, then backing it up with an awesome trailer will just be second nature and the natural course of progression.
Great article and insight into movie trailers. I have worked in the movie business for many years and it is essential to have a great trailer.
I have always found it a challenge to pick apart a good film and piece together the trailer – as a developer, I tend to want my trailers “overfilled”; however, you are spot-on in your analysis – it needs to tease and hook the audience.
Music is a very essential element – both in trailers and in the film itself…actually, all sound is paramount to helping creating the desired mood and momentum of the audience.
I was not aware of Songtradr…I will give it a look. Thank you for the great information.
Hi Paul. Great to hear from you. Getting the right balance for a short movie trailer would certainly be an art in itself and not easy to do. What kind of films have you worked on?