The trailer industry has been enjoying a golden age with record-breaking views and a spike in the number of trailer studios during the height of the pandemic, which increased from a dozen in the early 2000s to over 100 studios around the world today.
Movie trailers have played an integral part in the industry and developed into their own art form, and for many, watching trailers (perhaps even analyzing them upon their release) is as enjoyable and essential to the experience as the movie itself.
In a nutshell, most trailer-makers will tell you that an artfully crafted movie trailer must serve as its own miniature story, rather than a montage of puzzle pieces from the actual movie. Every editor looking to expand their storytelling skills can learn a myriad of techniques and subtle, bite-sized tips from trailers.
Here’s what we can learn from movie trailers:
Hook the audience with an intriguing piece of dialogue, music, or a surprise.
In the beginning, immediately giving people a reason to continue watching is crucial in today’s online landscape.
Introduce the main character(s) in a simple, short piece of dialogue.
Encapsulate the essence of the movie by weaving in the character(s) motives.
Think non-linear to intercut and incorporate a more interesting perspective of the story.
Regardless of the actual timeline, editing to tell the story from a different perspective can not only create a more interesting arc to serve as a trailer but also help prevent too much of the main plot from being given away.
As often as possible, aim to highlight moments that are unique to the story you’re telling.
Create a more original experience by identifying elements that set the story apart from others.
Seek moments that are rich in information.
Convey your message succinctly by selecting and emphasizing single moments that cover multiple aspects of the story.
THE THEATRE EXPERIENCE
The purpose of a movie trailer is to market an upcoming film or performance and garner more attention from new and existing audiences, though some viewers find that trailers spoil pivotal plot points and sometimes alter a movie’s narrative to the point that it’s not clear whether it’s the same one seen in the trailer.
HOW LONG ARE MOVIE PREVIEWS?
Preshow material (including trailers) can run for as long as 20 minutes in larger movie theatres, like AMC.
- While this may seem excessive, some might agree that movie trailers not only contribute to the theater’s unique atmosphere but also provide moviegoers with more time to ease into their seats, prepare their snacks, and check that their phones are either on silent or turned off.
- For those using streaming services like Netflix, it’s common to skim through new releases and make a selection based on the previews, but the option to skip straight to the movie is always available.
We invited Sankha Wanigasekara, a movie enthusiast and Content Writer at Medium, to discuss his aversion towards trailers:
“To be honest, I’ve done my best to avoid movie trailers over recent years. It helps me temper my expectations before watching the movie so that I’m not looking for easter eggs or sequences already seen in the trailer. As a rule of thumb, I stick to a movie’s poster, its actors, and the IMDb logline to persuade me to watch something. However, I’m human and do end up breaking my rules sometimes.”
In an article by Screencrush referencing a handful of yesteryear’s blockbusters, the spoiler-ish trailers that swarmed the movie industry throughout the last decade began to phase out, and have continued to do so in 2022; but what motivated the trailer industry to embrace the less-is-more approach?
- While presenting as much of the plot as possible may appear to better align with the objective of a movie preview (to inform and arouse anticipation, just like any other type of advertising), informing isn’t the preview’s only purpose — nor is it the most significant to audiences.
- Instead, the preview’s main job is to entice the audience and give them a reason to see the whole movie, rather than giving the story away upfront and potentially killing the desire to see the rest of the movie in cinemas or even at home.
- As the tools, trends, and editors continue to evolve and learn, the practice of applying the rules of conventional advertising to the trailer industry is becoming less common.