When cutting a film trailer, i have discovered the best and worst advice through this practice:
Only use the best
When creating a trailer, you are cutting down a film to a fraction of what it is. Whether it’s cutting down a 100 minute film to a 2 minute trailer, or a 10 minute film to a 1 minute trailer, it is always best to use the absolute best footage available to you. Many independent film makers are hesitant to use the best shots and looking scenes in fear of giving away the story or major plot lines of their film, but in hindsight it is crucial to remember that the best footage will in fact draw the biggest audience.
Prioritise the first half of the film
Although you can certainly get away with using scenes from any part of your film, it is usually best to focus primarily on the first half. Act 1 and Act 2 in most films contain the best trailer material. The start of the film is the set up of the story and is the best way to ease the viewer into the story and what to expect when watching the whole film.
Moving onto Act 2, it typically focuses heavily on the premises of the film which can hook an audience. This gives enough away of the film that it accurately represents the story, but only enough that the audience doesn’t feel like they’ve seen the entire film in a few minutes, which has proven to result in a huge loss of interest.
Understand the Format
There is always room for flexibility when cutting a trailer as not all are equal. With the best way of keeping to the first of of the film and keeping the trailer a more traditional format, there is also room to be more versatile to get your vision across.
One example would be to take a single moment or scene from the film and it play out rather than showing variable cuts of what the film is about. Sometimes it’s the more simpler strategies that creates a mood or texture that teases the audience more without giving away many so much of the story.
Trailer editing is all about flow and rhythm, without it the whole cut will not sing and connect with the audience – it’s boring. Trailers build up excitement and anticipation, and a keen sense of rhythm heightens those sensations. for example, music plays a very important role in the basic construction – It literally sets the tone of the film. No matter what genre you are working with, without it there is no rhythm.
Use of Music & Sound
When it comes to cutting down a film, it may not seem like a whole lot of time, however the context can make the trailer seem like a lifetime. Once deciding on what visuals to show, the next step is not only backing music but music ques – especially when building suspense, to achieve this the best way is to accommodate the intense visuals with multiple music cues to bridge together each beat.
The best way triumph in this is too use two or three cues to tastefully help guide the different beats in the trailer, however make sure not to go overboard as too many will just make the whole build up a disaster and over crowded.
Using royalty free music is a great way to use music freely in not only a trailer but the film itself with sites such as, premiumbeat.com.(https://www.premiumbeat.com/royalty_free_music/search/trailer/classical/ns)
This will not only make the projects aspects legal, but when uploaded onto the internet to promote, many sites such as Youtube.com will mute or even remove the film due to copyright.
Chris Jones is a a London Based filmmaker who created the company, Living Spirit Pictures, festival runner and editor who runs a blog giving advice on all things film. While researching ‘trailer making’ i stumbled across one of his published pieces giving guidance and information on how to construct the perfect trailer for most genres in film:
“Here are some basic tips for creating this, these are fairly generic and I feel are pretty common for most genres:
- Choose the story through line and stick to it.
- Don’t introduce too many motifs or characters choose whose journey it is – if you’re fortunate to have a known performer, albeit in a minor role, utilise that fact.
- Don’t name check people who nobody knows.
- Know the end, the theme and feeling you want to leave the viewer with.
- The trailer doesn’t have to be as linear as the film – often better if it isn’t.
- Don’t have random moments that come out of nowhere – sounds contradictory to the above point but you can put scenes in any order as long a the through story is being followed, don’t be afraid of mixing it up.
- Writing copy (the voice over or captions) is tough, unless you have a way with words, don’t try and be too smart, serve the film rather than attempting to be clever with you words. The copy should encapsulate your through line story and can be helpful to skip through this. However, if you don’t need copy, don’t use it. If the film is strong enough let it do the talking.
- Stick with simple graphic captions – often the best way if you’re not graphically skilled.
- Voice over is not a must, and bad VO can alienate the viewer (don’t cheapen it with a fake American accent, if you’re a Brit and can read the lines, be a Brit, just be confident. Failing that, stick with captions)
- Don’t let shots and moments out stay their welcome. The perfectly constructed moment you created in your film CAN be trimmed right down in the trailer, don’t worry it doesn’t ruin your film. It will always be perfect in the film.
- Say something once, for example you may have two characters saying pretty much the same point in two different ways, cut one out you don’t need the other. Move on.”
(info from: http://www.chrisjonesblog.com/2012/02/how-to-edit-a-trailer-for-your-movie%E2%80%A6-but-the-guy-who-cuts-trailers-for-movies.html – viewed: 26/04/2017)
Breaking down & analysing successful movie Trailers
Comedy: The hangover (2009)
‘The Hangover’ Trilogy is one of the most successful comedy films around, with fast paced and humorous scenes that keep getting more and more ridiculous and entertaining. The trailer for the first film imitates this rhythm perfectly to give the audience a great example of the full film.
We begin by immediately being thrown into what the story is about – friends going to Vegas for a bachelor party, by simply being told by the characters in certain scenes from the beginning of the film. We then get thrown into what in a nutshell is the entire films story with little teasers of what happens to this group of friends, but still the audience is intrigued to know more and to hear more of the humour the film has to offer. With modern music used as backing with very little sound effects, this sets the tone of the movie directly, aiming at an audience who wants pure comedy and nothing else.
Drama: American Sniper (2104)
‘American Sniper’ is the definition of a drama, and the way this trailer has been cut has impacted my work a great deal throughout my practical. We start off with, in my opinion, one of the most suspenseful scenes in the whole film. The editor has chosen this specific scene and showing us nothing but, however as the scene moves on and the audience registers what is happening to this character and in this setting, we are faced with quick cuts of the film to fill in the blanks of what could happen and what this character could lose if he makes the wrong decision – this of course conflicting with a simple but dramatic sound effect which builds up till the end, making it that little bit more theatrical until we are left with the suspense of the cliffhanger of what happens next. This being made into a very successful trailer of the simplest way.
Horror: IT (2017)
If you are not familiar with the film or the novel, this trailer starts by showing us the very beginning of the story as we see how a little boy disappears. This is a slow build as the characters do not yet know what we know, however we know the familiarity of the horror genre. As the trailer moves on, we get our first music cue, this builds as a character is explaining more of the story and from here on the music cues only get more intense as the cuts get faster, giving the audience the suspense of how terrifying the film will be. The cut of this trailer still manages to tease these scary scenes without giving the entire scene away, the jump visual is collaborated with the intense music cues, resulting in giving the audience the fright but not the entire fright that they will get when watching the film.
With the name ‘IT’ being used in the script, we know what the film is before the titles are even shown, we do not get to see the whole of the villain straight away until the very end, with a quick cut of what i assume to be a jump scare scene and simple mini-scene of the IT’s full face in the last seconds of the trailer. With ‘IT’ having a huge following from it’s original Stephen King Novel and 1990 film, the build up of this remake and how the ‘IT’ clown demon has been modernised had certainly been all the talk. With only one promotional poster that had been released before the release of the trailer, the development and slow increase of seeing the demon throughout this trailer, made it more a lot more suspenseful.