Editing Trailers

I’ve been editing more trailers lately and I’m finding that I really enjoy it. Trailers are a very different type of beast, blending storytelling with marketing. Each trailer has different goals: landing investors, getting people in seats, promoting VOD/DVD sales, but what all those have in common is the main goal of creating interest in the project.

One thing that I feel is the most important rule of a trailer, it has to be created in the same spirit as what it’s promoting. There’s nothing more annoying than a misleading trailer. It’s your job as a marketer to not only gain attention, but to give the audience an accurate idea of what to expect.

Here’s a trailer I made for an upcoming urban crime drama feature film titled “Bastard Son of A Thousand Fathers.”

I feel that after watching this you know the genre, mood, major players, central conflict, and an idea of where the conflict may be heading.

Taking a different route, I recently made a trailer for a solo show titled “Marilyn Monroe, Whoever You Are.” As this is a solo show, the base of the trailer is one of the songs she performs in the show because I wanted to show the experience of being in the audience. The sound bites that play over highlight the dichotomy of the central character as is the primary theme of the show.

Something to remember, especially in today’s YouTube generation, people have shorter attention spans than ever, so you have to jump out and grab them asap and not linger on anything too long. It also helps to have a good song driving things along. On top of that, sometimes the simplest idea can be the best. Grab their attention and keep them intrigued.

Of course there’s the adage/cliche of “first you know the rules, then you break the rules.”

That’s what I did in a teaser I created a few years back for a short I produced/edited called “White Flag.” It started as an experiment and ended up being the first teaser. While this breaks the rules I talked about already, the goal of this one was to draw intrigue to set up for the full trailer, and eventually the short itself.

White Flag revolves around the relationship between a brother and sister in a post-apocalyptic setting. So I thought it would be a cool idea to take the voice over of Mia talking about her brother, Caleb, and her admiration for him. Visually though, it would all be shots of her struggles in the film, showing their mirrored paths. Her describing his journey, while she was experiencing it on her own. In fact, you don’t even see Caleb until the very last shot, and I chose a wide shot to create the mystique of Caleb, the brazen soldier.

Trailers are fun, and I learn more each time, and feel I’m getting better with each one, just remember:

  • Set central tone, characters, conflict
    • But still remember to SELL the film. Not every detail is necessary for the trailer
  • Keep it driving and interesting, people have short attention spans
  • Stay true to the feel of the project
  • Sometimes the simplest idea is the best!


As with everything in this business, feel free to break the rules. If you have a huge actor/director/proven money maker, definitely make a trailer to show of their involvement! If the trailer is a proof of concept, then sell the production value since casting might change. But overall, have fun!

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    The movie is disorienting, so I tried my best to make the trailer equally so. I found structure in repetition; as the main character goes through her training, she repeats phrases and words that others give her. The natural rhythms that arose were the material that I used to give the trailer a shape and a sense of danger and emotional vertigo.

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