How to Make a Movie Trailer

Latest posts by Liya Swift (see all)

How to Make a Movie Trailer

For some movie audiences, watching the trailers is just as important as the movie they came to see. It could be an extended look at a highly anticipated blockbuster or a peek at a movie still a year away from theaters. These glimpses at upcoming movies get audiences talking and give them something to look forward to.

If they’re done correctly.

“I can’t wait for that movie to come out!” is much better than “That looks sooo dumb.” And there’s a fine line between showing all the best parts of the movie without giving away too much of the ending. But there should be some coherence, too. Showing only explosions, love scenes, and one-liners can be very confusing.

In a World…

The trailer is used as a marketing tool to get an audience excited about the production. Usually around 90 seconds, trailers need to set a scene, progress a story, and leave enough to the imagination to keep them wanting more. And you’ve got to do all of us in under two minutes.

To save time, many trailers employ the use of a narrator or voiceover. A picture may paint a thousand words, but some well done “telescoping” with a few spoken lines can save you from having to spend those precious seconds on lots of unnecessary exposition. Using a title card, in a mere few seconds you can set the time and place. You’re now free to introduce characters, present the plot, and hit the movie’s highlights.

Music plays a huge part in setting the trailer’s tone. A dark screen with a simple bassline or single piano note, along with a character exclaiming something like: “It was supposed to be easy,” can get the audience’s ears to perk up, rousing questions like: “What was supposed to be easy?” “What went wrong?” and “Why does the voice sound so worried?”

Change the music to a slide whistle or kazoo, and the audience can already tell the character off-screen is probably some kind of dope who got themselves into another spot of trouble. Change the music yet again and the same five or six seconds can set the scene for a bank heist gone wrong, or another failed scheme by our hapless hero. All it took was a different instrument.

The genre – thriller or comedy – has been set. From that jumping-off point, the director and/or editor who’s making the trailer needs to continue to draw that crowd in by explaining some of what went wrong, highlighting or foreshadowing the consequences arising from what happened, and then hint at how the situation is resolved.

Doing it just right i.e. not giving away too much while giving the audience enough to bite into is an art form in itself. Effective trailers give the always give the audience something to look forward to. Then, the movie in its entirety needs to make good on what was “promised” in the trailer.

So above all, be consistent! The trailer sets the mood and tone for your upcoming film and audiences don’t like being led astray. If your 120-minute drama has a total of three jokes, don’t show all three jokes. Crowds might think they’re looking at a comedy, not a psychological thriller.

This parody trailer of The Shining shows just how easily a movie can be cut for a completely different feeling. That was intentional – unintentionally misdirecting your audience will leave them confused, or worse, downright infuriated when watching the film.

Submitting The Trailer

In some cases, the trailer gets made before principal shooting has ended. Depending on the size of the production, finances can be an issue, so sometimes a trailer is used to drum up film investors. For this reason, it’s important to format your trailer so that it can be viewed in multiple ways.

When choosing video editing software, make sure you’ll be able to output .mov, mp4, and other popular formats to make it easy for others to open. Posting the trailer to a video sharing site is a last resort – you don’t want to depend on connection speed. Your video trailer may be the best ever produced, but if it keeps stalling during playback, no one will ever finish watching it and as for those investors, well you can take a guess of what could happen there.

Good video editing software should come equipped with a number of compression options, so make sure your file is less than 10 MB, is possible. Some email clients won’t allow files much larger than that. You don’t want your email to get lost in a spam folder or not delivered at all.

Keeping the file size to a minimum will also make it easy to promote on social media. If a good trailer impresses the right influencer, all of your time and effort will be well worth it. Earlier we said a video-sharing platform isn’t the best way to submit your trailer for possible investors. That’s true but when it comes to getting the word out about your movie, it’s a great way to reach that potential audience and show investors that there are people out there who want to see your film.

Trailer-Making with a Mentor

Not really sure how to use film-editing software like Adobe Premiere Pro? Have tons of usable footage, but find it difficult to organize? Every scene was shot with a song or music in mind, but at a loss about how to add it? Film Connection has been helping filmmakers like you for decades.

With the Film Connection Production and Editing Program or Film Editing Workshop, you will be placed inside a real-world production studio and paired with a mentor. You’ll receive one-on-one guidance from an industry expert, including how to cut a film or movie trailer to get the best reaction from an audience.

Film Connection externs learn the real-world fundamentals of the filmmaking process, from working with sound effects, to working with actors, to setting lights and running film dailies, screenwriting, and more. Our programs are generally cheaper than 4-year universities, are shorter than trade schools, and we’ve got production houses and mentors located throughout the United States.

You can save time, money, and frustration with Film Connection if you’re willing to dedicate yourself to your training. Show up on time, act responsibly, and have a great attitude. Training as an extern, you stand to make the industry connections that can help you launch your career in the movie industry. Ready to get to work? Apply today.

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