The Art Of The Trailer

Not something that is often talked about. I always loved watching trailers, and it is often my favorite part of going to the theater. I found a stronger urge for trailers when I was working on creating a teaser trailer for my (back then) upcoming film ‘After The Rain‘. I realized possibilities are endless in editing a trailer, and I found that it could become an art of its own. That’s why we strongly embraced the idea of having a section entirely dedicated to trailers on FilmShortage.com.

Trailers consist of a series selected shots from the film being advertised. Since the purpose of the trailer is to attract an audience to the film, these excerpts are usually drawn from the most exciting, funny, or otherwise noteworthy parts of the film but in abbreviated form and usually without producing spoilers. For this purpose the scenes are not necessarily in the order in which they appear in the film. A trailer has to achieve that in less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds, the maximum length allowed by the MPAA. Each studio or distributor is allowed to exceed this time limit once a year, if they feel it is necessary for a particular film.[Read More on the history of the trailer]

As exciting as some hollywood trailers can be, for most of them the studios seem to be sticking to the same patterns over and over. Often not showing the creative depth of a good film, or even more often making a bad movie look exciting. But that remains the main purpose of the trailer: selling the movie. Hollywood has figured out a perfect trailer template that seems to work in the marketing department, the unfortunate down side to selling to mass markets.

What About Short Films?

Like Short films themselves, people can get very creative with their trailers. You are dealing with a more concentrated market of people who thrive on the creative aspects of films.

How do you make a trailer for a short film, which people often refer to as trailers to longer films? I know some people might think its silly, but filmmakers need to sell their films too. The trailer for the short film is the perfect way to build up a hype around your film, people like to know what’s coming up and a sneak peak is always the best way.

The challenging part is to find the right footage within an already limited selection, contrary to a full length film where the challenge is finding the right bits through hours of footage. The art begins in finding the perfect balance between giving information and not giving away any spoilers, which is why most often short film trailers turn out to be just teasers.

Chances are your story is already vague and simple, and usually a short will focus only on one major story element unlike featured lengths, where several shorter stories build up to a bigger picture. Your goal is to give the audience an idea of what your movie is about, and keep them interested and excited to return to watch the film. So which scenes do you decide to show? Viewers can get a feel of what type of film it will be just by seeing the first 5 seconds of the trailer, so keep them interested right off the start or they will go watch something better. Here is an example from stills taken from short films, one is from a the trailer submitted to film shortage, where from the first image I knew this will be a well made short. The second is a still taken from another submitted trailer, with a different outcome.

43000 Feet Trailer Bad Trailer Short

Which one is more appealing? I thought so. Choose visually appealing shots for your trailer, it doesn’t necessarily have to be your best shot of the film, but make sure to show off you cinematographer skills. You need to sell your film on its professionalism first and foremost, with the hundreds of thousands of shorts made and easily available these days, you need to stand out first. Then you can move on to content. No need to go crazy, just be creative, adding a line or two can be just enough to make the audience ask more questions and get interest. Their questions will be answered once they watch the short.

Once we finished shooting our short ‘After The Rain‘ we got anxious to start promoting our work, we were very far from a finished product, but we wanted to give a feel of the movie to our followers and to attract a new audience. Our first idea was to insert parts of the voice over to give an idea of the story, but putting together complete separate sentences became difficult while trying not to give away the punch of the movie. I found a solution by playing a longer monologue from our main actor, a snippet where I believe we get the overall feeling of the movie and character. He mentions a strange feeling after the rain stops, which right away makes a connection to the title of our film. He then talks about sudden changes in the weather caused by a vast command of chain reactions and compares the human lives to the theory, which gives us a hint that the film touches or revolves around the chaos theory. I then made sure to add some suspense to the trailer, where he asks himself if he caused a death of a man. I found the entire bit was perfect because it opened up a suspenseful subject within the movie, and shows the film’s pace and mood while the ending leaves the audience questioning and confused.

When the release of our short kept on getting delayed, we took this opportunity to create another trailer, to remind our viewers that we still have a film coming. This time we opted for something much more upbeat, which opposed to the pace of the short, but stated that the movie has a sustainable rhythm. We chose a track that we kept on listening to while working on the script, and tried to use it as a marketing tool since it was from a local band in Montreal. This trailer was put together in less than 2 days using updated scenes (closer to final look) [listen to track Pie-Ix by The Suuns]

Conclusion
Don’t be afraid to make a trailer for your short, it’s a fun, easy and inexpensive way to promote your film, and also a good way to show all the people who’ve been helping you out a glimpse of what they produced.

Finally, do not forget to send us your trailers on our very user friendly submit page. If you have seen other awesome short film trailers don’t hesitate to send us a tip via submit, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or email!

Happy trailing!