Nothing can fuel the hype for an upcoming film quite like a movie trailer. Getting even a small taste of what’s to come can leave an audience expectantly counting down the days ‘til theatrical release. But sometimes, a trailer can do just the opposite.
In his excellent video analysis on the current state of movie trailers, film critic Chris Stuckmann details the various ways that movie teasers and trailers can spoil the film they are seeking to promote.
If you haven’t seen his review, check it out here:
Chris Stuckmann calls out two types of movie trailers that spoil their film
Stuckmann explains that there are two types of bad trailers that frequent video platforms currently. The first is the trailer that tells far too much of the plot or reveals critical moments of the film. The second is the misleading trailer that misrepresents the plot and/or genre of the movie it’s advertising.
As Stuckmann finishes his critique by lamenting the depressing status of film trailers, he asks his viewers for their responses to this dilemma. So, Mr. Stuckmann, here is my response (and proposed solution) in the form of a blog post.
My response to the movie trailer dilemma
Though I am fairly new to editing in the professional sense, I have learned a lot during my time at ECG Productions, especially in regards to storytelling. In order to best appeal to your audience, you have to give them what they want, but know when to hold back. And that is the largest issue facing movie trailers nowadays.
Editors need to hold back
Editors seem so preoccupied with pleasing the audience with cinematic shots and quote-worthy dialogue that they forget the primary purpose of a trailer: to tease the audience. Trailers are meant to pump them up for the upcoming film without giving away important shots and lines.
Editors: please try to resist the urge to use those really cool shots from your film if they spoil major plot points. You can still tell a compelling story that draws people in without revealing an integral scene from the third act. On a similar note, please do not pull a Rogue One and include jaw-dropping, non-spoiler shots and dialogue in the trailer only to never include them in the film. Not cool.
If you can tell a story with less information, do. Many audience members will appreciate the ambiguity and those that don’t will come around eventually. You have much more to lose when promoting your film by including too much information than including too little. If your audience comments that they feel they have already seen the movie after watching the trailer, it’s unlikely they will be in a theater seat on opening night.
Be clear, not vague
Be careful not to be too vague, as you risk confusing or boring your audience. Make sure the plot is clear, but there are enough mystery and intrigue surrounding your story that audience members are compelled to watch the film.
So, plenty of this:
And not a lot of this:
Never misrepresent your plot or genre
Do not misrepresent your movie’s genre or plot in your trailer. The result will most likely be angry viewers that feel lied to. If you are making an action movie, advertise it as an action movie. When people are expecting to see a particular film and end up with something entirely different, they will be probably be disappointed no matter how great your film is.
If you advertise your film appropriately from the beginning, you have one less thing that could cause viewers to avoid your movie. Take it from a fellow editor, friends: storytelling is a powerful tool; and when used correctly, it is a great money-maker.