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Cutting Trailers – Understanding How To Create One That Works

Jonny Elwyn
By Jonny Elwyn
By Jonny Elwyn

How do you edit a compelling film trailer that will tell your story and sell your film?

A film trailer is what can make a film live or die. It can help escalate anticipation, word of mouth, intrique and ”I’ve just got to see that film” feelings.  Similarly, it has the power to turn turn viewers off completely if they feel like they’ve seen all the best bits with nothing left to surprise.

Stephen Garrett runs a ‘trailer house’ called Jump Cut that has for the last 10 years specialized in promoting documentary, foreign and independent films. He’s also been in Filmmaker Magazine and the New York Times.  In the following resources he shares some brilliant insights on what makes for a great trailer.

Personally I would love to break into the business of editing trailers as it requires a bit of art, part marketing science and part awesome creativity. If you feel the same then check out these great trailer making resources.

Dissecting a Film Trailer – What Makes The Cut

This is a brilliant piece of infographical insight from the New York Times which is also great fun to play with. They have dissected the trailers for five of the nine Best Picture Nominees for the 2013 Oscars.  As you scrub along the timeline of the trailer, the video window updates with that particular shot, so you can see where each shot has originally come from in the order of the actual film.  As well, you’ll pick up great insights from trailer experts Bill Woolery and Stephen Garrett. Click here to enjoy the interactive trailer timelines for Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Lincoln, Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Editing Trailers

How To Craft A Winning Trailer

In this post for Filmmaker Magazine, Stephen Garrett talks through how best to create and craft a trailer that will win your audience over and get them to turn out to watch the film. The whole article is pretty much a masterclass in how to make a trailer from scratch – from how to create timelines of great dialogue and shots as the building blocks to setting the right tone and selecting the right music.

The humble movie trailer, once a delightful distraction seen only by punctual film goers exclusively in movie houses, is now the principal way most movies get exposure and remain in the public conscience. And as long as there is a computer and an Internet connection, it can be watched anytime, anywhere, indefinitely. Along with the movie poster, it is arguably the most important marketing tool available to a filmmaker.

At the bottom of the post are some extra goodies from Dan Schoenbrun on the realities of trailer marketing and explanations of a few common trailer terms (although nothing anyone in post wouldn’t understand already).

Cutting Film Trailers

Pitch Film Trailers & Trailer Sound Design

In these two posts from my own blog there are some great links to a couple of brilliant interviews with Skip Chaisson who is one of the trailer world’s hottest properties, which includes a brilliant example of a tantalising sizzle reel that Skip edited for director Joe Carnahan’s vision of an NC-17/18 rated DareDevil.  Skip has masterfully cut together old TV footage, film clips, dialogue, comic books and titles to create a compelling feeling of what could one day be a great film.

There is also another interesting link to an interview with Bryan Jerdan, a sound designer who has worked on films such as Prometheus, The Dark Knight and Inception. Bryan talks through how he got started and the workflow he uses to create some intensely memorable trailers.

How to edit film trailers

Great Film Trailer Music

Picking the music for a film trailer is pretty much like this:

Be sure to check out the epic trailer music here on Premiumbeat.  With a wide variety of royalty free trailer music, you’ll find the right track to add impact to your project!  Have you found the perfect trailer track on Premiumbeat?  Share a link and recommend it in the comments below!