Wednesday, January 12, 2011

the making of a trailer

i'm often asked to explain the process of creating a trailer--what goes into taking a 2-hour film and turning it into a 2-minute preview?

i can't speak for other trailer houses, but where i work, trailers are the product of a team effort. we start with a film--sometimes it's fully finished; sometimes it's a rough edit that's missing visual effects, music, etc; and other times it's just a collection of dailies that we need to sort through and put into some kind of order. ("dailies" are basically a film's raw footage, which includes every take of every scene--NOT fun to organize.)

the editor and writer/producer watch the film (and the designer, too, if he/she wants), and then we have a creative meeting where we throw out ideas. once we've arrived at an agreement of what will/will not work, we call the client and combine their vision with ours. once we're all happy with the direction, we start editing.

our preference is to first create a soundbed--music and dialogue only--before we add picture, transitional elements, etc. in other words, we create our trailers like radio spots, and then we fill in the visuals. that's because a good structure is key to a good preview--once the story is there, everything else falls into place.

once we have a first presentation, we show it to the client and go back and forth with revisions until we have a product we're all happy with. and in the interest of full disclosure, i haven't posted a single trailer i've personally worked on because i'd like to keep this blog as objective as possible.

that said, here are a few recent trailers i've enjoyed that i want to share with you. first off is The King's Speech. (yeah, i'm a little late with that, but i just had to discuss it.)

i love this trailer because it's a mini film. they do such a great job of making us fall in love with every single character in the space of just two minutes. the wonderful cinematography, the touching story, the unique characters, the quirky music, the great acting--it all comes across in this piece.

do i think they reveal too much? yes. i think a lot of great moments/lines are given away here, and they also pretty much show us the ending--a major pet peeve of mine. however, i still love this trailer--it's so well cut that i can't help myself. :)

another trailer i really like is the one for Sofia Coppola's Somewhere.

the music and visuals are amazing, and the dialogue is kept to a bare minimum. the only sound-ups are when Elle Fanning shows up, and when her mother says she doesn't know when she's coming back--because really, that's all we need to know about the story. everything else is implied.

i've seen the film, and there were so many great moments--funny, sad, strange--and yet this trailer doesn't give any of those away. we don't hear the jokes or the emotional exchanges or anything else that makes a movie. that's all kept as a surprise. i love that.

finally, i want to include a different kind of trailer that might not appeal to everyone, but i like it. the film is called Waiting For Forever.

to me this feels like a grown-up Where the Wild Things Are. the copy, the text's font, the discrepancy between our imaginary childhood and our real one, trying to hold on to the feelings of invincibility and endless possibility that are part of being a kid...all of that feels present here.

i like the way the trailer intercuts the present with the past, i like the music, i like the graphics. when a film doesn't have major action sequences or huge actors or mind-blowing visual effects, it's difficult to make a "loud" trailer. but that doesn't mean a "quiet" trailer can't be just as effective--and in this case, they managed to make this small budget indie film feel important. at least, i think they did!

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