(Trailer Made) What Should a Movie Preview Be?

Trailer Made: What Should a Movie Preview Be?
by Bret Dorman

I can remember the first time I was let down by a movie going experience, not because of bad filmmaking or poor choices on the filmmakers’ part, but because of a trailer.

A little back story: I was 16 at the time and I’m not sure if this was as popular back then as it is now, but one of our local theaters decided to show Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines on Thursday at Midnight… a whole twelve hours before anyone else would see it! I was super excited and begged my dad to take me (and my brother had to come along too, I guess) and he did. My dad, who doesn’t really care that much about movies, caved in and took my brother and I to this Midnight Showing of T3.

In case you missed the preview way back when, here it is:

You’ll notice that near the end of that preview, it highlights the lingering shot of the giant 18 wheeled crane being lifted into the air and possibly crushing our heroes. Such an awesome, big moment for a Terminator movie, that shows just how much destruction these two metal battle bots are willing to cause for the life of one (or two) main characters.

And yet, sitting in the theater with my dad and brother, arriving at this scene in the movie, seeing a giant 18 wheeled crane being tossed into the air like it was nothing… I felt nothing. I’m not here to argue the merits of a third Terminator film (or any Terminator film), but seeing it in the trailer filled me with such awe… and seeing it in the movie just didn’t do it for me.

This moment was a Movie Defining moment in my life… as silly as that may be.

The dreaded Green Screen that means we have to wait at least another 2:30 to see the movie we paid for...

Being a ‘Film Junkie’, ‘Film Buff’, ‘Cinephile’ or what have you, means two things when it comes to previews.

1) We go see a lot of movies at the theaters, forcing us to watch a bunch of trailers for every movie we see. And if you go see 4, 5, or 6 at a time, like me, sometimes you see the same preview 6 times in one day.

2) We visit film sites and read film magazines that make it more accessible to gain knowledge of a movie beforehand. As far as previews are concerned, some sites will even post Teasers, Theatrical Trailers, (Multiple) TV Spots, and even International Trailers.

What this means is that before a movie has come out, we have already seen a good portion of it. And what the trailers never seem to shy away from, is showing you the best parts.

As far as the advertisers are concerned, I completely understand why you would want to show the best parts of the movie to people. The best parts are more likely to make people go “Woah, that is cool. I want to see more!” but the down side is that when they get to the theater, pay the money, and sit down to watch the movie, they may not get ‘more’ and feel disappointed. You got their money, but not their appreciation.

“But its Show Business! Not Show Entertainment!” you might say if you are a moronic idiot Hollywood Producer. Well you are stupid. But please… keep making movies, at least movies about Giant Alien Robots fighting each other or Aliens in trains that get derailed or Cowboys and Aliens.

The Preview Problem comes from two basic problems:

1) People who aren’t ‘Film Buffs’, tend to pick movies on more generic terms. For Film Buffs, just seeing certain talent attached to a title can bring automatic interest. Its hard to imagine some people only go to a theater to see a movie because of its genre. “I like Romantic Comedies.” Really? Well that’s great but there are so many different types of Romantic Comedies, which ones do you like in particular? “The ones that are romantic and funny.”

Its even harder to imagine someone going to a theater, without knowing any movies playing, and just ‘picking’ a movie. Part of Movie Hopping for me means that sometimes I see movies I don’t know too much about, but I usually have at least 2 or 3 that I want to see that day. But paying for a movie you know nothing about? How? … Why?

Previews need to tell these people exactly what they are getting into. They need to show you what kind of movie it is and who is in it. But not only show you… convince you. They can’t simply show you a cast like The Derpated‘s and say Directed by Scorsese, they have to compile all the films most dramatic sequences into the two and a half minutes to prove to you that yes, this could indeed be good…

(Side Note: “Do you want them to chop me up and feed me to the poor? Is that what you guys want?” may be one of my most favorite Movie Trailer lines ever.)

2) The second problem is people actually want to know as much as possible before the film comes out. When I sat in theaters opening weekend for Transformers, I like everyone else, was completely blown away by this:

This trailer doesn’t even give us a name! And once you see the film, its clear that this trailer only shows us clips from the first 15 or so minutes of the movie. How awesome is that. Give us the setup, show us a little of the style, create some mystery, and we’ll decide if we want to see it or not. And if we do decide to see it, we might appreciate the thrill ride more.

But soon after this came out, the film community went nuts and started watching and rewatching and absorbing as much info on this as possible. Just like Catfish (maybe its Found Footage movies that bring this out?) people wanted to be the first to ‘figure out’ the movie. The more trailers started coming out and showing more footage, people willingly wanted to spoil the movie to be able to say they figured it out before anyone else.

What is The Matrix? by the looks of this poster... badass.

I understand using mystery to create hype. I think its a very underrated marketing tool (What is The Matrix?). But there is a difference between accepting the mystery aspect and trying to beat it.

To me, the best trailers will always be Teasers. The Teasers for Kill Bill Vol. 2 and Whatever Works both have the characters delivering meta-monologues to the audience. Even though both scenes actually appear in the movie, just highlighting these small parts is enough to tell you what the movie is about without showing the rest. Also, the new Woody Allen Movie, Midnight in Paris, boasts of one of the best trailers all year. You can find that as well as a review on the right.

Its not like spoiler ridden trailers are something that Hollywood is new to and developing because they think that’s what the people want. Several Classic Movie Trailer’s also spend too much time on the screen, showing you things it doesn’t need to. Take for instance, the trailer for Them!, the 1954 Classic Giant Ant Movie. It may very well be in the Top 50 of Giant Ant Movies, nay, the Top 20, nay, the Top 10, nay, the Top 5, nay, the Quintessential and Definitive Giant Ant Movie. There’s a reason this hasn’t been remade….

I’m not trying to change the industry or simply rant for the sake of complaining. But it is frustrating that, as someone who does frequent the theaters, a lot, and someone who tries to enjoy every (well… most) movie(s) I see, that as a movie nears closer to its release date, more and more footage of it is shown.

If I had my way, in a perfect world where I am the President of Movies and could control how they were made and advertised, I would promise you two things:

1) More Giant Ant Movies!!!

2) Previews that are original and contain material not found in the movie. And not that annoying thing where they just take something filmed that later ends up as a deleted scene, but I’m talking about original material that is filmed for the sole purpose of advertising.

In that regard, Hitchcock was not only a Master Filmmaker, but also a Master Advertiser. In this inspired trailer, he openly and wittily discusses his newest film, North By Northwest. Sure it has clips from the movie, some near the end, but even its clips may be deceiving taken out of context (or rather, the context of the trailer). Enjoy:

I’m not asking people to boycott previews, but just know, that when I am in the theater, head down, head phones in, I am trying to avoid certain ones, ones for movies I know I want to see and might enjoy. And when I’m watching TV, as rare as an occasion as that is now, when a TV Spot comes on, I will change the channel. And if I find certain trailers are better than others, if not good on their own right, I am going to promote them and encourage people to watch them as I would the movie itself.

To me, a movie isn’t just about being surprised or seeing something for the first time in the context of the actual film, but if I can help create that situation, I’m going to do it.

Finally, as if this page weren’t loaded with trailers to begin with, I leave you with another great Teaser Trailer, one I can actually recommend watching. If you’ve seen the Swedish Version or I’m guessing read the book it may have Spoiler-ish moments, if you try really hard to catch them? But its fast cuts are just enough to show Fincher’s style at work without ruining any of the fun of the story. Plus the song choice is a great cover that’s used very effectively. So with confidence, I can say…

Enjoy, my fellow Trailer Avoiders:

One response to “(Trailer Made) What Should a Movie Preview Be?

  1. Love the North by Northwest trailer. Glad it didn’t have the plane chase – that would certainly have ruined the film’s big wow moment.

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