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Making Good Movie Trailers (Or Getting People to Watch Your Film)

Updated on March 3, 2021
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My hope is to one day make a film of my own. This article is a perfect way to learn about filmmaking as well as sharing knowledge.

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How To Make A Good Movie Trailer

A lot of people would have you believe that making good movie trailers is an art form only achievable by experts who do it all the time. This could not be further from the truth. All it takes is to know and love the movie you are making; that, along with some patience and time given to making it should give you a good product to promote your new film.

A good theatrical trailer really is one of the best ways to get people to give your film the time of day it deserves. These condensed versions of your full length movie have been used since the early 1900's and should be the main anchor point when advertising your flick. The best movie trailers instantly pique people's interest and make them want to check out the full version. Never just "mail" it in.

Transformers (2007) Original Teaser Trailer

I was a huge fan of the original Transformers TV cartoon series and a huge Science Fiction fan, so when I heard that a live action movie was being made, I was very excited. After seeing this trailer, my excitement grew even more, though the film itself didn't really deliver what it eluded to in the trailer. To me, the trailer was better than the movie.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) - Trailer Fail!

Film Opening vs. Movie Trailer

Although trailers are a great way to grab the attention of potential viewers; it might be more useful to let viewers see the first 5 minutes of your film. The Dawn of the Dead re-make from 2004 aired the first few minutes of the film before it came out in theaters and I immediately wanted to go out and watch it on the big screen. I'm glad I saw the preview before the trailer, as the trailer was not as convincing as the opening of the movie itself.

Police Academy (1984) Movie Trailer

The Police Academy trailer tells you exactly what you're going to get if you watch the movie... a whole lot of zany comedy and fun, which is exactly what the movie delivered on. Comedies are all about escapism and having a good time; keep that in mind when making them and making you're trailer.

The Return of the Living Dead (1985) Short Trailer

This short trailer for Return of the Living Dead is far superior to the longer cuts or the TV spots in my opinion with only a couple of things I didn't like. You can watch this preview and know that even if you're not a huge horror fan, you're likely to have a lot of fun with this flick (especially with friends).

My only gripe is toward the end of the trailer where the same shot was quickly shown back-to-back-to-back. Though done only a few times, it was a few times too many in my opinion. There's no need for it, and kind of degrades a really good trailer. You lose all of 6 seconds if you don't decide to do that and the end of the trailer meshes with everything that preceded it.

More Movie Trailers That Did A Good Job of Getting People To Come See the Film

  • Coraline (2009)
  • Easy A (2010)
  • Femme Fatale (2002)
  • Red Eye (2005)
  • Super 8 (2011)
  • The Warriors (1979)
  • Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) Trailer

Making a trailer that only has a great song along with clips from your film is definitely a way to stand out, as most trailers don't do that. It can be expensive to get rights to a really good song, but the main thing you need to worry about if you go this route is to make sure the song you choose meshes well with the scenes you choose.

If the visuals are good, the song is good and everything fits together well, you should be able to make a solid trailer. This is not as easy as it sounds though, as you can't just cut a bunch of scenes together and slap a song on it and expect it will get people to come to the theater to see your film. There are many trailers that did it that way and failed to get the result they had intended.

Hotel Transylvania (2012) Trailer

If you're lucky enough to have a really cool, interesting and unique movie that people really haven't seen before, making a good trailer for it can be quite easy. Still, it's quite hard to make such a movie nowadays, and you never know just how fickle your audience can be. You should always strive to make the best movie trailer you can to give your film the best of chances to make money.

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A good trailer is almost as good to watch as a good movie. The best ones don't give everything away, but instead make you want to see the film out of curiosity.

Be Kind Rewind (2008) Movie Trailer

Some movie trailers make you have a feel-good longing for nostalgia. Be Kind Rewind from 2008 is basically a love letter to the 80's and 90's and the trailer relays that message quite well. I foresee this movie becoming more popular as more and more rental places go out of business.

Movie Trailer No-No's

  • No vomit; most people don't like to see it or hear it happen and most will often look away or close their eyes when it does.
  • Don't shoot scenes specifically for the trailer, just to get butts in the seats; it aggravates people, especially if the scene is good. While are plenty examples of scenes appearing in trailers and not in the movie itself, it's usually because the scene was cut out for pacing or storytelling reasons.
  • Spoilers in a trailer happens more often than you may think. This kind of ruins the movie, so try to not let this happen.
  • Making trailers with the idea that they'll be seen on the big screen is not really necessary these days. Most trailers are watched on phones, computers or TV's.
  • Using the fade to black transition too many times.
  • Using the words "From the Studio That Brought You" or "From the Producers That Brought You" are phrases that usually wreak of desperation. The people who made the film doesn't think it is good enough to stand on its own.

Cloverfield (2008) Trailer

Found footage films are definitely hit or miss, but the use of them in movie trailers intrigue me. I'm not sure why more directors don't use that format when making a trailer for their creation. One interesting tidbit about this trailer is that the title was not in it; it instead relied on its content and the name recognition of the director.

The Village (2004) Trailer #1

This trailer made excellent use of the voice over, and because the story was so compelling, very few dramatic scenes or images were needed. The failure of this film was not because of the trailer, it was because of the promise the trailer made and the utter failure of the movie to deliver it.

The Movie Trailer Voice Over

Though voice-overs in theatrical trailers aren't used hardly at all anymore, they are a perfectly acceptable way to make a good trailer. This method was used quite heavily during the 70's, 80's and 90's with an equal mix of good and bad results.

Grindhouse Double Feature Trailer - Planet Terror and Death Proof (2007)

Specialized theatrical trailers like this are a bit hit or miss. Though the trailer was very good, it probably only lit a fire under people who remembered these kinds of exploitation films and who like Rodriguez and Tarantino movies. Never the less, trailers like this can still be effective if they deliver your target audience; just don't expect a wide range of audience members to come running to your picture.

Straw Dogs (1971) Blu-ray Release Trailer

Here is a case where the trailer for the re-release on Blu-ray is much better at building up the suspense than the original movie trailer ever was. When making a trailer these days, we need to keep in mind that most people won't see your film on the big screen before blockbuster films. They will be see (likely found by word of mouth) on phones, computers or TV. Trailers like the one above may not convey cinematic greatness, but does create anticipation.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) International Teaser Trailer

Notice how the international teaser from above is a lot more playful and fun than the official U.S. version from below. The teaser represents the film better, though in my opinion it could have been even better if there was was even more "goofiness" in it. I suspect the people who put together the official trailer was told to make it look like a true horror film or people wouldn't go and see it - this was a mistake. With a title like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, you kind of know what to expect - a horror movie that's not taking itself too seriously, which it what it is. When people who were expecting this saw the official trailer, it probably turned them off the film, and people who expected a serious zombie film were disappointed and felt lied to when the film they went to see didn't match the tone of the official trailer.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016) U.S. Official Trailer

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Don

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