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Making Really Good Movie Trailers to Attract Your Audience

Updated on May 1, 2023
ControlledChaos1 profile image

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.

Person in movie theater.
Person in movie theater. | Source

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 couldn't be further from the truth. All it takes is to know and love the movie you are making, and some patience to make it as good as you need to, so others will want to watch it. The finished trailer should give you a totally unique product you can use 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'm a huge fan of the original Transformers TV cartoon series and Science Fiction in general, so when I heard that a live action movie was being made, I was excited. After seeing this trailer, my excitement grew even more, though the film itself didn't really deliver what the trailer promised. 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

This Police Academy trailer tells you exactly what you're going to get if you watch the movie... a whole lot of crazy, over the top 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 for TV in my opinion. 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). The choice of music plays a huge role in the likability of the trailer as well.

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 easier than usual. 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.

Watching movie trailers.
Watching movie trailers. | Source

A good trailer is as good to watch as a good movie. The best ones don't give everything away (a mistake that many trailers make), but instead make you want to see the film out of the need to see what happens next.

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 Mistakes That Are Best Avoided

  • No vomit; most people don't like to see or hear it in real life, let alone on the big screen; most will just look away when it happens.
  • 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. Word of mouth spread very quickly and after the first few days, demand dwindled to almost nothing in viewership terms.

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.

Last Duel TV Spot (The Mistake)

Last Duel Official Trailer

Great Movie Trailers Never Make This Blunder

The trailers above are a prime example how cutting a much shorter trailer for TV can really be detrimental to the film. The first trailer is a short one made for TV spots. This is the one I saw (several times) and left me with no desire to watch the movie despite really good actors and actresses being in it. I had no idea what it was going to be about (for sure) and no idea what "event" they were talking about.

The second trailer is the full one and really fills out what is to be expected. After watching this one, I was much more interested in giving it a try. Unfortunately, by the time I found the trailer on my own, the movie was no where to be found in theaters. I will give it a chance eventually (if I can remember) because of the full trailer.

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 while on the big screen, as it will probably do better in the home.

Straw Dogs (1971) Blu-ray Release Trailer

Here is a case where the movie trailer for the re-release on Blu-ray is much better at building up the suspense than the original 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'll be seeing it on phones, computers or TV (and likely finding it by word of mouth). 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 is what it was. 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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