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Production and the Creative Spirit

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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 3:15AM   |  39 comments
fleff

Blog written by Ann Michel and Phil Wilde, principals, Insights International

 
Why make a trailer?
 
Is it because everybody expects us to have one?
 
Is it because audiences truly enjoy the short short movie?
 
Is it because our attention spans are so short?  

That we're just too busy, and we demand everything we consume to be condensed?
 
Is it the plethora of a available images and movies that makes us want to see as many of them as we can?
 
What do you think?
 

39 Comments

Trailers are the haiku (or tanka?) version of the prose poem of a film.

I like L. Shafer's idea about the trailer, that it might be the film, abbreviated poetically, simplified into a unique prose style. This is optimistic! I'll try to keep this idea fresh in my mind as I begrudgingly edit my own trailer.

But I have to add a snarky comment or two: 10 years ago (in the independent documentary world) nobody needed a trailer (or even knew what they were) and now all media makers suddenly have to have them readily available on their iphones and other e-gadgets in order for anyone to take us seriously (funders, investors, potential audiences), EVEN if our films havenít even been shot yet! This is because the independent documentary world has been co-opted by marketers, branders, and business people who have built a veneer of "professionalism", which they have erected like steel scaffolding (or a prison cell?) around our independent spirits and minds. All this marketing stuff I am supposed to come up with makes me feel trapped, like I am smothering.

I think there might be some secret, hold-out, idealistic places and spaces where audiences and funders don't expect you to have a trailer or marketing plan, but if you want anyone who might fund you to give a crap, you have to make one. Because, again, everyone has bought into the professional structures that marketers have shackled to the independent media scene.

Okay, I'm off to edit my trailer. Um, my haiku!

Yes, you are quite right - we are beholden to the expectations of those with the $$$. If only we didn't need it!

But let's also think about the landscape of the independent film community 10 years ago. When desktop editing systems cost thousands of dollars, not dozens of dollars, and when a decent camera cost many thousands, not a few thousand $$s. Just the commitment of owning such gear constituted a form of legitimacy. Now the price of entry is extremely low.

So perhaps the trailer emerges as the right of passage, the proof of one's creative capabilities.
What might replace it?

I agree that all those with the money (marketers, investors, ect.) almost demand a trailer before they even think about investing. Hollywood has made the world of trailers such a power house marketing technique that it has begun to trickle down to the independent world. No one will listen to a pitch or view a story board any more because they all want it presented to them in a way in which they no longer have to think. If its visually appealing then they will likely invest. Good point laura how can you give a trailer when can't start filming till you have investors. Makes a lot of sense.

I agree that all those with the money (marketers, investors, ect.) almost demand a trailer before they even think about investing. Hollywood has made the world of trailers such a power house marketing technique that it has begun to trickle down to the independent world. No one will listen to a pitch or view a story board any more because they all want it presented to them in a way in which they no longer have to think. If its visually appealing then they will likely invest. Good point laura how can you give a trailer when can't start filming till you have investors. Makes a lot of sense.

I personally think trailers are great. I mean, the whole money thing aside, trailers can get the audience very excited for the film it's representing (especially is they're big fans of the director, star, series, etc). But it all has to do with how the trailer is made. I believe that a good trailer is one that shows barely anything at all, just the overall plot. I hate movie trailers that show the entire film in two minutes and leave you saying, "Why do I even need to see the movie now?" The secret to a good trailer is taking the stuff the audience wants and then briefly dangling in their faces before you tear it away. You always have to keep the audience on their toes and trailers help with that.

I'd agree with Ben here. I love nothing more than seeing a really well put together trailer; it just gets me so pumped to see this movie. Referring back to the above comments, i'd also agree that trailers are essentially a test screening for the audience. After each trailer for a movie ends, doesn't everyone in the theatre turn to the person next to them saying either "I really want to see that one," or "I think i'll pass." Good trailers give the viewer a taste of the film, without spoiling the entire plot.

An example of a well made trailer would be that of Inception. The trailer showed off a few of the effects in the movie, and explicitly told the viewer, "This is a sci-fi action movie about planting an idea in the human mind." It's up to personal opinion whether you liked Inception or not, but having seen the movie, the trailer was completely indicative of the plot and tone of the movie. Viewers want to see what they expect when they go to the movies.

Conversely, an example of a poor trailer would be that of Adventureland. The film's trailer gave the viewer the basic plot of a kid being forced to work at an amusement park instead of going to Europe for the summer. However, it advertised the movie as almost a sequel to Superbad, showing the bits of Judd Apatow-esque humor that that film employed. When viewers saw Adventureland, they were surprised to find a more dramatic, human film, not one of the nonstop madcap humor of Superbad. It's no coincidence Adventureland did not do well at the box office.

I find this comment from Benjamin Howd very intriguing:

"You always have to keep the audience on their toes and trailers help with that."

Why is this true?

Trailers are a necessity in the current age of digital media. Not only is there an enormous spectrum of films being released daily, but the cost of entry for a filmmaker is remarkably low compared to the past.

Although trailers are used primarily as part of a film's advertising campaign, I find it essential to the consumer. With such a plethora of movies to view, how can one decide which one is of interest to them?

By watching trailers, the consumer can swiftly navigate through a selection of upcoming films to find a film that they wish to watch.
This is of course if said film has yet to be released.

Perhaps we can expand this discussion beyond the idea of a trailer made for a Hollywood movie. Hollywood has been doing this sort of promotion from the beginning - think movie posters as trailers.

How about the role of the trailer for other kinds of films and events?

I believe trailers to be a trite "necessity" in todays cinematic world. I have yet to see a trailer that sums up a film correctly in both plot and quality of the film. in most cases, the trailer does not come from the creative minds that made the film, so the public is given an objective stance of the importance and most moving images of the film. Not to mention, why would I want to see pivotal points in the plot without first being properly built up as the director intended? Trailers give "bias" and "pre-conceived notions" to the audience which can ruin a great film's box office sales and help a film, that is not so deserving, gain high box office sales.

Subjective, I mean.

Trailers are necessary in today's society purely because people need to have a little taste of the movie they are going to spend 10 dollars to see. We need trailers in order to make that decision on whether we want to spend two hours watching that specific movie. Nils Granlund made the first trailer in the United States in 1913. It was an important progression in the cinematic world because for the first time, audiences were able to watch a glimpse of a movie before they actually sat down to watch it. As trailers started to become more advance in the 1960's when they started to introduce quick-editing and montage, they started to see trailers as more of an advertisement for box-office success rather than just a preview.

To answer a few of the questions more thoroughly, no I do not think trailers are "short films" by any means or a substitution for a real movie. There is no storyline in a trailer. They are there for the audience to decide whether they are intrigued by the characters/actors and storyline based on what they see in that brief 30 seconds. It is the same thing as advertising for a product. Here, the product is the film.

Trailers are necessary in today's society purely because people need to have a little taste of the movie they are going to spend 10 dollars to see. We need trailers in order to make that decision on whether we want to spend two hours watching that specific movie. Nils Granlund made the first trailer in the United States in 1913. It was an important progression in the cinematic world because for the first time, audiences were able to watch a glimpse of a movie before they actually sat down to watch it. As trailers started to become more advance in the 1960's when they started to introduce quick-editing and montage, they started to see trailers as more of an advertisement for box-office success rather than just a preview.

To answer a few of the questions more thoroughly, no I do not think trailers are "short films" by any means or a substitution for a real movie. There is no storyline in a trailer. They are there for the audience to decide whether they are intrigued by the characters/actors and storyline based on what they see in that brief 30 seconds. It is the same thing as advertising for a product. Here, the product is the film.

Should film be thought of as a product that one buys? Yes, they are in a literal sense but film is so much more, or should be so much more than that. Film is an art form and should not be reduced another "product" in the ever growing world of consumers. The only reason they should cost money is to support the crew.
This is more a philosophical argument, but necessities should be a timeless aspect of life. They should be defined as the bare essentials needed to survive. Our culture has become so demanding when it comes to quick pleasures and entertainment. It has put an unneeded and unnatural amount of pressure on practically any single person who has a job to become quicker at what they do. Most everything has been streamlined and quality has been lost.

Well a consumer does not necessarily approach film as a readily available product. Let's not forget cinema's influence from early vaudeville and theatre productions. Although film is an art that has much artistic, social and intellectual merit, it still is primarily an entertainment medium. The audience must be able to connect with a film and enjoy it or at least experience what the filmmakers intended them to feel.

Brian, I do not understand what philosophical argument you are making. If you meant "bare essentials" in the literal physical sense then all a person would need is food and shelter. This seems oddly off topic unless you were using that as an analogy of what should be the "bare necessities" for film. Which in that case, you need to elaborate.

Also, with more people, it is natural for the industry to become more competitive as time progresses. I beg to differ that "quality has been lost". Due keep in mind, there were a myriad of mediocre movies that accompany every great movie. Film scholars may argue of a Golden Age in cinema, but art is subjective. What may be a "Golden Age" to some may be different to others.

On a practical note, a film needs large financial backers for numerous reasons. Not only do they need enormous investments to support the crew, they also need it to pay for various other costs such as sets, props, equipment, locations, licenses, etc. To pay this off and potentially give confidence to their backers so that they can continue making films, they need profits. Despite the fact that marketing does not guarantee more profits, it certainly does help.

A film will often be unsuccessful in garnering a profit without a strong advertising campaign. "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" is a recent example of a film that has yet to yield any profit despite having favorable reviews and decent amount of exposure.

Be mindful of the fact that in the film industry, no matter how small or grand a film may be, it requires money to make it.

I was just making the point that the term necessity should not be used so lightly. And that could be up for a more in depth philosophical discussion. Regardless, philosophy is all encompassing and should be ignored as a means to discuss specific issues in relation to the grand scheme of things.
I should have clarified that my post was focused more on Hollywood and its trailers. They are the most accessible and the majority of what the masses are exposed to.
I acknowledge that films need money to be produced but for no reason should the artist integrity by compromised.

I truly believe trailers are made for one reason and only one reason. This is because the movie making industry is first and foremost a business intent on making money. Just like how companies make advertisements for products a trailer in essence is a more visually pleasing product placement. When you see a movie trailer you think looks intriguing you will remember the movie and will go pay to see the movie, the trailer has done what it was made for, promote interest in the product.

Well whenever someone asks me if I've seen a movie, or if I want to go and see a movie, I always ask the same question: What's it about? Then I usually go and watch the trailer. The trailer's purpose could be to tell us a brief overview of the plot, like the trailer for the film Stranger than Fiction. It could also be to give us a certain feeling of what the film's vibe will be like, such as the trailer for the film The Shining. What happens in that trailer is the credits are shown and a hotel elevator opens up to release tons and tons of blood that fills up the room and covers the camera lens. This never happens in the actual film, but it gives off an eery, creepy, overwhelming feeling that is in fact the same feeling you get while watching the actual movie.

I feel that trailers should be taken with a grain of salt. A trailer used for good all extensive purposes should show potential viewers a good representation of the film and to allow a viewer to make judgements on whether or not one should see the film. Sometimes I'm not so sure trailers are used for that purpose. A lot of trailers try to make the film appear to be something it's not. Maybe something better, or different but usually misleading. A lot of bad films have great trailers. On the other hand a lot of good movies have bad trailers. For example over the summer I watched countless Inception trailers and it didn't really interest me. I went to see it anyway because I like Nolan's work and it turned out to be a fantastic film. Trailers are just like any other piece of advertisement media now a days where their sole purpose is to sell. In the end it's up to your judgement.

Before I go to the movie theatre or even before I pick out a film to watch with my friends, I ALWAYS watch the trailer. I do this for one main reason: I'm a wallet watcher. I don't want to waste $8 on a movie that I have no interest in, so I watch the trailer to ensure that I will have an enjoyable experience. People in the film industry are aware that there are thousands, if not millions, of people out there like me. They all want to make trailers that encourage people that their dollar will be well spent. For this reason, it is sometimes hard to rely on trailers for an accurate portrayal of the movie.

I think trailers are an excellent marketing technique. Personally, there are trailers that I've seen that make me that much more excited for the film. I agree that they do almost keep the audience on their toes, keeping in mind that with a trailer, the less the better. For example, The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity. Both were marketed online with a sort of documentary "found footage" movie that is so popular now. These trailers aided to get these movies out to a larger audience, considering they were made with very minimum wages. And the general consensus was that you either loved them or hated them, but pretty much everyone has seen them...which is good.

So many times I have seen a trailer and been excited for the movie, only to see the movie a few months later and be utterly disappointed. Most of the time the trailer doesn't show what the movie is about at all, and sometimes this is a problem. However, occasionally the "misleading" trailer can help the movie. Sometimes getting a false taste for the movie can actually surprise you when you see the real thing and make it better.

As for the reason trailers are now pretty much required for movies, marketing, marketing, marketing. As other people have stated, selling things is what drives our world. If no trailers were made, I doubt the hype for most movies would be nearly as strong as they are today. Trailers allow the public to almost judge a movie before we've seen it, and in our busy lives anything to save time is appreciated.

I think the reason why trailers appeal so much to people is because it can give us a feel for the movie without actually seeing it. Sometimes it can be misleading, but most of the time, it tells us what kind of movie it's going to be, what genre it fits into. If there is epic music, it's an action-adventure movie. If the music is quirky and subtle, it's a comedy.

Really, I think music is the key part of the trailer. When music is used "right" in a trailer it can hype the movie incredibly (Examples Where the Wild Things Are with Arcade Fire's "Wake Up"). The music, and other elements such as the style of editing in the trailer give off the "feel" of the movie, along with a few plot elements, which tells people more about a movie than a summary ever could.

The very American emphasis on efficiency seems to me to be the driving reason to create a trailer. Considering that there are hundreds of films churned out each year by Hollywood, most consumers don't want to have to research every new film that is coming out to determine whether its worth watching. Also, most people don't want to go into a movie without any knowledge of its premise because they may not be interested in its plot (same reason books have synopses of the story on their back covers).

The trailer also gives them the opportunity to (usually) get a good feel for the quality of the movie and what they can expect. There is, however, an unfortunate trend in the movies today to completely misrepresent films in their trailers. I know many people who were disappointed with Inglorious Basterds which had been marketed as a somewhat campy film of just Brad Pitt killing nazis. Those unfamiliar with Tarantino's style from the Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction days were not expecting a much slower paced film in which the Basterds served mainly as comic relief.

Of course, this didn't hurt the movie too much and it was still generally well received but that was likely in part due to Tarantino's rabid fan base (of which I'm part) who had a good idea of what to expect. In fact, it was his name which helped sell a lot of tickets.

If the film had been done by an otherwise unknown director, and so everyone going to the theater was expecting a campy WW2 nazi-killing fest (because they had no reason to expect otherwise), the film would probably be a critical darling that completely flopped otherwise. So, trailers can have a major impact.

Why not make a trailer? The idea is to get the public to know that, first of all, this is your movie, second, that the contents in the movie maybe appealing to them as an audience, and third, you want the word of mouth to spread and spread fast. How many people would go see a movie they have never heard of? or maybe have never seen anything about it like its rating or its content. I know that if I don't know about a movie, it doesn't exist to me therefor I don't go and see it.

Personally, I believe that trailers are just a way to make money. Hollywood produces trailers that catch the eye, making the viewer of such trailer "have" to view the feature length film. People think that is the trailer is good, then the movie must be good. In this way I agree with Alex in saying that trailers misrepresent the films. Many trailers for actions movies today show all the action in the film within a span of three minutes. Then when we go see the film, and we find that all the action we have just seen in the feature length film was already seen in the trailer. However, as Americans we must still see a trailer before they decide to buy a ticket to a movie.

Trailers, while a good way to make money are not only about that. Today in the world how much time do you have in your week to go watch a movie? If your answer was not much then you would be considered in the majority of the society in which we live. Truthfully I wouldn't watch many movies here in college if I didn't see them in all my classes.
Anyway in the very sort amount of time we set aside for ourselves to watch a movie, who has time to see a bad movie, or a movie about something we are uninterested in? that answer is no one.
No one will spend ten dollars (or more) to see a movie they have never heard about, or don't know if they are interested in, and how they decide if a movie is worth their time and money if they don't see the trailer.
I think that main use of the trailer is to create hype and excitement about a movie before it comes out.

The the purpose of a trailer, I believe, is advertisement. Although it is right to say that our attention spans are so short, and that it is expected to have one, a trailers main purpose is to grab an audience, and convince them to want to go see the movie. Out of all the advertisements that film has, posters, billboards, websites, reviews, etc., the audience will understand what the movie is about the most if they watch the trailer. It allows an audience to experience some of the action before it is released. If a trailer for a movie is well put together, it will most likely intrigue people to go see it. The amount of times people see a trailer may also affect the number of people who go to theaters to see it. Around the time of a new film's release, the trailer will be played many times, depending on the budget of the production. People will be more prone to see it, as they become more and more exciting for the releasing of the film. The trailers are just as important as a movie. If a trailer doesn't receive positive feedback, not many people will be paying to go see it.

Trailers are simply a marketing scheme aimed at us, the consumer. It has anything to do with our shortening attention spans or busy schedules, although I do think that is a change in society that has changed movies and theater drastically. It is purely for marketing reasons and to get us feeling like we need to see the movie that is being advertised and shell out money. Bad marketing can ruin a film or any entertainment media for that matter, including theater, which makes trailers very important in the grand scheme of things.

The majority of viewers also like to have some kind of idea of what the movie is going to be about before they see it. The only thing that I like a trailer to do for me is give me an idea of the genre of the film.

I think trailers are made because of expectation. Without trailers, people would not know as easily what movies were appearing in the theater and when they could go see them. Also, they provide a sense of excitement to the viewer because what they are seeing is a sneak peek of the movie. I don't think they are made because of a short attention span, because if that were the case, why would anyone bother to go see the full feature film? Previews are placed at the beginning of a movie in theaters, all over television, and the internet. However, in America only certain trailers are shown. Its not very often that a trailer is aired for an international experimental film, unless it wins an award or something of that nature. Overall, I think trailers are made to inform the public and give them what they want.

I really like what L Shafer said about trailers being like haikus. As an audience we all know that trailers main purpose is to attract audiences to a film, but a trailer doesnít have to be solely a moneymaker. Some trailers are just as beautiful as the film itself. Personally I really enjoy watching good trailers, but what bothers me about the concept of trailers are the ones that are completely disjunctive. Not that I have a problem with disjunctive editing at all, but I feel like the purpose of a trailer is to inform the audience of what the film is about, not to show us a random string of cars exploding and other things of that nature.

Trailers are definitely pushed by studios and advertising companies as a way to bring in money. There is definitely a strong connection to large companies and their greed for more revenue. However now it is impossible to take away trailers from our movie watching culture. It is how we preview films, other than revues and written descriptions of the film. In our society it has become so standard to already know what the movie is going to be about, that it would be impossible to get rid of trailers.

As far as the in-theater experience goes, trailers are the most effective advertising medium for reaching the cinema-going populace. As such, they are structured more to attract box office profit rather than provide a real synopsis of the plot. This explains the occasional spoiler in a trailer - the object of a trailer is to pique viewer curiosity enough to mandate spending money by any means necessary. A product of the business side of Hollywood more than anything else, the brevity serves to prevent the boredom of the masses, whom the corporate advertising gurus have (correctly?) branded as having attention spans comparable to that of a goldfish. As time goes on, it seems that the "short short" film becomes increasingly popular, what with the rise of viral videos and the success enjoyed by the makers thereof. In this sense, one could argue that the success of the advertising trailer is due to audience's enjoyment of short short films, but all things considered, it is more due to the consumeristic values forced down the throats of modern Americans, and the remarkable ability of advertising firms to manipulate our actions through our tenacious grip on said values.

I feel like trailers are essential to the success of a film. Without trailers to gain hype and attention about a production, there is no real reason for a person to see that film. I believe that the rationale behind trailers does have a lot to do with the public's expectations. Since we are so used to a trailer preceding the release of a film, it has become innate.

I agree with Reed on his point of music, that is why i personally love trailers. They get you excited. In my mind a preview is like an amazing music video. Some trailers give me chills. The best part is that you get to form an opinion after 3 minutes. Do you think this looks interesting in narrative, well done in terms of cinematography, would you actually spend money on it and so on.

Also I think it is very interesting when a preview is blown up, looks amazing and the film is horrible its very disappointing but when a preview is misleading and you think the film will be terrible but in actuality its a great movie, your lack of expectation can make it that much greater. (Kick Ass for example)

A trailer can do several things. It can inform the audience of the emotions that the movie will be based around. It can offer questions that the audience wants answered and intriguing clips that offer the audience enough to be hooked, but not enough to be satisfied. In other words the trailer is an emotionally condensed version of the film with out the cathartic release of an ending. As an added bonus, I feel that the trailers that play before the movie at a theatre often help to remove me from the outside world, much like an emotional/ mental palette cleanser.

It's just basic advertising. As Nodin Gutterman-Coffrey said " Trailers are definitely pushed by studios and advertising companies as a way to bring in mone," which hits the nail on the head for me. But how a trailer works in society is a little more tricky. Trailers are a means to announce a couple things; name of the film, what genre the film is, when the film is released, who is in the film and why you should watch the film. The reason for trailer is based on the hard economic truth of cinema, you are selling something the person doesn't know what it is. Trailers are just ways to bring interest into the film so viewers don't believe they are buying air. This is also the reason why most films come from books. People already know what is going to happen but they want to see the specticle come alive in front of them. For many it ruins what they imagined when the read the book. However, they are going to go see it, why? It's really cool, thats why. Besides if your a fan, YOU HAVE TO GO. With this in mind, the film business isn't selling hot air but an EXPERIENCE into your favorite book.

Ann Michel - "So perhaps the trailer emerges as the right of passage, the proof of one's creative capabilities.
What might replace it? "

Netflix- is what will replace it. I love netflix because its cheap and fast. However, I do not have to worry about which movies I will be paying for because I already paid for all of them. Instead, I just read some reviews and the synopsis and BOOM...movie time! Trailer become more of a waste of time for me in this process. If I'm watching the film and it's not interesting, I just stop watching. Then there is the rating system which picks movies based on my tastes. This tells me exactly what I should watch...instantly. Some may argue, that the quality sucks and you don't get that experience. Well, then go buy the movie and play it on your HD television with surround sound or get the dvd instead and wait a couple days. Overall, things are going to change and that change is our generation.

Personally, I've always enjoyed trailers. Whether it's in a movie theater or on a DVD you're watching at home, there's something about a trailer that can put you in a certain time or place, either in the future when the movie is going to be released or in the past when the movie once was new. I love to pop in an old Disney VHS and watch what will be coming to theaters in 1992. Movies in general can act as a reminder of what you loved or what you were doing when that movie was a part of pop culture. A movie trailer can inspire the same kind of excitement when you just want to spend a moment remembering.



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