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Directing the trailer

An integral part of pitching new projects these days is the pre-film trailer. Making a trailer for a movie or show that has not been shot yet is an interesting challenge because trailers are mini stories in and of themselves and choosing what to shoot is paramount. For me this is challenging because as a director I get caught up on telling the story of the film as opposed to telling the story of the trailer which are two different things. Fortunately the producers from one of the projects I'm working on hooked me up with Jason Richter yesterday and his experience as a trailer editor for numerous feature films helped demystify how trailers are made. Like the films they are designed to sell trailers have beginnings, middles and ends but not in the same fashion as the film. They don't have a traditional 3 act structure but more like a 2.5 act structure as you shouldn't give away a resolution (gotta leave the audience with some anticipation). The acts are set up in the same way (but obviously much faster) and most often do not consists of the same story elements. i.e Your inciting incident of the trailer may be different than what it is in the film etc. Like a film it should depict the hero's journey in a concise way that makes people want to see the film, but the challenge is selecting which scenes to shoot? Do you create scenes that are not even in the film? Or do you pick the gold scenes from the script assuming there is one? What do you do if there is no script? Well if your film is character driven and I hope to god it is then picking the scenes should be quite simple. The following is a brief excerpt from my notes. Thanks again Jason.

Directing the trailer 1) Pick three tensions that pertain to the protagonist to show 2) Set up the major tension in the first trailer act 3) Introduce the other tensions in the second act (most often one of them is a love interest) 4) In act 2.5 show how he copes with all of the tensions (NOT A RESOLUTION) It shows how he tries to deal with the tensions we introduced. 5) End with a button: Comedic moment (or scary depending on film) that occurs after title card 6) Have a short log line for the trailer that you can eventually use as VO or title cards 7) Shoot more than you need for every scene and have actors improve around the lines