Monday, October 26, 2015

The Secret Science of Trailers

Last Monday the world was obsessed with the new Star Wars trailer.  For the most part it followed the trend of modern movie trailers by providing a hodge-podge of images interlaced with dialogue.  This style of trailer is pretty much everywhere these days and most of the time it leaves me wondering, "What the fuck is this movie about?"  I especially remember the trailer for the new Jennifer Lawrence drama Joy; it followed that format with just a bunch of random images and dialogue and I still can't tell you what the fuck the movie is about.

Yet you know they wouldn't do it this way if it weren't effective at least some of the time.  I think I finally cracked the code--if there was a code that needed cracking.

But to take a trip down memory lane, if you ever watch TCM they sometimes show the really old movie trailers, which were vastly different.  They might show a scene or two and a lot of times they'd overlay some text like, "This movie has thrills!  And chills!"  Gradually trailers began incorporating voiceover, until the 70s and 80s where you had that deep-voiced guy saying, "In a world..."

Starting in the 90s that changed to our modern style.  No longer do you have the voiceover guy.  Instead you get random snippets of images and dialogue, sometimes with text flying at you.  It's to the point now where pretty much everything from action movies to dramas to kid's movies do it.  It'd be nice if YouTube links worked here, but just go to YouTube or anywhere else and look up movie trailers and you'll see it for yourself.

As I said, I think I cracked the code for why they do this.  And again it's probably common sense.  Basically the idea is to play in to our obsessive culture by giving us a puzzle and letting us try to reassemble it.  You give us a bunch of little snippets in no particular order and we all sit around on Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, etc trying to unravel what it means and how the pieces fit together.  They basically use us then as carriers to spread the virus here, there, and everywhere across the Interwebs. 

Yet sometimes they're really evil about these and actually put stuff in that doesn't make the final cut of the film or even splice dialogue from different points together.  Remember when one of the first Age of Ultron trailers came out and there was a shot of some lady in a cave or something?  People went crazy trying to figure out who she was.  Who was she?  Nobody!  That scene wasn't in the movie and Josh Whedon claimed it was just stock footage tossed in there.  In the trailer for The Gambler Mark Wahlberg says, "If you don't have the magic...don't bother!"  When I watched the movie in the theater I realized the parts before and after the ellipsis were actually two different lines from two different parts.

I'm not sure how many people watch book trailers, but maybe authors need to find a way to do something similar.  Put a bunch of jumbled-up shit out there and let people whip themselves into a frenzy trying to piece it together.  I'm not sure yet how to do it but maybe someone with better skills at video editing can put something together.

I know it's oh so hard to read blogs on Tuesdays [eye roll] but tomorrow's a special trivia challenge!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I like the way they do trailers because I don't mind wondering for awhile.

  3. Hmm. I've never really paid much attention to book trailers, but if you think you've cracked the code to making a successful one then that's a good thing. If you need a test audience, send me a link to a trailer you've made and I'll let you know what I think of it.



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