What Makes a Good or Bad Movie Trailer?

23 Apr

By Open Book

There is so much riding on movie trailers these days. Last week it was reported Walt Disney studio chief Rich Ross was fired for the box-office failure of John Carter, which was released in March 2012.[1] Many blame John Cater’s failure on bad advertising.  In this article we will look into the world of movie trailers, the companies that make them. And what makes a good or bad movie trailer?

Although, some movie trailers are done in-house the majority are outsourced to award winning advertising firms like The Ant Farm in Los Angeles, who edit trailers for major movie studios.  The Ant Farm was founded in 1968 and specializes in print advertising, music composition, motion graphics and video game trailers.  Some of their most recent trailers include War Horse, Men in Black III, Hugo, The Dictator and more. [2]

The process for making movie trailers is pretty extensive. According to an article in the New York Times called The 150 Second Sell, Take 34 they interviewed Art Mondrala who edits trailers for The Ant Farm he states;

  • ”I watch purely from the standpoint of single moments,” he says. ”Someone turning his head quickly, a fast camera sweep, lines with compressed emotion. In my work, I live in fractions of a second; one second is an eternity. It’s like being a hairdresser and cutting one hair at a time.

Given this process of condensing a two-hour film into two and a half minutes, is the reason directors don’t cut their own trailers. He goes on to state.

  • This is why directors never cut their own trailers. To ask a filmmaker to hack away 98 percent of his movie is like asking an epic poet to create a haiku from his original work — one that will appeal to every kind of reader. And a director’s storytelling skills run against the grain of everything it takes to create a trailer, which must be clear without completely clarifying anything.

Competition to make trailers for studios is intense. Most studios hire three to five companies to work simultaneously on one film then choose the one it like best.

It’s a well-known fact audiences love movie trailers. However, what makes a bad movie trailer? Here are a few reasons listed below.

  1. A Trailer is too loud
  2. A term called “showing too much leg” (gives away the plot)
  3. Comedy Trailers give away all the best jokes
  4. Suspense Trailers give away the surprise

So what’s the price tag for a good trailer? In 2002 its said studios alloted budget for advertising was 35 million and they spent 250,000.00 to 750,000.00 on trailers alone. [3] I’m sure that price tag is much higher today.

What makes a good and or bad movie trailer to you?

Please join us for a discussion Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 @7pmE/12UTC.

Advertisements

89 Responses to “What Makes a Good or Bad Movie Trailer?”

  1. Comic Relief April 23, 2012 at 2:38 PM #

    Can’t.Wait.For.The.Discussion.

    Yet looking at a number of trailers for “Cosmopolis,” “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” and “Prometheus”. I really like the sparse and impressionistic teaser trailer followed by the much more information rich conventional trailer.

    I like this style because each, representing the work of an accomplished directors, makes it pretty clear the film has far more direction and depth than what is suggested by the advertising summary.

    • Comic Relief April 23, 2012 at 2:40 PM #

      Sorry: “of accomplished directors”

  2. littlebells April 23, 2012 at 3:40 PM #

    Hate trailers that use all the good moments from the film!!! Especially the comedies!!! AAAAARGH! Love Cosmopolis and Prometheus trailer. Love that style and honestly, I did like the SWATH trailer I saw on TV last night. However, I would not guess that it involved Snow White, if you know what I mean…Not too big on the MIB III trailer, but I love all three leads and am blown away by Josh Brolin’s Tommy Lee Jones.

  3. Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 4:54 PM #

    “Hate trailers that use all the good moments from the film!!! Especially the comedies!!!”

    LB,

    I love a bad trailer that tells you what you can surmise is the very best part of the movie, saving you the drudgery of going to see the film at all. Though I still saw it, the best parts of the entire movie were right in the trailer. I could have easily stayed home.

    Yet I agree with you. Comedies suffer the worst from these poor editing schemes.

    • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 6:01 PM #

      You know what, CR? You are absolutely right. Crappy trailers really end up saving me money in the long run! 🙂 hahahahaha!!!! I never thought about it that way.

      • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 6:39 PM #

        LB,

        I don’t know how but I forgot to mention the movie I was talking about. AHEM, so without further ado…
        “Though I still saw it, the best parts of JOHN CARTER were right in the trailer. I could have easily stayed home.”

        • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 6:50 PM #

          “Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude…” Those are my only words for courage to stay in the theater. hahahaha!!!

  4. Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:05 PM #

    Yeah! CR even endured seeing it in 3D. LOL!! They really should have paid us for sitting all the way through CR.

    Hi Everyone-

    Welcome new and returning visitors to our discussion tonight. Please feel free to ask questions, lurk or comment.

  5. Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:13 PM #

    One of the things that fascinated me when researching this topic was the amount of lead time these editors need before they begin making a trailer.

    Do any of u know how early an editor might begin making a trailer for a film?

    • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM #

      I am completely clueless when it comes to this! As soon as filming begins?????

      (HI OB!)

      • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:29 PM #

        LOL!! Well I was shocked to find out they begin during a films production period. They go to the set and basically sit in on scenes then put together a mock up trailer to give the studio some idea what the trailer will look like. They actually use stock images from other films to do it. They call them “Frankenstein” trailers.

        • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

          Wow! I had no idea!

        • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

          Wow! That’s a lot of work.

    • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 7:29 PM #

      Nope. Hi all.

      • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

        Hi CR!

  6. Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:24 PM #

    Here is IFC 50 Best Movie Trailers of all time. U won’t believe who’s on the list.

    http://www.ifc.com/fix/2009/06/50-greatest-trailers

    • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 7:31 PM #

      Excellent list. Thanks OB.

      • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

        Did u see? Alien made the cut. Love it!!

  7. ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 7:28 PM #

    Hi all!

    Great article OB! I have wondered about how trailers are made so I learned alot from this article! 🙂

    • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

      Hi Oz!

      I’m glad u like it. Did u ever see John Carter in theaters over there?

      • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 7:40 PM #

        No I didn’t see it but I saw the trailer so much, I got annoyed everytime it came on, lol! I still have no clue as to what it is about as the trailer wasn’t all that informative.

        • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:47 PM #

          LOL!! The whole big display was a turn off and it made me thirsty.

  8. parisienne April 24, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    Let me get caught up.

    • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 7:32 PM #

      HI Ozzie and Paris.

      • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

        Hi Paris

        • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

          Hi CR and Paris!

  9. Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 7:33 PM #

    OB,

    Since other Edgar rice Burroughs characters like “Tarzan” have done well in Hollywood why do you believe “John Carter” did so badly?

    • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:39 PM #

      I honestly believe poor advertising. I saw the big huge monstrous display of freakish monsters they sent to movie theaters and it was quite a turn off. It really did nothing to get u excited about seeing the film. Nothing about spoke sci-fi to me. U have to admit u had no idea this was a sci-fi film from the advertising?

      • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 7:46 PM #

        I didn’t! All I got from it was some half naked guy in chains kicking some yeti butt in the Roman Era and that the name of the film made no sense!

        • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

          Did it make u thirsty? LOL!!

          • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 7:52 PM #

            Now that you mention it, yes it does! LOL!

        • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 7:54 PM #

          HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA thanks Ozzie.

        • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 7:59 PM #

          I love this!!! The title made NO SENSE.

          • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:01 PM #

            Why? Did the title make u think it was a sci-fi film?

            • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 8:21 PM #

              His name doesn’t fit the.time period. It needed a more abstract title of which I have no idea… Hahaha! Just not JOHN I’M AN AMERICAN SENT BACK IN TIME CARTER.

              • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:24 PM #

                Hey! I like your title better then the one they went with. LOL!!

                • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 8:54 PM #

                  You need to be hired LB, because that one sentence explained alot more than the trailer!

                  • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:57 PM #

                    I second that Oz!

                  • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 10:56 PM #

                    HAHAHAHAHAH!!! I just snorted!

    • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 7:54 PM #

      Honestly I thought the premise looked dumb.

      • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 8:56 PM #

        I thought so too.

  10. Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 7:34 PM #

    OB,
    You mentioned the trailer company “Ant farm.” These are the films they have produced trailers for recently:

    “The Dictator”
    “Men in Black III”
    “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”
    “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”
    “War Horse”
    “Hugo”
    “In the Land of Blood & Honey”
    “Footloose”
    “The Help”
    “In the Land of Blood & Honey”
    “Footloose”
    “Real Steel”
    ”George Harrison: Living in the Material World”
    “Super 8”
    “Rango”
    ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon”
    “Cowboys & Aliens”
    “Tron: Legacy”
    “Yogi Bear”

    In terms of success their trailered films seem to have a fairly uneven record. Why don’t people in the general public directly blame the trailer companies for box office failures?

    • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:44 PM #

      Well how much studios spend on marketing and advertising is hush, hush. Bean counters don’t like to share their flub ups in public.

      • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

        Plus they have no idea it is done by a separate company. They’ll think it was done by the production company. I did until tonight!

        • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:54 PM #

          The reality is the marketing department is the one who will choose the trailers etc…I mean they will have 3 to 5 companies doing trailers for 1 film and then choose the one they like the best.

          Paris-mentioned marketing need to appeal to a mass audience. They call it the 4 quadrant appeal. Where they hope to attract young,old male and female audiences from a trailer.

          • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 8:11 PM #

            Ah, right gotcha! I was thinking just one company did it so they didn’t really have a choice, even though I read what you had said earlier, doh! I’m really tired tonight. It doesn’t show at all does it?!!! LOL! It does make me wonder if that was the best they chose, how bad were the others? Or maybe the others were better but for some reason they rejected them? If that’s the case, what the hell were they thinking?!!!

            • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:16 PM #

              Well each company comes up with their own concept and decide what approach they want to take. For example should they sell the film on explosions to attract young boys or focus on romance to bring in women.

              • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

                So what do you think of the SWATH trialer’s angle? You really don’t see much of SW.

                • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 8:29 PM #

                  I ask because if I didn’t know who was in the movie, it actually looks very interesting and somewhat exciting.

                • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:45 PM #

                  Well SW is being sold on its CGI & action TBH. The acting, plot and even the protagonist is marginalized. Really, u have CGI and Chris Hemsworth selling the thing. Then throw in Charlize Theron to get the young boys hot and bothered.

                  • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 9:06 PM #

                    I thought it looked ok till Snow white appeared. Then when she finally opened her mouth (or should I say engaged her vocal cords because the mouth never shuts) and said something like “I’ve seen her, I know what she wants” Or it could be “I what she is planning” (I was too busy “wtf” -ing over the accent) but I thought that Snow white came across as someone with a low IQ. Anyone, with eyes and ears knew what the Queen was up too! My hope for an intelligent Snow White kind of flew out of the window at that point. I’ll stop the rant there! LOL!

            • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:17 PM #

              Good question Ozzie,

              OB,

              Would you name some other noteworthy trailer producers?

              • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:22 PM #

                Here’s one I like. I’m not bias am I?

                http://www.picturemill.com/

                • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:44 PM #

                  VERY. May I ask, do you know some who works there?

                  • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:47 PM #

                    Am I on Trial here? I’m the Moderator I ask the Q. LOL!!

                    • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:51 PM #

                      …the prosecution rests…

      • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:15 PM #

        According to your NY Times reference; with trailers costing $250,000 to $750,000 and the one for “Spiderman” costing nearly $2 million. Aren’t trailer directors being jipped in regard to trailer credit?

        • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:19 PM #

          The Spiderman price tag was because the studio needed to make changes after. So that’s why it was so much. However, that article was written in 2002. So can u imagine what the price is today? Pick a number any number?

  11. Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 7:37 PM #

    I read there were 33 versions of the trailer for the movie “Signs.” Seems like these companies are taking this endeavor seriously?

    speaking of the List printed previously; I heard your article explanation. Given the high stakes, why would so many major film Directors avoid working toward this goal?

    • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:41 PM #

      Time and money. Honestly I think doing a trailer is more stressful then directing a film. I mean come on it cost Ross his job. Not good!!

  12. parisienne April 24, 2012 at 7:43 PM #

    I purposely stayed away from John Carter. It did not appeal to me at all.

    • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:49 PM #

      Why?

      • parisienne April 24, 2012 at 7:54 PM #

        The storyline was gimmicky to me. To much war in the film. There is to much war now. If i want to see war i’ll turn on CNN. I like a movie that can give some hope back to people. War Horse i wanted to see just never got around to it.

        • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:00 PM #

          Wow! U keep giving these great answers which only makes me keep asking more Q.

          Why did War Horse appeal to u given your aversion to War films?

          • parisienne April 24, 2012 at 8:02 PM #

            If one can see past the war. It wasn’t about war at all. It was about hope.

            • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:08 PM #

              Ah! Thank u.

              • parisienne April 24, 2012 at 8:09 PM #

                my pleasure. 🙂

  13. parisienne April 24, 2012 at 7:48 PM #

    Trailers have to appeal to the masses and I don’t think Disney is doing that with their films right now. So unfortunately Ross got cut. Disney cannot stand to take a loss.

    • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 7:55 PM #

      ITA-Disney had some major problems with their marketing while Ross was there.

  14. Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:13 PM #

    I believe a really good trailer happens because the editor has a lot of good material to choose from the film. IMO!! What are your thoughts?

    • littlebells April 24, 2012 at 8:28 PM #

      I agree. Plus i think it takes a very smart and savvy editor to know what to include and what not to include to grab viewer’s attention.

      • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

        Art said (from the article) its really a science. ITA!

      • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:42 PM #

        Amen, Sister.

        • ozzie20 April 24, 2012 at 9:11 PM #

          I’m throwing in music! I’ve found many new songs through trailers. If it’s good, it’s an instant head turner for me, lol!

  15. Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:18 PM #

    OB,

    In your article you mentioned what made some trailers bad; what makes the ones below good? I’m curious because I actually saw many of these films.

    I posted the “Alien” trailer two weeks ago so I could not bring myself to do it again. But here are the other top 5 from IFC’s list.

    2. Psycho:

    3. Cloverfield Movie trailer

  16. Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:19 PM #

    Speaking of the top 5 of 150 trailers again, actually these to have skits about the trailer making process. I’m not sure an actual trailer appeared with either? Please see for your self.

    4. Actually this one has a mega cheesey studio bit pertaining to studio advertising culture and expectatations.
    MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET TRAILER

    5. Comedian Movie Trailer

    • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:51 PM #

      This is HILARIOUS!!

      • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:55 PM #

        What makes this an excellent trailer because u are told its a Jerry Seinfield film but never see him. Plus the whole premiss makes u laugh and u still don’t know what its about. EXCELLENT way to sell a comedy trailer.

  17. Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:35 PM #

    CR-

    Other Award Winning Companies include:

    Refinery
    http://www.therefinerycreative.com/#!/theatrical

    For more u can check out LA411
    http://www.la411.com/Ad_Agencies_Production_Companies/category-cid-50524.htm

    • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:39 PM #

      Much appreciated. Thank you.

      • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:42 PM #

        Your welcome. Did u see up above I also included picturemill?

        • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:43 PM #

          No, but but I will look again.

          • Comic Relief April 24, 2012 at 8:46 PM #

            I looked and asked you aquestion about that company?

            • Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:49 PM #

              Yeah! I saw and responded.

  18. Open Book April 24, 2012 at 8:59 PM #

    Everyone-

    I have to go for the night. However, u are welcome to continue and ask Q. I will come back tomorrow and answer. Thanks for coming.

    TC!

  19. littlebells April 24, 2012 at 11:38 PM #

    Hi everyone,

    Sorry, i was here and there and everywhere this discussion. Great article and very informative. I am now watching trailers with a whole new perspective. Thank you OB! 🙂

    • Open Book April 25, 2012 at 12:50 PM #

      LB-

      U are welcome. I learned something new from researching it. So I hope our new and returning visitors will too.

  20. Comic Relief April 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM #

    OB,

    Sorry, I had to leave at the end, and neglected to tell you how much I enjoyed the article.
    I meant to ask you one more question;

    “The Dark Knight Rises” has one more (or one last) trailer that will be screened with “The Avengers.” Now they are saying a new trailer for “the Amazing Spiderman” will also debut with the movie too.

    What do you think their over-all strategy is strategy is?

    • Open Book April 25, 2012 at 1:09 PM #

      I think they are selling the personal demons of Spiderman and pure adrenaline to appeal to fan boys. The plot is highlighted just enough to get u rooting for Spidey.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: