Compose Your Movie Trailer To Sharpen Your Screenplay


One of the skills screenwriters require in pitching your film revolves around setting up your trailer. In essence you need to extract the key scenes of your film to convey genre, characters, plot, pacing, tone and theme in 2 to 3 minutes. No easy task.

Many producers will ask screenwriters to describe their movie poster, key movie set pieces and their movie trailer. A movie poster is a snapshot of your film. First impressions to lure audiences. Set pieces are defining scenes in your movie which sells it.

Examples include the “I’m having what she’s having” scene in when “Harry Met Sally”. Of course we can’t forget the iconic scene in “American Pie” with… the pie. You know what I’m talking about. A film trailer may be considered a series of set pieces.

Script writers are becoming increasingly involved in cutting trailers as they become more intimate with the movie producing process. Whereas a movie poster can only convey title, character, genre and mood, there is little if any information on character and plot. A trailer covers these and needs to be set up in three acts, build up to a climax and have a resolution. Often it is accompanied by a deep, masculine voice over. In many respects it’s a mini movie of your main movie.

Trailers must also be recut to fit 60, 30 and even 15 second television commercial time slots. The latter is more of a sting and can really only show the set pieces and little else.

Since movie trailers are primary marketing tools for your film, they must be targeted to specific audiences. A classic example was Peter Jackson’s visual effect laden pastiche “The Lovely Bones”. Initially, the trailer was targeted towards the cheese and chardonnay set. Poor box office forced a trailer recut aimed at girls aged 15-24 resulting in a rebound in ticket sales.

Film trailers must serve two functions; to attract their core audience to your movie, as well as attracting new ones. Therefore multiple versions of your movie trailer exist. In “Twilight” the inbuilt audience was teenage girls and the trailer heavily featured a shirtless Robert Pattinson, while the male oriented version. one featured Kristen Stewart.

So think about your movie trailer during your script development. At the very least, it will help you hone your story.

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