I post a lot of links to trailers these days (more than I talk about comics sometimes, for which I apologize). As you might guess, I have always liked movie trailers and dig the art form. I’ve even wished that I could work in the trailer industry…especially when I see movie trailers that are all wrong.
Robert Zemeckis has been on this kick where he spoils his movies in trailers that he approves! The suspenseful What Lies Beneath spends an hour laying out a mystery and planting a red herring, but the trailer for it gives away the identity of the killer. Then Castaway‘s trailer gives away the ending by showing Tom Hanks back in civilization! Roger Ebert mistakenly blamed the trailer makers, as he assumed that no director in his right mind would ruin his own movie by giving away the ending in a preview, but Zemeckis is under the belief that moviegoers want to know everything about a movie including the ending when they are deciding to see it.
Comedies are tough to preview because invariably you are giving away jokes…usually the best ones. Throw Momma From the Train lured in tons of people with that hilarious scene where Danny DeVito slams Billy Crystal in the face with a frying pan in order to cover a lie. Throw Momma was a very funny movie, but few of the gags are as good as that one. Still, if you skimp on the laffs in the trailer you run the risk that people might not think it’s funny.
Maybe the best trailers are the teasers that are invented for the trailer and don’t use anything from the movie. Spaceballs had a teaser where the word SPACE grows from infinity to finally fill the screen…then a tiny Mel Brooks walks in at the bottom and shouts, “Where are the BALLS?” Pixar has had original teasers for their last few movies, and they make you want to see the film while giving away hardly anything of the film.
Anyway, check out this Opinion Journal piece on The Art of Trailers
Making trailers involves a lot of gruntwork, going through the movie to grab the best visuals and audio (not always, or even often, synchronous) and figuring out how to edit them in an order that has an emotional effect or a humorous punch. While not as entertaining as “gives away the ending” or “spoils the jokes”, perhaps my most common complaint is that they didn’t make the right choices and I wish I could redo it. Wonder how one gets into this biz.