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Does it Make Sense to Make a Trailer for a Short Film? Here's Why We Made One for AMATEUR

08.5.13 @ 6:57PM Tags : , , , , , ,

AMATEUR MANCHILD court PR stillMy Q&A about MANCHILD (and its prequel short AMATEUR) just went live on my favorite sports/movie website, Grantland (if you like it, please click “Recommend”at the bottom of their article!). Grantland is ESPN’s in-depth, long-form journalism spin-off that features movies alongside sports coverage, which made it my #1 target for AMATEUR. Most sports websites, however, are accustomed to posting a quick highlight clip or an animated .gif. Thus, to spread the short to other sports sites, we’re doing a couple of things: one, releasing the short on YouTube, and two, cutting a 15-second teaser that (hopefully) whets the appetite. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again (with a different strategy). Here’s the new teaser:

Joe Hubbard, a nofilmschool reader and editor at an LA-based trailer house, downloaded the Vimeo file from when I first released AMATEUR and, on his own, cut a teaser and sent it to me. I loved the rhythm of the piece and immediately scrapped my own plans to cut a preview. Thanks Joe!

If you haven’t seen the short prequel I made for MANCHILD in order to help raise additional financing to make the feature, here’s the full short AMATEUR, which had a great run as a Vimeo Staff Pick and has been featured on Filmmaker Magazine, Indiewire, Short of the Week, Director’s Notes, and Shadow & Act. You’ll note those are all film websites — now that the NBA playoffs are over, we’re starting a second sports-website push with a new YouTube version:

As for the feature itself, I’m happy to share that we just got into IFP’s No Borders co-production market, and will be taking a full slate of meetings about the feature in September. As you can imagine, this short will figure prominently in those meetings. And, as always, I’m working on the script constantly. I’ve also been taking copious notes on the things I’m learning by releasing a short online, many of which relate to Short of the Week’s post about film festivals that take online shorts, and I look forward to sharing those lessons learned once we’re a bit further in the process.

I’m always interested in who’s reading nofilmschool and what kind of film work they (you) are doing, so I followed-up with the editor of the teaser, Joe Hubbard, and asked him some questions about cutting trailers and working at a trailer house.

Q&A with Editor Joe Hubbard

NFS: What’s your background? How did you get started in film?

JH: I worked in retail for many years but always had a love for the arts. Started with sketching and painting which evolved into basic music production. Eventually, I moved to film production, shooting short films with friends. With no schooling, I relied on online tutorials and trial and error to figure it out. Editing came most naturally, so I started to focus on that full time.

NFS: Were you always interested in trailers or how did it come about that you got hired at a trailer house?

I moved to LA in 2010 and didn’t know anyone. I spent the first 6 months or so networking any way I could. As an editor, it’s easier to put yourself out there, because all you need is an editing program. So I offered my services pro bono for many months, trying to get better and find that right connection. I ended up meeting a very successful feature editor who became a mentor to me. I never even thought about trailers, but he felt they would best serve my particular skill set. He recommended me and I was able to land a gig. And I have loved it from the start.

NFS: You used the basketball bounce as a kick-drum equivalent in the AMATEUR teaser, and it seems a lot of trailer editors are musicians. How do you approach structuring a preview, do you go with an audio-first approach?

Editing is all about pacing, which is creating a rhythm. Video game trailers are extremely musically driven, so I may cut for days with just music before I even start looking at footage. Features are a bit different because story is such an important element, and different movies may require different approaches.

NFS: Can you easily turn off the “that shot would be good for a trailer” part of your brain when you watch features now or is that just part of watching movies for you?

Yeah, that’s not too tough. But I do get a lot of inspiration from great sound design in film. Many times, a particular sound used in a way that jumps out to me might find it’s way into a trailer of mine. I try to keep those ideas set aside to use at some point.

NFS: Where can folks find out more information about you and your work?

My site is being redone right now but should be up within the next month.

Here’s some additional insights gleaned from Short of the Week’s Twitter in response to this post:

It’s a particular challenge to cut a trailer for a short because normal lengths don’t apply (you would never want to make a 2:30 trailer for a 10:00 film… thus the short length of ours). Thoughts on our teaser?

Link: Q&A: Filmmaker Ryan Koo on His Basketball Recruiting Movies, Amateur and Manchild – Grantland


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Matthew Rogan on 08.5.13 @ 7:14PM

    I really like the trailer, but I feel it has a different tone to actual film. The ball bouncing feels like the film has sinister tone. Having said that though, it really intrigued mem so from that I probably would go on to watch the short. But I maybe would be surprised by the actual film in regards to the trailer. But I really do love the short!

    • I don’t think a trailer having a slightly different tone is necessarily a bad thing, unless you’re advertising it to be COMPLETELY different (and I think we’ve all seen a few of those in the theater). Thanks!

  • I love the teaser, specially the repetition of the bounce and laugh. Short & tempting without any type of reveal, exactly what a teaser should be. Awesome to see AMATEUR getting some recognition on Grantland too!

  • Will Gilbey on 08.6.13 @ 8:00AM

    Really interesting trailer. Think it’s a great idea. 15 seconds seems like a challenge. Inspired me to cut a trailer for a short I’ve just finished.

    Very best of luck with Man Child!

  • Forget the 15 second trailer, that 9 minute prequel was really great, I did not see that twist coming. :)
    The trailer did not move me at all to really care about the movie, but the 9 prequel really did. Now i give a shit. Great job and would love to see more.

  • Is it still possible to change the title of the short? I propose ‘Posterized’.

  • Watch the best Short Films—Reviews, the future of film and the best festival award-winning, student films, animation,comedy,oscar nominated films & more

    for more watch

  • Love the short but the teaser would probably not get me to watch it. Also — I like the name of the short much better than the name of the feature. “Manchild” just sounds bad to me. It sounds like a film I don’t want to see.

  • I agree with most of the commenters on here that the trailer is interesting enough to spark interest and lead me to see the movie. Personally, making a trailer for a short shouldn’t even be a question… MAKE THE TRAILER. It’s a teaser to spark interest and draw eyes to your movie and it doesn’t matter if it’s a feature, a short or a music video.

  • Ryan, do you think the teaser represents the gist of the short? In other words, wouldn’t a person who’s seen the 15 second trailer expect a different story line than what he’ll see in the “Amateur”? (and by the story line, I don’t mean the ending because that brings up a problem with the recruiter character)

    • I think in 15 seconds all we’re hoping to get across is that there’s conflict, production value, and something at stake… enough to make you want to see the full short. I don’t know that we’re able to set actual expectations in 15 seconds. What different storyline do you think they’d expect?

      • To me, the trailer suggests a heavy handed recruitment of a star b-ball prospect with ominous implications, potentially leading into a murder type thriller, something more like the “Parallax View” than the “House of Cards” (if one to extend the analogy further). IMO, given the short’s ending, trailer has to hint at it, albeit very subtly, and even if you had to use a shot that may not be in he short itself.
        Just my take. I think the trailer itself is very stylish but setting up a Hitchcock type mood.

      • A trailer should only have one goal : get the people who saw it to want to watch the film. And get as many people as possible to want to watch it.

        In that respect trailers are the same as ads – and they must start around a creative / concept, or execution : “What is the one thing I can say about my film that will make people want to watch it” and your whole trailer must be about that and ONLY THAT. Nothing else. Use the material that supports your editorial / creative direction, discard everything else. Be ruthlessly single minded about it because your potential punters don’t care one jot for complexity.

        Trailers for blockbuster are easy: you have massive explosions, amazing shots, loads of CGI, superstar CUs. No disrespect but for indy films but they can never compete for attention on those terms, even if they think what they’ve done is amazing, it’ll never match Star Trek etc. The one thing you do have though, is Story.

        You have to sell your story because it’s the only thing that will convince an average Joe to be remotely interested, and you really should be interested in reaching as wide an audience as possible, not just preaching to the converted, cos they’ll watch it anyway and what’s the point of a trailer that doesn’t change anyone’s mind?

        So if you want me to make you a trailer…..

  • Andreas W. on 08.7.13 @ 8:35AM

    as a filmgoer first reaction is: nice:)
    as a filmmaker: one dude has a good idea ( and countless people copy it

  • Ryan I’ve seen your short and really liked it but to extend the thought on making a trailer for a short film, I did just that too. For me it was to remind my youtube subscriber base that I am indeed working on something, and that they have something to look forward to. Since it’s super visual effects heavy it’s been taking quite some time. Since it’s over 10 minutes in length I specifically wanted to show as little as possible while still piquing their interest.

  • That trailer by Joe Hubbard has good use of sound. That laugh is sinister. All the best for getting further funding.

  • Too long and too boring. Where’s the 13 year old? The guys is “walking” walking in your short. Nothing like your pitch in Kickstarter. Just make the film and stop taking in meetings. You are not representing your ” No Film School” followers.