March 11, 2016

How YouTube Recuts Can Help You Make a Better Trailer for Your Film

MPAA Preview Screen No Film School Trailer Recuts
People have been recutting trailers from popular films and posting them on YouTube for almost as long as cats have been eating cheeseburgers, and according to Jason Brubaker, looking at these recuts can help you make a better trailer for your own movie. 

Trailers are an incredibly important marketing tool, but as Brubaker says in his post, "There are times in your movie marketing campaign when you cut a movie trailer that doesn’t connect with your target audience." At times like these, he says, you should look to YouTube and clips like Shining, that heartwarming family comedy trailer put together with footage from The Shining:

The explosive and exponential growth of technology in the form of DSLR cameras, non-linear editing, and the internet (to say nothing of data storage, or the personal computing power on your phone) have all conspired to turn anybody into a potential content creator. While recent complaints about the quality of movie trailers have led some to place the blame at Hollywood's feet, this piece in The Atlantic claims that trailers have always reflected dominant marketing strategies of the time. That's why many trailers for classic films look dated today:

It makes sense that after a period of hypersell in the 1940s and 1950s, film trailers entered a period of relative realism, featuring more minimalist montages in the 1960s and 1970s.

And, in 1938, The New York Times reported that audiences disliked trailers "because they sometimes give practically the entire storyline and are bubbling over with superlatives about the new film."

A similar feeling holds today. Brubaker writes

There is a fine line between telling your audience too little or too much about your movie. I can’t stand it when people cut a movie trailer in such a way that spoils the entire film. Don’t do that."

In the past few years, it is undeniable that there has been a trend towards over-explanation. Perhaps this trend has something to do with how much is riding on the opening weekend, and that so many films are leaked before their release dates. 

Brubaker suggests that when thinking about a possible trailer, you should cut and recut several versions. You should tell your story in several different ways, trying to find the one that will intrigue people enough to pay to see your film. Because if The Shining can be turned into a cheese-fest with a little Peter Gabriel and a voice-over, imagine what you can do — for good or evil. (At least no one says "in a world...." anymore.)

And now, for a little inspiration, here's some of the best recut trailers on the internet:

Uncle Buck as a Horror Movie (recut by Jason Schlouch):

Taxi Driver as a Quirky Comedy (recut by Some Random Channel From Me):

And, last but not least, this new trailer for 2001: A Space Odyssey turns Kubrick's masterpiece into a totally rocking sci-fi flick (recut by the Film School Rejects):

I'll give the last word to CBS Films co-president Terry Press:

The trailer is the single most important piece of advertising about a movie; there's nothing else that comes close. If you have a bad one, and people go ape-sh*t on the internet and don't like it, some filmmakers never recover.      

Your Comment

4 Comments

Uncle Buck FTW!

March 11, 2016 at 6:52PM

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My favorite one too. My only criticism is I wish it ended with the scene of him saying his line "THE Uncle Buck" with the kids freaked out.

March 13, 2016 at 8:22PM

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Being almost a novice (I've made 2 shorts), let me ask a naive question: how does one get the footage to edit into trailers? The fidelity of these trailers seems really good...

March 11, 2016 at 7:59PM

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Michael Mesmer
Writer, Director, Editor, Producer & Actor
8

I think people rip DVD footage, or they download (using, e.g., a Firefox extension) the video from a high-quality online source (like HD Vimeo or something similar.) Don't quote me, though.

March 12, 2016 at 5:18AM

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Justin Morrow
Writer
Writer/Director