How To Shoot A Pitch Trailer

The script is ready. The money is not. As a writer and director on my first feature, I anticipated the process of finding investors to be difficult. I did not expect it to seem impossible.

After countless rejections, I decided to turn to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter was one path on my journey toward funding. And one of my major goals in the campaign was to grow my audience – to get people talking about and following my film. I also knew that besides all the details on the Kickstarter page, I would need a killer pitch trailer…

Something to show the tone and story of my film without my face talking the whole time.

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How To Shoot A Pitch Trailer

I decided to shoot a “mock” pitch trailer. I would gather a bunch of my friends, a DP, and shoot a few scenes from the film to make it look like an actual trailer, like we already filmed the whole thing.

Step 1: Watch Tons Of Trailers

I spent a few days just watching as many trailers as I could watch. I started with the more popular films, then narrowed it to films that matched the tone I was going for (The examples I modeled were Little Miss Sunshine, The Way, Way, Back, It’s Kind Of A Funny Story…)

I watched the same trailers over and over, paying attention to specific things on each pass. How does the music work? How many jokes? How many characters? How many “turns” does the trailer take?

If you think about it, there isn’t much that really makes sense in a trailer. There is so much to show in such little time that you rarely see the actors delivering their lines. And lines are certainly taken out of context.

Step 2: Write Your Trailer

It can be difficult to take 110 pages and boil that down to 2 minute pitch trailer. There is always this tension in trailers about peeking interest without revealing too much. There is also the danger of over-simplifying the story so much that it becomes cliche.

Going through the process of what to cut and what to keep got me excited about the film again. It had been many months since I’d actually read the screenplay. I had been so busy with paperwork, lawyers and financing documents that I forgot about some of my favorite moments.

As I worked through the script, I found myself wanting to just film the whole thing! The process of making my pitch trailer re-energized me and reminded me why I’m doing all this work to begin with.

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Step 3: Hire Your Crew

I spoke with Brandon Hyde, the DP, about the project. He loved the script and thought it was a story he wanted to help tell. So I met with him. Together we went over the trailer script and sketched out what we could realistically shoot in one day.

I am a director, so I live in the world where anything is possible. Brandon lives much more in reality, so having his feedback and point of view was vital.

The other area I wanted to make sure we got right was audio. So I hired a respected professional. This was definitely worth the money, and got us another experienced crew person (the majority of our crew actually volunteered to help).

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Step 4: Cast Your Pitch Trailer

For me, the toughest part of making a pitch trailer was casting and scheduling. I needed to cast people who were believable in these parts, but with a full day shoot mid week – that severely limited my options.

Thankfully, a good number of the actors were connected to my project from the beginning (or other projects I’ve done over the years). Some had also participated in a previous table read, so they were already familiar with the story and characters.

Our lead actor wasn’t cast until the day before the shoot! The actor I had originally planned to use suddenly wasn’t available! So that put me in a mad scurry to find another male who matched the description, was natural on film, and was available. That was a close one.

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Step 5: Work Out Pitch Trailer Logistics

One of the best suggestions I got from Brandon (DP) was to choose scenes we could shoot at one location. We found a church that had many of the sets we needed in one spot. They gave us free reign of the building for that day. This was an incredible help, as we could accomplish our day without moving.

Even making a pitch trailer, there was so much that came together in one day: 5 crew, 8 actors, 12 extras, locations, vehicles, props.  We shot from 8am – 9pm: a 13-hour day! It was surreal to see a hint of these characters and scenes coming to life. It was also a wake-up call. I quickly realized the actual production will be 24 of these days in a row!

After the shoot, I hit the edit suite and cut the pitch trailer. Then I got some feedback, made a few changes and refined it again. So far, the response has been so positive. And I am very proud of what we were able to do with the resources we had.

Kevin O’Brien is a writer, director and makes films that move people to live better stories. He resides in central Florida. Stay in touch @endofthedayfilm

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