How To Refine Your Trailer For Maximum Buzz (So You Can Sell Your Film)

I want to help you refine your trailer for maximum buzz. This is because your trailer is uber important to the success of your film. And if you’re like most indie filmmakers, you probably cut your trailer as an afterthought.

“Oh crap, we need a trailer.”

This is a big reason your trailer sucks. The other reason your trailer sucks is because you’re a filmmaker and not a film trailer cutter. These are two distinct skillsets. Filmmakers tell stories. Film trailer cutters sell movies. See what I mean?

You’re Responsible For Your Filmmaking Success

Before we get to the mechanics of how to refine your trailer, let’s focus on WHY this is important.

Digital technology now provides accessible ways to make movies from anywhere in the world. Add the gazillion accessible VOD platforms to the equation, and you no longer have to rely on Hollywood to reach popular marketplaces.

This is good news if you want to bring your vision to life. But the not-so-good news is, you’re not the only filmmaker who knows this. In fact, the market is now saturated with backyard indies and moviemakers trying to sell their film to Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Max, or any of the other popular platforms. To rise above the noise, you need to think like an entrepreneur. An entrepreneur not only creates a product, but she figures out how to sell her product.

Your film is your product. And your goal is to hustle so you can sell as many units of your product as possible.

Refine Your Trailer

How To Refine Your Trailer For Maximum Buzz

One way to move units is to create a remarkable trailer. (Remarkable describes the type of stuff people talk about.)

Take an honest look at your trailer. Do you like it?

Guess what? Of course you like it. You’re super biased. And like I said earlier, if you cut the film – You’re not in the right mindset to cut your own trailer. So here are some steps to refine your trailer:

Step 1: Find at least 5 popular films that are similar to your own. These are films that have a similar story, appeal to a similar audience… And importantly, these should be films that did really well in the box office.

So for this exercise, I am going to focus on popular action films.

Step 2: Scour YouTube to find the trailers for these films. Then watch the trailers.

Here are three trailers for some big budget, popular action films. I’m not saying you should make an action film. But I am saying your trailer should reflect the energy, quality and production value of these trailers.

Action Film Example 1: Avatar

Avatar was a huge hit. So I’m including the trailer here to provide context.

Action Film Example 2: Wonder Woman

By luck, I sat next to a Warner Bros executive on a flight right after the opening weekend of Wonder Woman. He was super stoked about how well the film was performing.

Action Film Example 3: Skyfall

Who doesn’t like James Bond? This was such a cool film.

Step 3: Once you find a trailer you like, take a quick minute to break it down scene by scene.

  • How long is the trailer?
  • How many scenes is in the trailer?
  • What is the run time of each scene?
  • What is happening in each scene?
  • What are the music cues?

To accelerate this study, some filmmakers rip popular trailers and add the footage to their edit timeline. Then these filmmakers use the trailer as a template. They scour their own films for similar footage, and then they mimic the pace of the trailer.

Step 4: Cut and refine your trailer to ensure that it is consistent with your marketing message. In doing so, you will need to find the right balance between showing enough to get the audience hooked enough to sell your movie without giving away so much that you spoil the story. (And also, don’t forget to add a title card with a link to your movie website.)

Step 5: Once you have a trailer you like, cut four versions and put them on YouTube. You want to monitor for engagement. Which trailer is getting the most views? The most comments? The most shares? This is your winner.

Once you have your winner, take that and further push it in popular social media channels. And if you’re uber nerdy, this might be a good time to learn how to leverage the buzz to distribute your film.

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ARTICLE BY Jason Brubaker

If you'd like more tactics like the article you just read, make sure to grab a copy of the filmmaker checklist. You'll get 65 useful steps you can employ to produce your next feature film.