Whenever we go to the cinema, we are used to watching trailers before the film. It’s something we don’t even think about. That is peculiar, considering trailers are of vital importance in a film’s advertising campaign. While most trailers don’t look like it took a long time to create them, the trailer business is more booming than ever. Sometimes it takes a year to finish a trailer and a trailer that is well-made can even make a mediocre film look fantastic. But what makes these trailers so important? And what are the differences between movie trailers back in the day and now? Let’s take a look.
The trailer business
While I was roaming around YouTube, I came across an interesting video which explained exactly how trailers are made and why this is such a big deal. It’s not just a matter of throwing together the best clips of your film and calling it a day. Especially the first trailer is so very important to determine the success of a film. Nowadays, big films don’t just have one trailer to sell the film. Multiple teasers are released in theaters, on television and of course on YouTube. First impressions count, so if a trailer isn’t good enough, it might show at the box office. Here’s the video in case you are interested. It is a great watch that will make you understand this business much better.
The evolution of trailers
Back in the day, trailers weren’t as sophisticated as they are now. The first trailer was released in 1913 for the musical Pleasure Seekers. It was clear to audiences that it was merely a tool to sell something to them. In the 1950s, there was one company who produced all trailers, although directors such as Hitchcock liked to play around in the editing room themselves. In the two decades that followed, trailers became more stylish, although many gave away so much of the plot that it was basically the film in a shorter version. An example of this is the 1975 trailer for Jaws. The voice-over basically tells you the entire story, as do the large chunks of dialogue. It didn’t make Jaws any less of a success, but a trailer like this wouldn’t work nowadays.
In the 1980s, trailers became more teasing than in earlier years. This continued throughout the 1990s, with trailers still being narrated, although there were slightly less spoilers in the narration.
In the 2000s, there appeared to be a change of heart. Narration was thrown out the window and that trend has been going on ever since. It’s a good thing, since narration is not necessary when the right clips of the actual film can explain the plot as well. My earliest recollection of a trailer like this is obviously the one for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. There is no narration but it is still very clear what it is about. The colours of the trailer also reflect the happier tone of the first film in the series.
Compare this to the trailer of the last Potter film. The trailer for Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out ten years after the first one. The tone is a lot darker, as is the style of the film. Another important detail is that there is less explanation of the plot. This trailer is more about conveying the feel and the emotion, than to explain the actual storyline. You are still well-aware of what the film is about, but it is not as obvious as in earlier trailers.
The last Potter trailer doesn’t show too much, but we know the stakes are high. We know this is a life and death situation. The action sequences get us hyped for the film because we want to know how it ends. That is exactly what a good trailer does.
Music Makes the Trailer
A film without music doesn’t work, but a trailer without music is nothing. The Potter films use the famous Hedwig’s Theme composed by John Williams. The theme gets darker with every film, but that only contributes to the message. In a smart move, the theme is also used in the Fantastic Beasts trailers, although in a different form. This causes people to recognise it and it brings back familiar feelings of the original franchise. That is what trailers these days do. They play on our emotions and attempt to stick in our memories.
While the use of the original soundtrack doesn’t happen too often, as a film is rarely finished by the time trailers come out. Often they use music from other films. In recent years, the use of pop songs has become more of a common practice. An example of this is the trailer for Thor Ragnarok which cleverly uses the song Immigrant from Led Zeppelin. The song is older than the film and still it works like a charm to convey the feeling of the film.
The Worst and Best trailers
The power of trailers should never be underestimated. While a good trailer can make any film appear good, a bad trailer can do a lot of harm to a film. WatchMojo created two videos showing the worst trailers for good films and the best trailers. The videos are quite old so there are new great trailers, but it shows what a good trailer can do.
What is your favourite trailer? Let us know!