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TOPIC: how they make the trailers

how they make the trailers 10 Mar 2006 17:40 #12329

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A Q&A with Crew AV


Whenever movie trailers are mentioned in casual conversation, inevitably, strong opinions swell about them one way or the other. There are those moviegoers who are trailer junkies—the audience members who wouldn’t dream of showing up to a film just as it begins because they consider the previews an intrinsic part of their movie-going experience. Then, of course, there are those viewers who consider the 15 minutes of previews their grace period: a pocket of time after the published movie time that they can count on skipping and still not miss a second of the feature itself. On whatever side of the trailer fence you stand, trailer houses are becoming more and more ubiquitous in the production landscape and trailers more and more important to the overall marketing campaign for a film. In this Q&A with Scott Edwards of up-and-coming trailer house Crew AV—a division of Crew Creative, 411 tried to found out what goes into making a trailer.
411: Can you explain to our readers what defines a theatrical trailer as a theatrical trailer?
Scott Edwards: A theatrical trailer is a motion picture promotion that runs before other movies in theatres. Usually trailers run 3 to 4 months in advance of the release of the movie being promoted.

411: How different are trailers for films than those for television?
Scott Edwards: The main difference between theatrical trailers promoting movies vs. those promoting television shows is higher production value. The budgets behind both the production and marketing aspects of most motion pictures are higher than the average TV show. Therefore those trailers will likely have talent, imagery, effects, graphics, music, and editing that reflects higher production costs. For example, it would be unreasonable to expect to be able to cut as exciting a trailer for 24 as you would for Spider Man 3. Although more and more we are seeing on-air promos adopt theatrical styles —slicker graphics, big VO talent, popular music, etc.

411: At what point in production does your company get involved in creating the trailer?
Scott Edwards: That varies from film to film. Sometimes the trailer house is involved from the start of production depending if the studio needs advance materials to sell the film. Other times the trailer house is brought in as a second, third, or fourth vendor to take a fresh approach to cutting the trailer.

411: In many cases trailers have to be completed before the actual film itself has been completed. Is it tricky to pick footage to place in the trailers that may or may not be in the film after the final edit?
Scott Edwards: Just like the film itself, the trailer goes through several incarnations and evolves as new footage comes available and old footage is removed. If a shot is so obvious in the trailer that it is missing from the movie, it would likely get pulled.

411: Using an example of a recent trailer that Crew Creative has created, how large of a part do visual effects created especially for the trailer that are not taken directly from the film footage play in the making of a theatrical trailer?
Scott Edwards: Depending on the genre and the studio, visual effects may have a large or limited part in the trailer. We are currently working on a horror trailer where the editors are tempted to use visual effects to emphasize various moments, however this studio prefers to stick with the footage and let it speak for itself. There is sometimes the perception that too many effects or over-developed effects are covering up a lower quality film. The trick is to find just the right balance of engaging story telling and supporting elements (effects, music, VO, etc.).

411: How closely involved are directors in the creation of the trailers?
Scott Edwards: This also varies based on the director, the project, and the studio. Well established directors have quite a bit of influence, especially if they have a solid track record at the studio. While newer directors may have a say, the marketing team at the studio would have final controlling decision. Just as you would not have the president of marketing tell the filmmaker how to direct a scene, the reverse can also apply to making trailers and TV spots. Studio marketing executives are specialist with plenty of experience to back up their creative choices.

411: Do you use market research to test the trailers before they are viewed by audiences?
Scott Edwards: Testing is very common in motion picture advertising. Studios may provide the results to a vendor or just use it to give the vendor creative notes on a trailer. Many studios are going to online testing as a way to get a bigger, more-diversified sample of viewers’ reactions.

411: There seem to be just a handful of voice-over specialists who are used for trailers, names such as Don LaFontaine and Andy Geller come to mind. What are your thoughts on why there are so few people used for trailer voice-overs?
Scott Edwards: “Seem to be” is the key phrase here. That is just perception. The reality is there are a lot more. Jason Marks Talent Agency, Paul Wintner, ICM, SBV, etc. all rep many voices, each with a unique signature and style. And picking the right voice for a project can be just as challenging as picking the right music. Editors and producers are always looking for the voice that feels “just right” for a project.

411: If music from the films themselves isn't used in trailers, where does the trailer music come from? Are there composers who work specifically for trailer houses?
Scott Edwards: Music can come from the film, from other soundtracks, popular music, music libraries, or may be an original piece composed for the trailer. One of the Lord of the Rings trailers uses a cue from Requiem for a Dream. Two very different movies, but that cue worked great in the trailer. Many times a cut is presented with several music options as studio execs may have a preference over what the trailer team likes. The question to ask is, does this cue work? Does it pull me further into the trailer and move me? If so, that’s the cue.

Crew Creative was established 7 years ago. Originally a print shop, they have finished numerous one-sheets and print campaigns on many projects for studios. Last year at the Key Arts they won Best in Show–Print, for their Ray poster. They also did the Jarhead one-sheet, the 40-Year Old Virgin one-sheet, Monster-in-Law, etc.

Crew AV is their newest division. To date, Crew AV has finished several spots for the ABC Super Bowl XL campaign, Chicken Little projects for Disney Europe, and is currently finishing a trailer for HBO and PictureHouse.


Michael Hurley
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Michael Hurley
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