What makes a film trailer good?

I’ve been asking myself this question for weeks, mostly because Lisa and I are in the middle of cutting the trailer for our own movie, SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS. It’s really hard! We have an amazing editor named Cindy Yoon to lead this effort, and she created something awesome … to be premiered once we have a festival screening. But in the meantime, it has prompted a lot of thinking about how trailers are structured. What is needed? Plot? Beauty shots? Constructing a feeling … that’s not actually in the film? What is ultimately going to pull people in? How do these little machines work? I gave a closer look to trailers for two movies I’ve seen recently, and one I haven’t seen (but want to).

Here’s a classic case of, “Let’s just go ahead and summarize the entire plot.” It’s a complicated, in that a lot of set up is needed to sort of get to the premise of this guy — gorgeous pastoral British drama that’s actually science fiction cautionary tale slash love triangle. When we were cutting our trailer and my husband Michael saw the “all plot” version of ours, he rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t micro-movie it! Who really wants the cliff notes?” But on this one — NEVER LET ME GO — you sort of need the information. Does it ruin the movie? Well, I gotta tell ya … this is sort of, er, it. Sorry, Fox Searchlight!

This totally harmless John Hughes homage from Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden presents a great trailer — and a case of, um, maybe it’s better than the movie itself. If I felt as light and fluffy in the film as I did while experiencing this cascade of happy-running-and-adventure-and-mayhem-and-beautiful-culminating-kiss, with its freaking awesome sound track (trailer-only, I don’t recall Ida Maria’s “Oh My God” in the movie), well, then, I would have loved the movie. I liked it.

And finally … here’s a film where I ask myself, is this actually the film’s  genre? In other words, did Darren Aronofsky really make a horror film a la SINGLE WHITE FEMALE? That’s certainly what the trailer is telling me …. Is it so? I suppose I have to see it. In this case, then, the trailer … worked!