In A World Of Movie Trailers

May 16, 2016

Back in February, “CBS Sunday Morning” did a segment called “The Art of Movie Trailers.” It caught my attention, mostly because “art” and “movie trailers” usually aren’t associated with one another — at least, not in my mind. The eight-minute segment headed in a direction I wasn’t expecting. After acknowledging how two famous directors used the movie trailer in unique ways back in the earlier days of film, it openly admits that today’s trailers are “all sales pitches disguised as entertainment, even art.” Ouch.

The segment included an interview with a person who works for an entertainment marketing company that creates trailers. He explains how his job “is to dazzle, to collaborate with both the studios and the filmmakers to showcase the best a film has to offer — and that often means inching within an eyelash of spoiler.” Mark Woolen, another movie trailer creator, showcased his work he did on The Revenant trailer. Woolen explained how he used sounds, such as DiCaprio’s breath, shovels digging, and drums, to capture the viewer in the teaser trailer.

Unfortunately, the full trailer uses a lot footage and dialogue from the entire film, spoiling key scenes, which is what I assume the first guy would find necessary to get folks to see it. The segment concludes boldly with, “an argument can be made that trailers are as much a part of the pageantry of film as the Oscars themselves.” My response to this is, can it be changed?

The movie trailer plays a part in film history, and it has changed along with the times. The history does provides insight to why trailers are in their current form. I have a love/hate relationship with movie trailers. I spend more than most watching these, since I believe this form of movie marketing has great possibilities and has historically proven that to be true. Watching Mark Woolen explain his idea behind The Revenant teaser trailer gives me a some hope.

Sadly, I find trailers mostly disappointing, due to what appears to be recycled tactics that don’t represent the movie they’re promoting. Trailers have become something to mock, whether it’s on YouTube or within a film itself. While I do enjoy that people within the industry recognize the laughable nature of what some movie trailer-making has become, I vote for trailers to be done artfully. What if the full-length trailers were more like the teaser trailers? Do we really need the full-length? I highly doubt most want to see footage of the beginning, middle and end to a film in order to see it. The audience shouldn’t be underestimated. The moviegoer will live on!

In fact, there is an annual trailer award show called the Golden Trailer Awards. Maybe, just maybe, there is a movie trailer community out there that finds artful trailers and takes their work seriously. While I ponder this, here are examples of Stanley Kubrick films that have worthy trailers: