My trailer viewing marathon consisted of mostly action movies with a few rom-coms. After a while, you begin to notice patterns in editing, pacing, and general purpose. It’ll be essential to reproduce this trailer feel in the re-cut project. That is what the really convincing re-cut trailers managed to do. Many of them had similar formats as real trailers, but with the key difference being audio editing. Audio seems to be the most important distinguishing mark of the trailers. Each genre of movie has a different musical trend in there trailers. Trailers like Noah utilized big orchestral sounds to emphasize the epic size of the film. A war movie like Lone Survivor had Rock n’ Roll, and many of the action cues happened as the music picked up. This is coordination between music drop and high emotion shot is probably the most important technique when forming a trailer. Trailers are made to be a high emotion, enticing, and energizing sequence to convince you to come see the movie. So you’ll find that most trailers have music that is softer in the beginning as the characters or narrator goes through some expository points. Once the skeleton of the plot is established, they throw in high value and gripping scenes to emphasize how strongly this movie will make you feel. Combine that with appropriate music, and you’ve got a recipe for potential investment. Romantic comedies like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days have lighter music that, relative to action movies, is just background ambiance that lifts the mood of the trailer. It’s used in a way that provides a little more stimulation when no one is talking or there is isn’t a high emotion shot. Trailers use music as that extra ounce that makes you want to go to a theater to see it.
Editing is the other secret to a good trailer. Often these trailers aren’t much longer than 3 minutes. They average 2:30. The length of shot really depends on the genre. Action movies will start slow and build to fast, if not extremely fast, cuts of 2 seconds or less per shot. A common theme I noticed in action trailers is the use a sort of semi-montage when the music fades out to near silence or it gets so loud it’s the only audio. During these moments, editors have put together short action shots and they fade in and out of each shot. Each shot usually an incomplete action, like falling from a cliff but not landing. Or it could be getting shot at in the middle of a firefight. Whatever it is, it gives the audience a sense that they’re missing out on a lot of action and need to go to the theater for a resolution. I know Thor: The Dark World had many moments like this throughout the trailer. Romantic comedies tend to be different in that they don’t have much fancy editorial work. I think that the genre of Rom-Com is such that the audience knows what to expect and there isn’t too much to do to play up the genre.
Re-cut trailers are effective when they follow these trends. Many of them, though, are effective because of voice-overs and new music. There are a few good re-cuts that do not utilize voice overs heavily, but generally that is a common trend among them. A narration is necessary because many films don’t have the scenes or the dialogue to convey a new meaning entirely. The pictures can tell a different story if framed in the right way, but they typically can’t frame themselves. So, outside narration is needed. Again, music plays a very important role. The re-cut of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off puts a dramatic spin on the movie. They turn it into a drama by slowing down the shots and providing moody and melancholy background music. Mrs.Doubtfire was re-cut into a horror film, and the effectiveness of the re-cut owes a lot to its horror music selection. All these re-cut trailers are successful because they so closely follow the conventions of typical genre trailers.
Trailers: Thor:The Dark World, Argo, Noah, Lone Survivor, The Bourne Supremacy, How to Lose A Guy in 10 days, Mrs.Doubtfire, Robocop
Recut Trailers: Up(family film converted to Gran Torino), Ferris Bueller’s Day Off(Comedy turned to Drama), American Psycho(Thriller recut as Romantic comedy)