Trailer Research

Having a killer trailer or work sample may not guarantee your film’s success in the funding lottery or land you that coveted distribution deal, but it does ensure that your film will cause funders, distributors and other decision makers to stand up and take notice.“(International Documentary Association, 2016)

On the back of this advice from the IDA, I knew I had to create a trailer ensures that the people of interest would take notice in my project. To sell my film to the ‘funders, distributors and other decision makers’ . It should also be used to “show all the people who’ve been helping you out a glimpse of what they produced.” (Film Shortage, 2012) As I have been undertaking an IndieGoGo campaign, this process is even more necessary to give back to those who have been supporting me. On reflection, I should have perhaps started this process earlier so I could have provided my audience with a trailer earlier. They also state that trailers are “often not showing the creative depth of a good film“. So, I have to show the creative depth of my production within my trailer. I aim to show all the different aspects of my production within the short time I have.

When looking at the length of the trailer I should be making, I can look at the National Association of Theatre Owners’ (NATO) guidelines on the subject:

teaser trailer = 15-30 seconds, trailer = 1- 1:30, theatrical trailer = 1:30-2 minutes. (Natoonline, 2016)

As I am doing a piece on human interest, I should not give away too much but still give a sense as to what the film is about. So, around the minute mark should be an ideal marker. The MPAA (2013) states that a trailer must be no longer than 2 minutes & 30 seconds, so my trailer will be within this limit easily if I aim for that marker.

Whilst having this in the back of my head, I chose to have a look at some example documentaries that are from successful projects to aid me in creating a professional trailer. I analysed the way in which they are successful in presenting their subject and getting the interest of the audience.

  • Quick cuts between scenes that are interesting and display the participants and subject matter in a riveting fashion.
  • Music used to set the mood of how you should be feeling about the subject matter.
  • Titles used for key information.
  • Music to help with the pacing of the trailer
  • Relevant graphics used to feed information to the viewer
  • Short snippets/quotes to help establish the participants and the subject matter.

These are all aspects which I feel would carry over well into my documentary trailer and link well in presenting the subject matter and the participants. But how do I present these styles to the audience? When reading a paper on what makes an effective film trailer, they state that “another main purpose in film trailers is to leave the viewer with a feeling of anticipation and the urge to want to see the film.” (Anon, 2016) This allowed me to believe that I must tease my audience of the main footage but give them them enough so they are left curious and wanting to see more.  So if I use these styles to edit around my subject matter to create this effect on the audience then I should have a successful trailer.

One thing that is apparent is that you need a hook to get the viewers to help stick in the minds of the viewers. You need a ‘memorable one-liner that everyone will tell their friends the next day after seeing your movie.’ (, 2015) So, I will be looking through my clips and finding a few funny/deep moments which help in establishing the the subject matter and the individual whilst also being memorable and attract and audience that want to see more.

To summarise, I want my trailer to be a minute long, establish the participants and the subject matter in a meaningful and entertaining way, provide the audience with a reason to come back and see more by teasing them and use professional techniques that I have learned from other trailers to ensure that it is of a high standard that I can sell to potential gatekeepers.


Anon. (2016) What Makes An Effective Film Trailer?. Masters. Greenwich

Film Shortage, (2012) The Art Of The Trailer [online] available from <; [25 Apr 2016]

International Documentary Association. (2016) Doc U: Making Your Trailer Stand Out [online] available from <; [20 April 2016], (2015) available from <; [1 May 2016], (2016) [online] available from <; [2 Apr 2016], (2015) Finding Story Ideas – Film School Online [online] available from <; [2 Apr 2016]



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