BSA306: What Makes a Trailer ‘Good’? The Beginnings of a Project

What does make a trailer ‘good’? And what exactly does that mean? Is there a formula to editing a trailer that makes it particularly engaging? Would one formula work for every genre of film? And how does dialogue fit in? These are the questions that plague me as I embark on creating my hypothetical trailer.

“In trailers, images are selected and combined in ways that privilege attracting the spectator’s attention over sustaining narrative coherence. ”

(Kernan, 2004, p. 7)

This is a practical and opinion based study, aiming to discover what conventions would make the trailer for Bent more engaging for audiences. It is my opinion that a trailer is more engaging when there is a strong soundtrack driving the trailer that evokes appropriate emotions. I also believe that disclosing only a little detail of the plot encourages the viewer to see the full feature far more than if the audience feels they already know the story after viewing the trailer.

This post will be the beginning of my research on how I can make my own trailer good. I will aim to discover how I can use the styles and conventions of existing, successful trailers to create my own unique, yet still successful, trailer that will fit in with current trailers.


Part 1: Is there too much information in trailers?

Audiences and critics are constantly arguing whether or not trailer give away too much of the story.  Dan Asma from Buddha Jones, a trailer production company, found during test screenings that audiences prefer to be shown more of the story. However, he prefers to be more mysterious with his trailers.

Mark Woollen, who cut trailers for The Social Network, Boyhood and The Revenant tested an unreleased trailer on audiences and found that the older audience preferred for more of the story to be revealed, whereas the younger audience preferred less.  Perhaps my own attraction to having less information given to me in a trailer is because I am part of the younger audience. It has been suggested that the younger audience don’t like much of the story to be given away in the trailer because they feel they have wasted their money at the cinema if they discover they’ve already been shown most of the story in the trailer. Since movies are more available to the audience nowadays and it’s easier and cheaper to access them online, when the younger audience pays to go to a film at the cinema they expect to get a good deal and see something new. [2]

Though there are many people, myself included, that prefer to see less of the story in a trailer and wait to see the actual movie to know what happens, one cannot deny that trailers that give away more information are the more successful, as Matt Brubaker suggests;

As much as people complain that trailers give away too much, nine times out of 10, the more plot you give away, the more interest you garner from the audiences. Audiences respond to trailers with more of the movies.”

(McGovern, 2015, para. 5)

This seems like a strange thing to say, but I actually have a favourite trailer. it is one that I have talked about a lot this year in my studies as it has been a huge influence on my major project. This trailer is for the first season of Broadchurch (2013-). There is very little dialogue in this trailer so very little information is given away. The trailer relies heavily on creating an emotional connection with the audience through the visuals and the strong soundtrack. I enjoy this trailer because it creates a strong interest in the story that unfolds in the series in a simple, but effective way.



  2. McGovern, J. (2015, July 27). Why do trailers spoil their movies? Because you want them to [Web log post]. Retrieved from

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