A trailer for a film is supposed to tease a potential viewer with delicious little bits without giving away the whole film. A very common industry’s mantra is “a trailer’s task is to sell the film”.
But how does a trailer work? What bits would sell to what audiences? What shots are more delicious than others? How do we decide on those things?
As we slowly started to near the end of “Rocks In My Pockets” production, we realized we needed to raise more money for the post production. It had turned out the money we had would cover only production process (some expenses and costs you don’t predict because you don’t want to predict them), but postproduction is very $$$ demanding, too.
- Trailers sell films, so lets make a trailer, it’ll sell “Rocks”, – I said naively On May 23rd, 2012.
- But we don’t have time, – Wendy pointed out. – We already work like 9 hours a day.
Of course, there can be a plan for everything in life.
- We’ll make one day longer than the others. If we meet for 2 hours after work on Mondays, we’ll have a trailer by September, – I said.
Wendy didn’t know what she agreed to, but she did agree.
I have to note, neither of us really had any idea about editing trailers. No knowledge, no experience can be very assuring, right? Wendy was in the seat of Editor, I was right behind – the place where neurotic directors usually fret.
On the first few Monday meetings we watched a lot of trailers and made a list of our likes and dislikes, making notes on what works (good structure, good music, interesting characters, catchy lines) and what doesn’t (longer than 2 min, boring subject, no sense of main characters, confusion what film is about).
We also consulted Ron Utin Lalkin, our only access to the professional trailer editor world. He gave us a detailed advise, one of which we started to follow on our 3rd Monday meeting:
- Watch the film 2 times and pull out the most visually interesting scenes. Then watch the film 2 more times and pull out the best audio lines.
After a few views we had a pile of interesting visuals.
We put together the winning 8 scenes but it didn’t do anything – they didn’t glue into a trailer.
We went back to “Social Network”, “Watch With Bashir”, “Persepolis” trailer. Why they are so interesting to watch?
There is a conflict in each of them, high stakes.
What’s the conflict of “Rocks”? What are the stakes?
Ah, there is an invisible killer and it wants to kill me. Depression. Will I be able to survive it?
There are many funny moments from the film to illustrate this, but:
- Do we want it funny? Who is this trailer for? – Wendy asked.
- The trailer is for people interested in the subject of depression, for people suffering from depression, – I said.
- Do we want to laugh about it into their faces?
From all the various things and subjects in the film we decided to accent only 3 things in the trailer: 1) that this is a personal story 2) it is about depression 3) it involves 4 women from different generations, different historic backgrounds.
Narrowing that down helped us to navigate the wealth of visuals, but it also forced us to leave some of the best visuals out. We recorded a new voiceover track – just for the trailer, to explain that this was a personal story and it was my story. We also found 2 really fitting Ljova Zhurbin music pieces from his “Lost in Kino” album.
When the first draft was finished we showed it to Jessica Polaniecki.
- It feels like a long short film, – she said. – I also think it tells me everything I have to know about the film.
We cut out the voiceover and re-edited some of the footage and showed it to Mike, Rashidah and Sturgis.
We made new cuts based on their notes and were satisfied. We brought the trailer to Rob Daly for sound design. On Friday September 28th the trailer was ready!
Except, it was not. On Monday we had a studio visit from Laure Parsons and after watching the trailer she paused then carefully measuring her words said:
- I don’t know what this is about. Where’s the context? Who made it and why? Without the context people would not even finish watching the trailer, and it wont sell the film.
When Laure left, the 4 of us (Wendy, Rashidah, Mike and me) brainstormed for 4 hours and came up with the opening title card. It might not be the best way to put it (“an award winning filmmaker tells her personal story of depression”, wait, what?) but it does tell that you can trust me to tell a story (I have won awards for my shorts) and that the film is about women and it is about depression.
We could have made a better trailer, and we will. But today this trailer wants to be born and to be born is to be published. So, here it is:
Edited by Wendy Zhao.
Thank you Jessica, Sturgis, Ron, Mike, Rashidah, Ljova, Laure and Rob!
The next trailer – for the finished film – will be released in mid January 2013.
PS please note, meeting once a week for 2 hours for 18 weeks makes it close to 40 hours invested in making this trailer. “Sleeping on it” was not counted, though.
PS PS there is a yellow “donate” button on “Rocks In My Pockets” official site