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 watched about 157 trailers and out of them our favorites were for “Social Network”“Waltz with Bashir”, “Persepolis”.

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?

– Nope.

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

About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
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22 Responses to Trailer!

  1. Marcel Garbi says:

    …lovely, Signe 🙂

  2. Kirk Adam says:

    I’m hooked! I can wait to see the completed feature.
    Kirk Adam
    Fouling Director

  3. Jud says:

    Nope! 🙂
    If you are going with the cards- those are two very in your face punchy statements: they should have two very in your face (and very brief) clips. Bamm, bamm, bamm, bamm, bamm. End. Ten seconds maybe. Total. BAMM!



  4. I never thought about how much work and ideas needs to go into the trailer, it’s scary! But, if I saw this trailer I would definitely want to watch the film, it makes it look very intriguing and also the visual world of it is so beautiful . . . hope it will come to London?

  5. Alaa Imam says:

    still slow. need to be shorter cuts.

  6. Matthew Koh says:

    Is it okay to make a film if the animation is fully naive?

    Also, what is this I just saw?

    • Matthew, this is a free country, so YES it is OK to make a film even if animation is fully naive. If one day there is dictator who would declare that we can only make films if characters look sophisticated and everything moves on 1’s or 2’s then I would receive a death penalty.
      What you just saw was a clip from “Kurpites” (“Tiny Shoes”) a film I made in Latvia in 1993.

  7. cherrycow says:

    Hi Signe
    I just saw your trailer on Cartoonbrew. visually it looks very interesting,( and I cant wait to see it finish) since ive been following your blog I do know what this film is about , but for “new ” eyes to the film it needs alittle more to grab them.
    your blogs are very inspiring to me best wishes!

  8. Hi Signe,
    I first saw a retrospective of your films in an animation festival in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, years ago, and I really like your style. I’ve been following your blog posts from linkedin and it’s great to see a different take on animation film-making, something so personal and so honest. Also great to finally see the trailer for the film! I agree with some comments above about increasing the pace of the trailer towards the end, with quick shots of different scenes so that it has more impact when we reach the title card, but from what I read you guys are already working on that. Looking forward to seeing the film!

  9. Esn says:

    I just watched this. The animation reminds me of some of my favourite films by Rose Stiebra. It’s beautiful.

    • Wow! how come you know work of Rose Stiebra?
      She actually never animated (nor designed) her films herself, she collaborated with really cool Latvian artists.

    • Esn says:

      Well, the first time I saw a very short film of hers was a few years ago on Youtube. It was “Skumjā Govs” (“The Sad Cow”) from 1996 – somebody had uploaded it. It’s still there now. It absolutely enchanted me – it felt like somebody had reached through all the outside veneer and spoke directly to my soul. I wanted to find more but there’s wasn’t much to find online. Then the fine people at FenixClub had a “Latvian animation collection” project a while back, and I was able to see a lot of her other films (the links are gone now; they only keep windows open for a short time). Thank goodness for places like FenixClub and RuTracker where I can get content that I’d otherwise never be able to see here in Canada. 🙂 What wonderful libraries they are!

      My favourite film of Stiebra’s so far is that one that starts “on a grey-haired little pony rode along a fairy story…” – well, I’m working on translating that beautiful song into English (using the existing Russian translations and some other people’s non-rhyming translations from Latvian).

      I also just found out that she directed an animated feature in the 1990s that I’d somehow never heard of before!

      • Marcel Garbi says:

        The sad cow

      • Oh yes, that feature! She co-directed I think a couple of feature films with her husband Ansis Berzins. Some 5 years ago I asked her why she doesnt submit her films to festivals anymore, and she said she is happy to have them online. I was under an impression that there is a Latvian site that shows her and Ansis films.
        I have never seen “Sad Cow” before.
        For some strange reason I related more to Ansis Berzins directing style (“Turtles”) better than to Rose’s.

      • THANK YOU for “Sad Cow”! I dont think I have ever seen that film before!

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