A trailer is a short clip that teases audiences about an upcoming film. It’s a combination of scenes from the movie artfully cut together to create an enticing collage of what the film is about and what its characters are up to. The trailer is often the first thing that potential audience members see, and it’s a good way to sell them on a film. A successful trailer is a lot of work, though. It needs to hit on all sorts of elements — including character, tone, setting, genre, and originality.

Trailers have long been shown before feature films at theaters, and they can also be distributed as stand-alone advertisements to get viewers in the door or on a streaming service. Many movie studios have their own teams to cut trailers, but independent filmmakers can do the same using a variety of video editing software, such as Apple’s utilitarian iMovie or more advanced packages like Adobe Premiere or Avid Media Composer. Whatever video editing software you choose, the fundamental principles of making a trailer will remain the same.

For example, a movie trailer should ideally introduce audiences to the main character or characters and set up the film’s central conflict. Then, it should end on a major cliffhanger that leaves viewers wanting to know how the protagonist or characters will resolve this conflict and what the ending will be. This is called a “twist” ending, and it can make for an effective trailer if handled correctly.

A good trailer should also highlight any big-name actors, directors, producers, or writers who might draw in a crowd. A cast run typically appears at the beginning of a trailer as a way to entice viewers to tune in. The list also helps set expectations about the film’s overall quality, which is especially important for independent films.

The best trailers also avoid giving too much away about the film’s plot. This can be difficult, since most trailers are created well before the actual movie has been shot. But even with a cast run, a trailer can still give too much away if it’s overlong and boring, or if it simply shows too much of the same kind of footage throughout.

Finally, a good trailer should feature music that doesn’t appear on the soundtrack of the actual film. This is often a necessity, as most trailers are made long before the composer has finished scoring the movie and may not be ready to be used. But a few pieces of dramatic music can help give the trailer its own unique feel and keep viewers interested in watching it.