The trailer is a key piece of the marketing puzzle for your film. It needs to engage and excite audiences as stand-alone, short snippets of cinematic excitement, and it also has to convince them that the full movie will be worth seeing. It’s a tall order, but well-executed trailers can generate buzz, and even help lead to successful financing for the project. The same storytelling techniques that engage audiences in films and television shows need to be honed for the trailer, and this requires a lot of planning.

Developing an effective storyboard is one of the first things you need to do, but it’s not the end of the process. You’ll need to constantly adjust and fine-tune your plans as you work, as footage sometimes fails to play in the way that you planned, or you might realize that a certain part of your script doesn’t make sense within the context of the trailer. Using script breakdown software helps you understand how much footage you need, and allows you to label key moments so that when you’re ready to cut together the trailer, everything goes as you intended.

A trailer typically opens with a powerful scene or image meant to anchor itself in the viewer’s memory and influence their decision to see the movie. Often, the opening of a trailer will feature a critic quote, a celebrity name, or an iconic image from the film itself. These elements are used to capitalize on the bandwagon effect – our tendency to be influenced by what other people are doing or saying (Leibenstein, 1950).

As you build your story and begin shooting, keep an eye on your budget and plan accordingly. Trailers can be expensive to produce, and using the best equipment you can afford will give your trailer a higher-quality look and sound. If you’re shooting on a tight budget, try using script breakdown software to mark out key moments that require special shots, and then use this information when creating an abridged shoot schedule.

Once you’ve introduced the central characters and their conflict, a good trailer will tease at the rise of the action (without spoiling the plot). Many modern trailers opt to do this by showing quick clips of key scenes in rough (though usually not exact) order.

Once the action reaches its peak, a great trailer will often conclude with a witty line or provocative image that makes the idea of seeing the movie seem irresistible. This is especially important if your trailer is being shown on a streaming platform, where the viewer may be distracted by other videos or ads. The trailer should leave them with a call-to-action that they can follow – to buy the movie, share the link, sign up for the mailing list, etc.