A trailer is a wheeled vehicle, usually without a motor, designed to be pulled behind another, often larger, vehicle. It’s used to transport people, animals, goods, equipment or other materials. It’s also a term that can refer to the wheeled vehicle itself, or the process of preparing and loading it for transport. The word has been used in the media to describe film previews, television show previews, video game demos and even book trailers.
Trailers are often short, sometimes just a few seconds long and often released early in the cycle of a movie’s marketing campaign. They may be standalone clips or have a narrative arc that leads up to the full-length feature film. The most successful trailers build up to a tense or emotional moment. This is where the title should pop up, making it clear that the payoff for this climax can only be found in the full movie.
More often, trailers are a visual montage of powerful and memorable scenes from the movie. The music and sounds can be used to convey the mood of the movie, with distant battle noises indicating a war drama or ambient futuristic sounds suggesting a science fiction film. Trailers can also be used to promote a particular aspect of the film, such as a show-stopping special effect or an unforgettable character moment.
Whether or not a movie trailer uses voiceover is also an important consideration. Traditionally, these were more prominent in blockbuster movies that needed to get audiences excited about the film and its stars. However, it’s becoming more common for smaller films to ditch the voiceover and rely on images alone to tell their story.
The most successful trailers introduce the main characters and their journey in a few key moments. They should also be able to tease the audience with scenes that are both visually stunning and emotionally compelling without spoiling major plot points. Using a voiceover can add to this, but only if it is done well.
While there’s no set template for how a movie trailer should look, most follow the same basic three-act structure as a feature-length film. Act 1 lays out the premise of the story, act 2 drives the story forward and act 3 concludes with a dramatic climax.
It’s also common for trailers to end with a cast run, which is a list of the main actors in the movie and their names. This is the same information that appears on posters and print promotional material for the movie. Lastly, most trailers feature the studio production logos at the beginning and end of the clip.
A good way to practice writing for a trailer is to write an outline or a storyboard for the trailer script. Once you have a rough script, it’s easy to edit and revise it until the narrative ties together and the tone is right. It’s also helpful to look at trailers from other films in your genre for inspiration.