Creating a trailer is a collaborative effort between you and whoever’s hiring you. It’s like both of you are trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. Except some of the puzzle pieces are invisible. The puzzle pieces? The marketing copy, footage, calls to action, sound bites, timing, and music. Everything, in the word’s of Thom Yorke, must go “in its right place.”
You, the one editing the trailer, have a vision. And them, the person who hired you, have a vision, too. You see things a certain way. They see things a certain way. Collaboration is a balance of vision between the two of you. Sometimes it’s a 50/50 balance. Sometimes it’s 60/40, with you being the 60 and them being the 40. What do I mean by that? Sometimes people will hire you and they want you to put everything together. This can be a curse or it can be a blessing. This either means total creative freedom, or “I don’t know what I want, and what you make might not be what I want.” Hope for the former. If the latter happens, that’s your chance to ask them exactly what it is they’re looking for. Maybe you missed some details that they wanted to express. Maybe they don’t even know which details to include. Expect the both of you to fumble around in the dark while you figure things out.
A trailer is something totally original, totally fresh. Like a child coming into her own personality, a trailer shapes its own life without much direction from its creators. A trailer might not turn out the way you wanted it to. There’s a few reasons for this.
One, you might not be working with someone who wants the trailer to turn out the way you want it to. This is a mismatch between collaborators. You can either keep working on the project or call it off. I’ve had a few mismatched moments like this. This is why I accept payments after the trailer is made. It sort of terrifies me to take money up front without having any clue how the project’s going to turn out.
Secondly, the footage itself doesn’t translate well over video. When I talk about trailers, I’m talking about footage from zoom workshops and courses, prerecorded videos and screen shares. These come with a host of problems. Sometimes the recording is setup so that the speaker is shoved into the top right corner of the screen. This is bad. This means you need to zoom waaaayyy in just to see the speaker. The image becomes pixilated and very ugly.
Thirdly, maybe the speaker just isn’t a good speaker. Speaking, like everything that seems easy, is hard. Very hard. “But I speak everyday. How hard could it be?” Yeah? You try speaking to an audience of 150 people over zoom, if you’re so good at speaking. Anyways, this point depends on the personality of whoever you’re working with. Maybe they don’t need to be bombastic on camera because that isn’t the point. Maybe they’re reserved. That’s okay. Work with what you’ve got. Guide the trailer around the personality of the speaker, no matter how they present themselves on camera.
Lastly, it could be that you’re just not interested in the work of whoever hired you. When you first start out making trailers, say yes to everything. Once you get better and people start to recognize your work, you can say no. I’m working on this right now. I say yes to most projects. I think it’s good to say yes at first and at least try, if you can, to make yourself interested in the project. If that fails, pull a Casey Neistat and make something totally off the rails. Sure, this is risky and your client might hate it, but your soul is at stake here.
Let’s wrap this up. You need to accept the possibility that a trailer just isn’t possible for the reasons I described above. A trailer is a strange thing. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It feels awful when it doesn’t. When it does, it feels good. Great. Amazing, even. It’s an awesome experience to make work you’re proud of for a project you believe in.
If you want to learn how I make my trailers, I’ve put together a self-paced course called Trailer Wizardry 101. In the course I walk you through the creative process behind 4 of my trailers. The course costs $99. You can learn more about it by clicking here.