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Trailer vs. Short Film


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#1 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 06:43 PM

I am curious as to what all of you think about this. If your intention is to shop around a feature idea to investors, should one create a short film or a trailer? I am toying with the idea of creating a trailer instead of a short film for once but value any input anyone has to offer.

From what I can tell, here are the pros and cons of a trailer:

PROS: Shorter run time (<2:30) than most short films means more $$$ to spend per shot; More exciting generally than a short film; shows potential investors that you can market your film well (assuming you have a nice trailer)

CONS: Doesn't tell a complete story like a short does; not able to do the traditional festival route

Once again, I value any input.
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#2 Sanjit Majumdar

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Posted 09 September 2009 - 07:31 PM

Not sure, but the Coens made a trailer for Blood Simple before shooting it and that helped them get financing from smaller business owners. James Wan filmed an entire scene to get Saw off the ground. If there is any elaborate jaw dropping scene in the script, try shooting that.
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#3 Brad Webb

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Posted 10 September 2009 - 01:35 AM

How's this for a non answer, I think you should choose whatever will best help to sell the film. I agree with Sanjit and think shooting a scene is a good option in addition to trailer and short.

I think what works the best is shooting a scene or short sequence. This was done for Sin City, and Sky Captain. It gives the investors a solid idea about what the film will look like and the quality of work you are going to deliver. I also think this is the best bang for your buck, plus it's really well done you already have one scene shot and ready to go.

The trailer, while more $$$ per shot, would also be more $$$ per second, and probably cost more over all since you will have multiple locations, and each shot needs to amazing. Trailer might be a good route if you have a mystery or complex premise that you are trying to get across. I would totally write out every detail of the trailer and make sure it leaves off a big cliffhanger.

I feel like a short film is how you get yourself noticed to make another film, especially if you're a director. If you make a short version of your feature, you run the risk of getting, "why would you need to make a feature since you can tell the story in a short".
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#4 Justin Noto

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Posted 31 December 2009 - 05:17 PM

I agree with Sanjit and Brad. My belief, for a potential investor or any prospective cast or crew, is that it's most important for them to gain confidence that you are able to tell a story and create some sort of successful arc that reflects the overall idea or theme you are going for.

Use a scene that embodies or alludes to what you want to say with your story which would be the most effective route in my mind. A self contained scene gives you more of an opportunity to build on a character, an important conflict or illustrate a style which will play into the bigger picture and hopefully spark more of an emotional connection to the piece. In short, I think a directors abilities and the storytelling potential are better conveyed in a stand alone scene than a trailer when looking for funding.

No matter your choice, as long as you're behind it 100% with respect to the story you've done the right thing for yourself. Good luck!
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 07:42 AM

The problem with shooting a trailer is that you'll do an enormous amount of travelling around to get the selection of material you'd need to make it look like a "real one". I've seen "trailers" done as presales tools before and they were frankly pretty tedious because they didn't do more than a handful of locations.

Of course, doing a company move then shooting ten seconds' worth of stuff is a horrendously inefficient way to make anything, and unless you're very smart about how you do it, and try to get as much as you can out of each spot, you're going to end up spending a lot of money for not much result.

P
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#6 Justin Hayward

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Posted 01 January 2010 - 02:06 PM

The problem with shooting a trailer is that you'll do an enormous amount of travelling around to get the selection of material you'd need to make it look like a "real one". I've seen "trailers" done as presales tools before and they were frankly pretty tedious because they didn't do more than a handful of locations.

Of course, doing a company move then shooting ten seconds' worth of stuff is a horrendously inefficient way to make anything, and unless you're very smart about how you do it, and try to get as much as you can out of each spot, you're going to end up spending a lot of money for not much result.

P


That’s because an actual trailer cut from an actual feature film is a handful of the best shots taken from thousands. So, trailers made from nothing tend to look that way.

Now if you’re trailer is one visually descriptive shot summing up the very best your movie will have to offer… that would be pretty cool.
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#7 Chris Millar

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Posted 02 January 2010 - 04:04 AM

No experience here, but I was thinking like script+treatment = scriptment make a shrailer or trort - whatever you feel works best for selling your story ...

Whats ya story ? ;)
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#8 Phil Connolly

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Posted 10 February 2010 - 09:38 AM

A couple of years ago I directed a spec trailer for a feature film and it was really tough trying to get enough material to reall sell the film. For a 90 second trailer a hell of lot of time and effort went into it - more than any short film I'd done at the time.

I was please with it and it opened some doors - the production values were much higher then anything I'd shot before - we got to use the Arri D-20 and a set of Ultra Primes and we had a great DOP (Ali Asad). But from personal expereince I wish I'd put that effort into making a short.

Have the trailer meant I got meetings with people intrested in the film - but their question as me as director was "what else has he done?". Sure I've got some nice looking shots on my showreel but the trailer only sells me as the director of one film - in the end it helped sell the script but not me as the director - the no track record problem. Since the trailer was head and shoulders better then my other short films - I'd only shot on mini DV and self DOPed before then - so jumping to the D20 with a talented DOP made a massive difference.

Whereras if you make a short film and its any good (thats the hard part) it promotes you as filmmakers and there are more places you can show the film - festivals etc. The trailer production was a useful expereince - but its not a goods a stand alone film. And now in my case - its a trailer for a film I failed to make - so if anything showing that to people could damage my (potential) reputation - "oh so he wasn't able to do it". + the trailer is really just selling one project - so if you don't make the film it becomes useless - with a short it still has value years later.

Not saying the trailer idea isn't a good one - often some sort of pitch tape can a really good selling tool. But from a personal expereince - I spent far too long on the trailer, got tunnel vision - in a sense I was trying to make the feature. I think I would have learn't more from making a short - as its more challenging to make a complete narative. Pitch tapes and trailers require different skills to do well.
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#9 Tim Chu

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Posted 12 February 2010 - 07:44 AM

animation film ->trailer
feature FILM ->sequence, shots

IMO
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#10 RPina

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 06:40 PM

I am curious as to what all of you think about this. If your intention is to shop around a feature idea to investors, should one create a short film or a trailer? I am toying with the idea of creating a trailer instead of a short film for once but value any input anyone has to offer.

From what I can tell, here are the pros and cons of a trailer:

PROS: Shorter run time (<2:30) than most short films means more $$$ to spend per shot; More exciting generally than a short film; shows potential investors that you can market your film well (assuming you have a nice trailer)

CONS: Doesn't tell a complete story like a short does; not able to do the traditional festival route

Once again, I value any input.

Here's my take on investors. They want an idea that their money is in capable hands. If you can make a stunning trailer with a handful of shots, and I'm convinced that an artist can do that deftly and beautifully, then go ahead and make your trailer.

Investors are not expecting the choicest shots from a film that has not been made yet. They are expecting to be blown away by your skills at capturing the essence of your film. Are they expecting that shot of the Grand Canyon that conveys man's isolation from himself? Of course not. But maybe that shot of your protagonist alone in his backyard captures the same feeling of isolation and loss, not that that's the kind of film you want to make. But you get the picture.
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#11 Sean Halket

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Posted 22 April 2010 - 01:51 PM

Well, I would say a short film would be a much better thing to choose. In a short film you can show that at film festivals and although it will cost more money, it is not difficult to raise the money if you make it independently.
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#12 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 07:44 AM

The first question investors usually ask is who's in it?

Perhaps a trailer may work if you've already made short films, but I suspect they want to know what else you've done, so a trailer may be pretty meaningless on it's own. They can expect a no budget feature film under your belt these days of cheap film making. A trailer doesn't really tell them if you can direct sustained performances and have good story telling skills.
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#13 Chris Keth

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 01:32 PM

I think you should do both. Make that trailer but shoot and cut one of those scenes in its entirety. The two, plus pitch and script will make a nice "package" for you to sell.
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#14 Joseph Nunez

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Posted 24 September 2010 - 08:43 PM

no offense to anyone but I find even the idea of a "phony trailer" very backwards and weird. I don't understand the trend one bit. That the Coens did it doesn't change my opinion (and I deify them).

Get multiple locations and pretty shots to make it look like portions taken from a full-length movie?

I'm no industry guy but i hear all the time about 1-3 minute shorts opening doors, provided they have high production value. Look up "Panic Attack!", and the story behind Andy and Barbara Muschietti's Mama (I can't find Mama online anywhere anymore, but I saw it and it was way creepy good).

You're gonna waste money/production value on a....fake trailer for a pretend movie?

Wouldn't you rather make a movie?
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