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Trailers gone wild, it's time for a change

Posted Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 4:30 PM Central
Last updated Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 4:32 PM Central

by John Couture

You've got green bands and red bands; international and domestic. There are outtakes, film clips, TV spots, bloopers and so on. When it comes to trailers and promoting a film before it is released, we are in the middle of a crisis and no one is doing anything about it.

I get it. We live in the age of social media where it's incredibly easy to tweet a link or post a video on Facebook and watch as it goes viral in a matter of seconds. It also helps when your film features some of the hottest young stars on the planet who also happen to be pretty plugged in to social media.

For instance, take This is the End, which looks to be an incredibly funny film coming out next month featuring the likes of James Franco (541,254 Twitter followers), Seth Rogen (807,502 Twitter followers) and Craig Robinson (233,559 Twitter followers). With that type of reach, they can get the word out pretty quickly on everything and anything that is going on with their film.

And when it comes to This is the End, they've been pretty busy. We have 12 official videos loaded up here on the site that range from standard trailers to a faux trailer for the mythical sequel Pineapple Express 2 to a video promoting an online video game based on the movie.

A big reason for the volume of content stems from the nature of the film itself and the fact that all of the stars are friends and don't mind getting out a camera and taping whatever suits their mood that particular day. But, it's also a product of the age in which we are living.

We have become accustomed to instant gratification. We no longer have to sit through commercials and heaven forbid we actually have to go to a theater to see a movie trailer. But such was life before the advent of the Internet. Back then, the movie theater was practically the only place you could see a full-length trailer.

This was both a blessing and a curse for studios as they had a captive audience of film fans, but they also only had one, maybe two shots to get them excited about their film. In today's world, you can release 10 different trailers over 10 days.

The positive is that you can react quickly to lukewarm response and cut something a bit more exciting. Recently, I found this to be true for The World's End where the first trailer was a bit underwhelming, but the second trailer, released like a week later, was much better in my opinion.

Of course, the downside is that you risk over-saturation. How much is too much? With the incredible number of distractions available to would-be audience members, that's an impossibly fine line to arbitrarily set, but I'm going to attempt to do so.

Here are my rules for trailers. There aren't any set number as I'm writing them as they come to me and I reserve the right to add and change them as I see fit.

The Rule of Three

Each film will have a maximum of three trailers. One of those trailers must be designated as a "teaser trailer" and must not exceed one minute in length. The other two "full-length trailers" must not exceed two minutes and thirty seconds in length.

When you only have three trailers to work with you know that you are going to get a higher quality. Heck, maybe the studios will even test the trailers ahead of time to insure only the best trailers make the cut.

Of course, who am I kidding? There will always be bad trailers, but at least this way, there are no more than three per film.

The One Year Rule

You can only debut trailers within a one year window of the film's theatrical release date. If you release a trailer and then move the release date back so that it falls out of the one year period, you are penalized one full-length trailer.

This rule serves two purposes. First, we aren't inundated with a teaser trailer two years before a film comes out only to raise excitement that will be crushed immediately by the realization that a lot happens in a year. Here is a good example. Last May, they released two teaser trailers for Anchorman: The Legend Continues. It doesn't hit theaters until December 20 OF THIS YEAR! Come on, 18 months is overkill, even for Will Ferrell.

Second, this rule will hopefully force movie studios to stick to a release date. Currently, trying to keep up with theatrical release date changes is a full-time job and studios don't seem to care about the confusion it causes.

The TV Exception

In addition to the three trailers you are allowed per film, you can also create three TV spots. These spots are only to shown on TV and should never be made available online.

Boom! I just made TV commercials relevant again. You're welcome Networks. Now, they can pay to show these three commercials as much as they like, but they can only have three versions and they must never show up online.

They can be added onto the DVD and Blu-ray as part of the bonus features. Now the pressure is on. Make great TV commercials and now you can leverage that content on your physical goods.

"In a World..."

The use of voiceover in trailers shall refrain from using voices that approximate "the movie trailer voice."

It's the biggest cliché in the book and it has been parodied ad nauseum, so I'll simply ban it. You can have voiceover in the trailer, but here's a thought, why not recruit one of those actors that you overpaid for to actually be in the film to provide the trailer's voiceover.

Also, the words "In a world" are also banned.