I’ve been reading Robert McKee’s Story, and LOVING it. But more on that later, when I’m finished. As I’m reading though, it did help me think through one particular thing. Specifically, I have a (perhaps slightly unusual) habit of watching trailers; a brainless thing I do to unwind.
And, reading McKee, I realised that part of the reason I do it is because often, the way a trailer is presented now is often a large of chunk, or sometimes most, of the story it’s advertising. Think about it.
Take Tusk, for example, which I would never actually watch the full movie of (I don’t handle horror movies well). But from the trailer, you can tell that it’s about a person making a podcast, trapped by an old sailor, who presumably wants to do something evil to him, against his will. Really, then, barring unexpected twists, there’s only the central question left – will the protagonist escape?
Or Underdogs. It essentially takes three minutes to give a quick, sketchy overview of the background and context for the main part of the story. Will the protagonist, and his band of unlikely fussball players, defeat the bully in an enormous soccer match? And, in doing so, who will the love interest fall for? Given that it’s an animated movie that looks to be aimed at the children’s market, I think there’s a pretty safe guess as to the answers.
Not all that trailers are that bad. Not every trailers tell most of the story in two minutes, and have such a strong vibe that you can tell how it’ll turn out in the final few scenes. But some do.