The Results……

Posted: June 29, 2010 in Media

A little while ago I mentioned that I’d created a questionnaire about film trailers to give to a wide range of people, hoping that their answers would help me realise what  audiences want/expect from a trailer. Well, I did this, giving it out to a range of men and women all different ages to get a wider opinion on trailers themselves so that no one’s voice was left un-heard. And here are the results, I’ll give the most common answers with a few that stuck out to me after reviewing the completed questionnaires, and I’ll also be analysing what their answers mean to me personally and how I plan to use these ideas/thoughts from audiences to help me in my creation of a film trailer….

Q1- Firstly, what do you like about film trailers? Why?

The Answers:

As always, there was some positive feedback on this question and some negative (some said they simply ‘skip’ the preview trailers regularly featured on DVDs because they are ‘irritating’– but this answer was generally uncommon). However, most of it was positive, saying that they generally enjoyed watching trailers or seeing them while the advertisements were on TV because of the following reasons (which I have picked out because of their constant reoccurrence):

‘I like trailers because they don’t give too much away and always make me want to watch the film’

‘They help you know whether you’d like a film or not- which is good because you don’t want to go see a film if you haven’t watched the trailer, otherwise you won’t know whether it’s the film for you’

‘They are tense and exciting- leaves you wondering what’ll happen in the rest of the film’

 So generally people like trailers for the reasons above^^^ which is mainly, it appears the fact that trailers:

-Tell you a good bit about the film’s narrative/genre– so audiences will be able to judge whether they will enjoy the film being promoted or not (as they said, it is a good way to see whether they’d want to go see the film at the cinema or not)

-Leaves the audience excited and tensethey want to know more about the film now they’ve had a ‘sneak peak’ in the form of a trailer. Hence, they’ll go to see the feature film.

So…what am I going to do with this information??:

Well, I find it very inspiring…to hear audiences generally enjoy trailers it helps me realise that there is a good market out there for them. I also, from seeing why people enjoy trailers, know that to make my trailer successful I need to have an element of suspense (perhaps a villain creating chaos and a hero trying to stop him like in ‘the Dark Knight’) so that it gets viewers interested and catches their attention. Once I have them hooked I want to leave most of the narrative (middle and ending) unclear so that audiences will want to see what happens next/in the end etc. It appears that audiences also like genre to be clear so that they can judge for themselves if they would enjoy the actual film or not (so a trailer for ‘Love Actually’ should include laughing, happy faces and scenes indicating weddings and relationships to indicate to audiences it is a rom com and not any other genre) I think it would be unwise to break this rule and make genre unclear as it would upset audiences and probably leave them confused- not knowing whether they want to go see the film or not…so I’ll be sure to make my genre of thriller/revenge clear to the audience when making my trailer.

Q2- And can you think of any specific trailers that have caught your eye recently? Why were they so memorable?

The Answers:

As you can guess, the answers to this question were very varied- afterall, audiences can have a very diverse taste in film, from gory horrors like ‘Saw’ to romantic comedies like ‘Notting Hill’, so trailers are clearly going to go down this same route. here’s a few I picked out, mainly because their explanations were probably the most relevant/helpful:

‘I recently saw the Inception trailer. It stood out to me as it looks really strange, unique and original. The trailer left me unclear of what’s going to happen so I hope if I go to see the film it’ll straighten things out.’

‘A Room for Romeo Brass- I stumbled over it on YouTube and it looks really sweet. Like it’s a film about friendships and British life- it looks like my kind of film so I naturally want to see it.’

‘The Memento trailer. It looks like it’ll be a really good film…stood out because of the fact he repeats his lines, it really shows the main characters condition and I want to know more about him.’

‘Hard Candy- the trailer is really wierd and doesn’t give much away…I want to know more!!!!!’

So it’s important the trailer stands out from the crowd,and clearly the trailers mentioned above did otherwise they wouldn’t have remembered them. But what if it’s all down to taste? Surely we all remember different things for different reasons…something that is memorable to one person may be forgotten in an instant by another. It’s important to note this as I’ll have to keep in mind that some people might find certain aspects of a trailer more memorable than others– so I’ll have to make sure I try to reach out to those who’ll probably enjoy the film and make sure it sticks in their minds and make sure I don’t generalise on what is considered a  ‘memorable’ aspect in a trailer.

So, what am I going to do with this information???

Well, I know now that what makes a trailer successful/memorable is a bit of a vague thing to discuss. It’s really down to the audience member’s taste in film and what grabs their attention– maybe a piece of music, a strange use of camerawork, a fast, tense pace? etc etc obviously it would be a good idea to have a trailer that is unique and appears original- afterall, no one would pay attention to a trailer which is very similar to another, as this would be boring and repetitive. So maybe I’ll look at some of the trailers mentioned and think about what makes them stand out and try to do the same with mine, but of course, in my own way. (I’ll think about what makes my own narrative/film unique and try to convey this in the trailer)

Q3-Do you think a trailer should be clear about a film’s genre? (comedy, horror etc) Why?

The Answers:

The answers here were overall similar (mainly being ‘yes‘) but what I found interesting were their reasons, here’s some I thought stood out:

 ‘Well yes, you do need to know what genre a film will be before you decide whether you want to see it or not.’

‘Yeah,  because it’ll be too confusing and you won’t want to go see it otherwise because you might not like it afterall’

I did like this answer though:

‘Sometimes. Sometimes it’s good though to not be clear- it leaves it a mystery and makes it appeal more interesting overall. It also stands out from other trailers as they usually make their genre clear as day.’

So, generally audiences like the genre to be clear, as I mentioned before, so that they can judge whether they want to see it or not. What I did find interesting was the odd argument that it was good for trailers to sometimes leave the genre of the film unclear as it is something trailers don’t usually do, and is unique– it makes the trailer memorable and different, therefore perhaps heightening audience interest on the film itself.

So, what am I going to do with this information??

Despite the good arguments some gave about not keeping the genre clear in trailers I don’t think it would be a good idea to break this convention. It could lead to complications and having to justify why I’ve mislead my audience….perhaps it would be much easier just to give audiences what they generally want- and that is the genre to be clear so that they can see whether they will like the film or not.

Q4- Do you regard music as an important aspect to a film trailer? Why is this?

The Answers:

 There wasn’t anyone I surveyed who disagreed with the idea that music was important. Some said that it wasn’t as important as other aspects of the trailer, but most voted in favour of it being one of a trailer’s biggest selling points. Here’s some answers I selected:

‘Yes because if a film looks like it’ll have a good soundtrack I will be more likely to watch it.’

‘Music is important because it sets the tone and mood of the film itself…so then we know what sort of film it’ll be.’

‘Music is very important- it can make us tense and help build atmosphere to the trailer. It makes you want to see what happens next.’

So, music is important in trailers. We’ve established that. But why? Well appears that those who I surveyed have a variety of ideas why, and this mostly includes the fact that the music in a background of a trailer can hint to audiences what genre the film will be and it’s overall mood/tone. Hence they will be able to judge whether the film is for them. Music is also good, they say, for heightening tension built in the trailer and grabbing the audience’s attention.

So, what am I going to do with this information?

Well, it’s taught me I should be very careful when choosing music for my trailer. I’ll need to think about the genre/mood/tone I’m trying to convey to the audience and chose a soundtrack (probably uncopyrighted) that fits it perfectly. I know now that music is important and if it doesn’t fit in with the film it is promoting or the narrative implied this will leave audiences confused and irritated. But having music that fits in well means they will have a better understanding of the film itself and give them an opportunity to think about whether it is a kind of film they’d enjoy.

Q5-What about dialogue from the film itself? Do you think this is important also?

The Answers:

Pretty much everyone answered ‘yes’ to this question. So it’s clear dialogue is just as important as music in trailers…But of course, everyone had different reasons why they found this aspect important to them. Here’s a few I found to be incisive answers:

‘Yes but it shouldn’t give too much away.’

‘Yes of course- we can see who’s who and how the characters of the film interact with each other.’

‘Yes, it can give you a good idea of what the film will be like (screams- horror, laughing-comedy etc).’

So it’s clear dialogue is very important also. Ok, so why?? Well audiences generally thought this so because dialogue helps hint at what type of film is being promoted in the trailer and also helps give information to them- the narrative is hinted at through dialogue and character interactions/conversations mean we get an idea of character types/relationships etc. It allows audiences to personally connect to characters before they even watch the film.

So, what am I going to do with this information??

Well now I know dialogue is just as important as any other aspect of the trailer– maybe even more so. But anyway, I know that I’ll need to be very specific in my choices of dialogue which I include within the trailer, as I want to give audiences a hint at the narrative of the film, but have to be careful to not give too much away– always leaving them hungry for more information. I’ll also want to choose pieces that show possible character interactions/conversations as I know these can also help tell a bit of the narrative and allow audience to connect with character(s) of the film. Thus this enlarges chances of people going to see the film.

Q6- Which is better: slow paced or fast paced trailers? Why?

The Answers:

Overall this was a two sided battle, some argued that it ‘depended on the film’ which I don’t really regard as an answer as I’m asking for a personal opinion and not…whatever that answer can be classified as. Anyway, those few answers aside, these were the ones that stood out:

‘Fast paced trailers as they catch your attention more and build excitement. If it’s slow paced it can get a bit boring.’

‘You need both extremes- the best trailers start of slow paced and build up to a very fast pace. It’s like the film itself- begins slowly, lots of fast paced action…then slow at the end again, except in trailers you don’t see the end.’

‘It’s better when it begins slowly and ends with a fast pace as it draws you in.’

So I think that this general idea is this: the pace of the trailer should reflect the film. As films begin, they start off at a slow pace as the audience is only just being introduced to the characters and narrative itself. And then as the equilibrium is disturbed things get fast paced and quicken- heightening tension. But when a new equilibrium returns the pace is slow once again, signalling the end of the film. The trick to trailers is that they do not show the ending– it’s like watching a film till halfway through and then switching it off– we’re left with an idea of the narrative, characters and genre but are left without the answers about how the film ends that we crave.

So, what am I going to do with this information??

Well now I’m in the knowledge that pace is a very mixed and strange thing. It all comes down to personal opinion in the end, so I intend to try and use this method: making the trailer reflect a film’s process of pace. (In other words- slow to start off with, thus drawing audiences in. Fast paced in the middle to add tension and show disturbance in equilibrium. And slow at the end perhaps to leave them wanting more answers and want to know the outcome of the film) I feel this is generally the case in trailers and audiences will be able to connect with it better than if I decided to take another route in terms of pace. I’ll make sure I try to stick to this method when in the process of editing as it can have a very good effect on audiences overall.

Q7-What about narrative/plot? How much information should trailers include?

The Answers:

Well…this was pretty much a one sided argument. You’ll see by the answers I’ve chosen, as although I try to include answers that are diverse you’ll notice these are all pretty similar because most answered in similar ways and for similar reasons:

‘There should be enough of the plot to give you an idea of what’s happening, but knowing too much would ruin the film.’

‘You don’t want to have too much information thrown at you. You just need a hint because if they told you the whole plot they’d be no point in seeing the film.’

‘There needs to be enough to get me interested but I want some cliffhangers and things left open/unanswered. That way I get interested and curious and I want to see the film to see what happens next.’

Yes, generally people thought this- too much or too little  is equally bad. Trailers need a perfect amount of the narrative it holds to get audiences interested. Tell them too much and they switch off, become confused and see no point in watching the film. Tell them too little and they become confused, aren’t interested in what happens and aren’t left wanting to know more. Either extreme is a bad move in trailers and it’s finding that perfect amount of narrative that can be the key to it’s success. So they want enough narrative to get their interest, but for the most of the narrative to remain a mystery, hence their interest in watching the film.

So, what am I going to do with this information??

Keep in mind that the narrative conveyed within trailers is very important to it being successful or not. I need to make sure I give the audience enough information to get their minds thinking/guessing but not too much as this would delay the point of a trailer completely- which is trying to make people want to see the film. I’ll try to make sure I don’t give too much away and leave many questions raised perhaps by audiences unanswered so that the only way this questions can be answered is by watching the film itself.

(here’s where my questionnaire gets a bit more specific to what genre of trailer I intend to create)

Q8- So, do you think you would enjoy a thriller/revenge trailer? Why?

As always, personal opinion paraded in and made the arguments two sided, some said they wouldn’t enjoy it because they ‘prefer other types of film trailers’ or would ‘Find it scary’…but they also kept open minded and said that it depended on whether it was of ‘good quality’ or ‘eye catching’ and then the trailer would appeal to them even if they disliked the genre originally. Here’s some answers in favour for my genre of trailer:

‘yes I think I would- I’d like to be able to get a main character in it so I can see why they’re getting revenge and how they’ll get it. Whether it works or not should be left to the film itself.’

‘Yeah it would definetely be interesting to see.  I like revenge films as they’re so extreme and brutal, and usually for a very good reason too!’

‘I like revenge and thriller films as they’re so often linked together and both exciting to watch. So I think I’d enjoy a trailer of a film like that as long as it was good.’

So I have some things to keep in mind- that it depends on taste genre wise on whether certain people will enjoy my trailer or not. But also if a trailer connects or reaches out to the audience they can enjoy the trailer even if they don’t like the genre/won’t actually go to see the film.

So, what am I going to do with this information??

I’ll keep in mind that my trailer’s genre is going to have people that will like it and people who won’t. It’s envitable. Not everyone likes a good comedy film and not everyone likes a gory horror. It’s what makes us human-we all have different tastes and it is not ever going to appeal to absolutely everybody so it’s important to keep this in mind. But, more importantly, I want to note what people have said they like about this genre and keep it solid- like emphasising on the character’s revenge, why he wants it, who he’s getting it on etc

Q9- What would you expect to see within it? Please justify what you have put.

the Answers:

As I said, personal opinions of people make a wide variety of answers. Here’s some that stuck out to me:

‘I’d expect it to have a very dark and scary tone. Revenge films are often brutal as we see just how far a person can go when they’re pushed to the edge. Maybe then it should be quite psychological too.’

‘there should be a hint of mystery as to how the character will get revenge and why. But the anger and willingness to get even should be made clear.’

‘Blood, killings, angry characters, (all parts of getting the revenge) heroes as villains in disguise (people who get extreme revenge are often evil and nasty, but afterall they only try to get their own back, which is what everyone does) and also maybe some flashbacks to what happened/why the person is seeking revenge to justify the character’s actions.’

So what people expect is in a wide range and varies from person to person. But overall it’s clear that the subgenre of revenge should be made obvious and emphasised upon so not to miss it and keep the tone of the film strong and solid throughout the trailer. It’s also important to show some hints at how they’ll get it/why they’re doing it.

So, what am I going to do with this information??

It’s given me some ideas to think about. Clearly one thing I must do in my trailer is make the genre of revenge clear so that audiences can recognize it with ease. It also might be a good idea to keep an element of mystery as to who is seeking revenge and why with various hints using flashbacks/forwards to keep the audience interested and wanting to know what happens. It also might be an idea to include things such as hints at killings/torture to emphasise the mood of the film being promoted in the trailer and I will have to consider whether these things will fit when I have drawn up my final idea for the trailer itself.

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