3 Tips for Editing a Short Film Trailer

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Why would anyone want to produce a trailer for a short film? That's a valid question. After all, a short film is just that - short. So, you run the risk of giving too much away if you produce a trailer. But there are two good reasons why you need one:

  • It creates interest in your project.
  • Some festivals and competitions will ask for one.

So if you have a short film project in the can and need to cut a trailer, here are a three tips based on my own experiences. Feel free to add your own in the Comments section.

1. SET THE TONE AND CREATE HYPE

The main goal of the trailer is to create interest in your project. This is extremely important if you plan on running a crowdfunding campaign to help offset post-production costs or marketing and submission expenses. Potential contributors want to know what your film is about. They want to see if their money is going to a competent filmmaker who knows his/her craft. So use the trailer as an opportunity to showcase some of the best shots in the film. Use the pace of the edit and the musical score to establish mood, tone, and perhaps genre. Here's the trailer for my upcoming short Big and Tall

2. KEEP IT SHORT

This cannot be overstated. Remember, you are editing a trailer for a short film. I've seen trailers for short films that are over 2 minutes long and they practically tell you everything that happens in the film. Think about what a 2-minute trailer would give away if the entirety of the film was only 6 minutes. More often than not, you should treat the trailer for your short like a teaser, anywhere from 10-30 seconds. Here's the trailer for a 6-minute short I worked on called Sanctum. 

And here's the trailer for another 6-minute short I directed called Exodus Road. 

Your trailer should give away nothing more than what you've already written in the logline (the one-sentence synopsis of the film). Take Exodus Road for example. The logline for that film is "A young couple makes a bold decision that will forever change their lives and open them up to a world beyond their own." And the trailer supports the premise, giving away nothing more substantial than that.

 3. NO NAMES

You know how most big-budget, studio-backed, feature trailers use titles like, "From the Director of ___________  starring Academy-Award Winner _____________ ?" Of course you do. We've all seen them. However, unless your short also stars an actor with some renown, don't do this. Just set up the premise, the mood, and the tone of the film. Then give us the title. That's it. No one is really interested in who wrote and directed the film, or who stars in it. Remember, your goal is to create interest in your project. You do that through the visuals and the sound.

That's it. Three quick tips that have helped me when editing short film trailers. Care to share your own experiences? Do so in the Comments.