The trailer, the teaser, the preview. It's a bastard form, one that seeks to sum up a feature film-- an entire work of art-- in the space of thirty, sixty, maybe ninety seconds. To give an impression of the film, to induce a curiosity about it and a desire to see it, without misrepresenting it or giving away the good parts. It's almost an impossible task.
And I'm not sure how much this creature of commerce has to do with good box office-- I think everyone who was thinking of seeing Transformers 2 made up their minds long before the trailers. Months before the trailers hit the theaters, we've seen exclusive screen-shots and read "summer movie buzz" galore. Despite the fact that the commercials and trailers for Paul Blart: Mall Cop looked just as awful as the movie, everyone went to see it; nobody went to see Watchmen despite the massive advertising/marketing campaign.
So, as far as the blockbuster cinema goes, I don't think the trailer makes or breaks the deal. With (actual) independent films, I think it's a bit trickier. On the one hand, because they don't have those sort of mass-marketing campaigns that blockbuster and indywood films possess, and thus they don't have that same wide exposure. A trailer can be the thing that makes you want to see the film.
But, conversely and perversely, because they don't have that wide exposure, and because their trailers are unlikely to play in the cineplexes, the chances of you running across their trailer by chance is next to nil. There are so many independent film trailers that sit on their creators' websites and on video-sharing sites, unwatched and unloved, steadfastly refusing to go viral. Not to mention sidebar links to actually buy their films that go unclicked.
I don't have a solution to this problem, but I would like to give those indie trailers a little bit of love. And so, here's the first installment of Indie Trailers A-Go-Go, a (hopefully) continuing series here at Turtleneck Films. Feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions, especially if you're an independent filmmaker who feels they haven't got enough exposure.
Remember, if you'd like your trailer featured in this space in the future, please don't be shy.