In a world where clients always want bigger-better-different, competition is fierce and emerging technologies have upped the ante, change is the only constant for the trailer editor. Say that line in a dramatic, booming voiceover, and you’d have the format for the typical trailer just a decade or two ago.
Today, however, story is the driver behind entertainment’s most successful trailers, and – whether you’re promoting a blockbuster film, primetime TV premiere (such as Nat Geo’s One Strange Rock, above) or over-the-top (OTT) series launch – those voiceovers and title cards are far less prominent. Instead, the emphasis is on heavy narrative, with a convergence of meticulous scene selection, creative pacing and powerful sound design ratcheting up the intensity for a true blockbuster feel.
The trailer is a vehicle that now must navigate devices, screen sizes and social media platforms, requiring editors to step into a slew of new shoes to make those journeys. We wear the keenness of directors in drilling down the details behind every vision, and we’re also walking the walk of sound designers like never before.
This is the flavor of the moment in a landscape constantly reinventing itself … an upward trend fueled by technologies allowing us to create, share and see what’s being done while putting our own spin on projects that make spots feel bigger and better.
The fact is things are always shifting. Clients will always want that next big thing, and we – as editors – will always want to push to be different… surprising our peers and clients and even surprising ourselves when our innovations catch the eye or elicit an action-inspiring emotion.
So how does the trailer editor keep stride with – or even set the pace for – such flux? For me, it comes down to three vital things:
DO Sweat the Small Stuff – In my opinion, the biggest challenge we face today as editors is having polish, and the best work out there always dials down to the little things… that attention to detail that truly registers in the end. It’s about challenging yourself to look for just the right sound effects, footage and pacing that clearly communicates your client’s message while differentiating the spot for audiences in a memorable way. Every edit should feel like a post score with its soundscape, and the audio in your rough cuts to clients should be 95 percent there, as it’s so vital to the process. If you get into the stems and tracks of sound, you can fine tune and really build those pivotal moments that will make all the difference.
DON’T Be a One-Trick Pony – Yes, emerging technology has opened a lot of windows for editors, but it’s up to us to keep looking for new tricks. From sound design to color grading or new visual effects, it’s all so important and it’s all always changing. What was cool last year is not necessarily cool this year, so always be willing to learn and take chances that surprise your clients. Experimentation is key. Innovation is crucial. And with clients now requesting editor reels like they’ve done for DPs and directors, you’ve truly got to stand out. I can’t stress that enough.
DON’T Forget the Story – Being different or bigger or better doesn’t mean using the loudest sound effects you can find… or cutting your edits to the max with hits and effects. In the end, it’s a careful balance that all comes back to basics. Whether it’s a feature film or a 30-second trailer, we are trying to tell a STORY, but the way we tell the story has changed and will continue to change. It’s simply up to us to adapt. That’s the challenge and, for me, it’s what makes it fun as well.
Jesus Martinez is a longtime editor at Miami-based creative agency, 2C Creative.