What YouTube Videos Can Learn From Movie Trailers With Drew Farber

Last updated on June 15th, 2024

Everyone loves movies, and movie trailers are a huge way that movies get viewers excited about watching their films. Movies somehow find a way to make millions of dollars, often essentially after starting from scratch as far as brand awareness goes, with no previous audience knowledge of the movie, these trailers are essentially sales videos that are promoting startups. They use video, dialog, music, sound effects, editing and overall great storytelling to get us excited about the movies they are promoting. So what can YouTube video marketing learn from these techniques? In particular, what can how-to videos, and tutorial video marketing on YouTube in general, learn from movie trailers? We talk with movie trailer editor/producer/writer Drew Farber to get the insider tips.

GUEST: Drew Farber, movie trailer editor/producer/writer. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Apple Podcasts Google Podcasts Spotify Stitcher

HOSTS: The VidAction Podcast is hosted by:
– Dane Golden of VidAction | LinkedIn |  | YouTube
– Renee Teeley of VideoExplained and ReneeTeeley.com | LinkedIn | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

SPONSORS: This episode is brought to you by our affiliate partners, including: TubeBuddy, VidIQ, MorningFame, Rev.com, and other products and services we recommend.

PRODUCER: Jason Perrier of Phizzy Studios

LINKS:

TRANSCRIPT

Dane Golden:
It’s time for the Video Marketing Value podcast. This is the podcast where we help marketers just like you get more value out of your video marketing efforts. My name is Dane Golden from VidiUp and VidTarget along with my cohost, she’s R-E-N double E T double E-L-E-Y, Renee Teeley from Video Explained. Hello, Renee.

Renee Teeley:
Hello. Thank you. I am delighted to be co-hosting this podcast with you today.

Dane Golden:
Why are you not thrilled?

Renee Teeley:
I’m always thrilled. I’m thrilled, I’m delighted, I’m enchanted. I’m all of the things.

Dane Golden:
Today, we have a special guest, Drew Farber. He’s going to be talking to us about what YouTube videos can learn from movie trailers. He creates movie trailers, Renee. Can you believe that?

Renee Teeley:
I can. I can totally believe it. Mostly because you told me that.

Dane Golden:
Welcome, Drew.

Drew Farber:
Dan, Renee, thank you guys so much for having me. This is going to be fun. I’m excited to talk a little bit about what I do in movie trailers.

Dane Golden:
Okay, that’s great. We asked you on today to find out some of the secrets to what make movie trailers so enticing, but also, we have our own angle. We want to know how we can use some of these techniques in YouTube videos that are more tutorial-based. Is that okay with you?

Drew Farber:
Yeah, no, that sounds awesome.

Dane Golden:
Okay, okay. We, Renee and I, a lot of what we do is we help businesses with more how-to content on YouTube that brings in people who are searching to solve a problem, but it’s also good to be entertaining. I don’t think you have to be so entertaining, but it helps. Is there a story framework in a movie trailer that could help either with tutorial videos or, more likely, with just general YouTube ads for any service? We do ads as well. What’s the secret?

Drew Farber:
Yeah, no, there’s no real secret, but there are different frameworks, how trailers work, and how movie marketing works in general.

Dane Golden:
Tell us what your job is and how you came to this knowledge in a couple-sentence encapsulation.

Drew Farber:
Yeah, absolutely. I moved to Hollywood 2014 and started my journey in the entertainment marketing business. I’ve been in the biz for about six years now. Started as a copywriter and worked my way up to associate producing, where pretty much what a associate producer does is we’re the mouthpiece between the studio who’s making the film and then more on the agency side, I would lead a team of editors, writers, graphics personnel to make this trailer. I was the manager, if you put it in sports terminology, in a way, of our team to deliver this piece that embodies an entire movie in about two minutes and 35 seconds.

Dane Golden:
Always 2:35? Is there a structure that we could learn? It feels to me like a lot of movie trailers, not every one, but they start out with some musical note or a quote or something dramatic or it depends if it’s a comedy, might be different, or a horror film. What is the general framework that we can know that might help us?

Drew Farber:
Yeah, for trailers, it’s generally a three-act structure. You have your beginning or opening, which is usually your hook. It’s used to grab your viewer, to… Maybe there’s a cold open that has really nothing to do with the movie, but just is very interesting, whether it’s visually, audibly, or whatever.

Drew Farber:
Then your second act moves into your meat and potatoes, your story, what exactly the story you’re trying to tell. You’re introducing your main players, you’re introducing your threats, what stakes there are, and just really, what the embodiment of the movie is.

Drew Farber:
Then your last act, it’s to build excitement. You might see movie montages into the title of the actual movie and sometimes you end on a big question or a big moment or you play out a scene or a set-piece designed to entice the viewer to actually want to go see this movie. What is that cliffhanger that you need to have answered when you go to actually buy your ticket or to, nowadays, go see it on Netflix? It’s that just last ending moment.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. I really love this idea of a movie trailer being almost like a two-minute-and-35-second story in its own right and then leaving people wanting more with that feeling. Is there a particular cadence that you usually have with movie trailers to hook that audience in the beginning and leave them wanting more?

Drew Farber:
Yeah, no, for sure. Our hook in the beginning could be… It’s kind of funny, it’s usually the first five, 10 seconds of your trailer is going to be your hook. Nowadays, we have these things called, and I’m sure you see these in ads on YouTube, too, “bumpers.” They’re just short, little clips, little shots that are very visually appealing or some line of dialogue that you want to hear answered.

Drew Farber:
Those are designed to keep you watching because it’s all about retention and people’s attention spans aren’t as long as they used to be, so it’s in these five seconds, what can we show you or say to you that’s going to keep you watching for the rest of the trailer before you tune out and want to get onto something else? That’s our big job in the beginning of the trailer, is to hook you.

Drew Farber:
Then, just like the end, same thing: What visually or what question are we going to ask or what are we going to show you that’s going to make you want to go see this movie? Usually, it’s going to be just like the beginning, something very visually appealing or some ethereal question that you’re like, “Man, I really need to know about this,” or, “I want to see more of this. I just got a taste and now I need the rest of the meal.”

Dane Golden:
With music and sound effects, it feels like that’s just so integral. Sometimes it’s music from the movie, sometimes not, but from what we do, maybe you can give us a little bit of advice because music can be helpful for a tutorial, for instance. I try to think of what is a type of sound that’s inspirational in a way that this is something you can learn and it’s a musical journey of learning and moving up, in a way. Then there’s also, sometimes people will put in sound effects like a whoosh or something to call attention to certain points on the screen. What types of guidance could you give us there, just totally off the cuff?

Drew Farber:
Yeah. Yeah, no, music plays an absolutely integral part in what I do and also in what you guys do as well in making how-to videos. I guess a lot of it matters on your subject matter. By subject matter for how-to videos can be one thing.

Drew Farber:
For me, it’s more genre. You have your horror, your action, your comedy, your romance. Those specific genres have specific tones that you want to pull for different music cues, whether it’s a lighthearted cue, whether it’s a really big building action queue, whether it’s a classical cue, this music will carry you through the piece.

Drew Farber:
One thing I really learned is, though, some music can overstay its welcome and a lot times, you’ll see songs with two, three different songs or cues in them to change it up a little bit, just to keep it fresh, keep things rolling, because when you have one song for such a long amount of time, it wears you out and you, like I said before, you start to tune out because you’re like, “All right, I’ve heard this before. I need something new.” That’s one really big thing that we do is you always want to keep people on their toes and keep things fresh and moving. You never want to be stale with what you do.

Drew Farber:
Then in terms of sound effects to call attention to things, yeah, no, absolutely. Another technique we use is called “sound design,” where we highlight different movements with sound effects, whether it’s whooshes, bangs, hits, cracks, booms, all of it. You have a wide array of sounds that you can use to really accent moments, whether it’s someone opening up an envelope, you can add a sound effect, maybe a guttural sound, just to, maybe we’re evoking fear of opening this envelope. There’s little things you can do and little tricks like that to really call attention to certain things that you want to call attention to.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah, I love this topic of music within video, too. I think music is definitely… It’s something that can really help stir different emotions. I don’t know if you guys have seen this, but I recently watched a movie trailer, it was re-cut to change The Shining into a romantic comedy.

Drew Farber:
Oh, my god.

Renee Teeley:
It was basically a parody, but they took footage from The Shining, recut it to make it look like a romantic comedy. A big part of that recut was upbeat music that they played throughout. It totally changed the feel of the trailer. What is your process when you’re going through that and picking what music to actually play?

Drew Farber:
Yeah, I can give you an example. Back when I was a writer, I worked on the movie, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Dane Golden:
Ooh.

Drew Farber:
Yeah, spooky. I think there’s a few of them now, but yeah, this one was with John Goodman and he’s stuck in a bunker, but I won’t get into any spoiler-y details.

Drew Farber:
The piece for that, I actually picked the song for this one, I Think We’re Alone Now by The Shondells. It’s a really upbeat, happy song. If you know anything about this movie, the movie is a dark thriller. I picked the song to juxtaperser, I can’t even say that word right now, so I won’t even try, to pin against the darker thematic themes of the movie. It was a happy light song and then while you’re seeing all these dark moments of you’re seeing John Goodman is pulling out a gun, someone pulls out a knife, someone’s crawling through an air duct, but you’re hearing this upbeat song and it’s meant to highlight just the differences.

Drew Farber:
Then also when picking songs, what we aim to do is lyrically. Does it lyrically make sense? This whole song is about these three people alone in a bunker, so we pick a song, I Think We’re Alone Now, it’s pretty nail on the head on that one.

Drew Farber:
Yeah, no, lyrically, does it make sense, tonally, does it make sense, and does it relate to the actual footage you’re seeing? It is crazy, like you said with The Shining example, how integral music can be because no matter what the footage is, you could change the tone of an entire movie based on the music. The Shining is one of the most disturbing movies I’ve ever seen and then just by changing the song in the trailer, you can make an old romantic comedy if you wanted to. It’s pretty incredible what you can do.

Dane Golden:
Another thing you can do in film is, of course, the montage. Which types of things do you show next to one another? You can do the same thing in a tutorial video. I may be talking about something and shows something confusing, something terrifying, something funny, and it can change the tone of what I’m talking to, make it funnier, build up the drama. What can you do? What’s some secrets of how you cut footage because trailers are so compressed. I know that they have a lot of very quick cuts. Is that another way of getting attention? What’s some tricks we can use there?

Drew Farber:
Yeah, no, definitely. In trailers, definitely, montages, depending on what the genre is, but for action, they’re meant to build excitement. You’re choosing your most exciting shots and today, in our online culture, everyone likes to pause and sit on shots, whether it’s for Avengers movies or Star Wars movies.

Drew Farber:
You have to be very selective with the shots you choose. Is the shot telling a story? Are you visually telling a story through this montage? You can’t just be totally random with it where sometimes things might seem random. Everything should have a purpose in the shots that you choose and have some type of building. They should allow you to build to your end piece or your end goal or what you’re trying to tell.

Drew Farber:
Yeah, no, definitely, your shot sequences are super, super important. They just can’t be… I mean, you can pick out a bad trailer, too, if you do see some random shots selections because you’re like “What is that even trying to do?” I think every shot should have a purpose in those montages.

Renee Teeley:
Speaking of purpose, let’s talk a little bit about success metrics. I know that in video marketing or really any type of video that you’re creating for businesses, it’s important to understand what it is that you’re trying to achieve and figure out what success looks like. In terms of movie trailers, how do you determine that success? Is it specifically how many people are going to see the movie or are you looking at things like retention rates of the trailer, how long people are watching that trailer, and then how many people are watching that trailer?

Drew Farber:
Yeah, no, that’s a really interesting question because often, trailer campaigns, that’s just one piece of marketing where an entire movie campaign is a… Now, they do even three different trailers. You do a teaser, you do different TV spots, so there’s a wide array of marketing materials that go into a campaign.

Drew Farber:
The success is often attributed to… I mean, sometimes you’ll personally you want to feel the success through YouTube views. I remember I got to work on the It trailer when that first came out, the first one, it was the revamp of that franchise, and I think that broke some YouTube record within the first 24 hours, so of course, that’s good marketing for the movie itself because that means people are watching it and that’s generating word of mouth.

Drew Farber:
Ultimately, the big success is probably what you’re doing in the box office in the first weekend. Are people going to actually see the movie? Did you create a trailer that was good enough or a whole marketing campaign that was good enough to warrant people to actually go and spend, I don’t know what it is now around the world, but let’s say $15 to go see a movie that weekend? That’s probably where most of the success lies. Are people actually spending money to go see the movie?

Drew Farber:
Also, just as in every industry, there’s awards. In the trailer industry, there’s the Golden Trailer Awards and the Key Arts. Usually, those are split up into different genres of best horror trailer or best action/adventure teaser. There’s also the awards that come with it and everyone likes to put an accolade on their belt. Yeah, that’s the success metrics, I guess you would say, of the trailer-making business.

Dane Golden:
Seeing as my last name is Golden, I particularly like the Golden Trailer Awards. Drew, since we’re new to this area, is there a question we should have asked and didn’t?

Drew Farber:
I would probably say not a question, but something that I probably would like to add is how scripting out a trailer or a how-to video, how integral that is to the process or whatever you’re you’re trying to create because it’s always good to just have a roadmap of where you’re going or what you’re trying to do. I would say how scripting is so important to any process, really. It may not be the exact road that you’re going along through your script, but it could show you different avenues you want to take or it could spur new ideas. I would just overall say scripting is just such an integral part to any process of creation because then you just know where you’re going.

Drew Farber:
Something I should’ve mentioned I didn’t was this technique called “stop downs.” What a stop down is is when you’re going and you’re chugging along in your piece and then all of a sudden, the music cuts out and that’s to avert your attention to something, so you could just be moving along and it’s a stop down.

Drew Farber:
For a horror movie, that means we’re going to play out this, this scary moment and something’s going to pop out at you, or in an action trailer, we’re moving along and we stop down, all the music cuts out, and now we’re just going to play out this one scene or we’re going to clearly hear this one character’s line of dialogue to really highlight this moment, this piece of dialogue or whatever it is you just want to revert your attention to. Yeah, stop down is crucial.

Dane Golden:
That’s a good tip.

Renee Teeley:
Is that basically the technique of …? I know this happens a lot in horror movies, where you know something is coming and it builds up that tension and anticipation and then finally, something pops out even though you’re expecting it, the fact that you were expecting it even makes it more scary.

Drew Farber:
Yeah, well, horror is the most… Using sound… Imagine watching a horror movie and not having any sound, it wouldn’t be scary at all because there’s no building of anticipation. I’ve actually done that before. I think it was one of The Conjuring movies. We got it before they added any score and it’s pretty much just people walking around a house and then something walks by them or a door shuts and it’s not even scary because that music is what builds the anticipation, it gets your heart rate going, and then when it stops, you’re like, “Oh, something’s coming,” and then it does come, but it keeps you on your toes.

Renee Teeley:
Yeah. Man, that’s great. One last thing around horror movies. For Halloween, I ended up going to a comedy theater to watch the original Halloween from the ’70s.

Drew Farber:
Oh, awesome.

Renee Teeley:
It was basically the movie playing and then comedians doing commentary over the top of it.

Drew Farber:
That’s so fun.

Renee Teeley:
It was so good because it wasn’t scary at all. You’ve got comedians talking over it, but it was so interesting.

Drew Farber:
Yeah, that probably, it takes you out of the movie a little bit and you’re watching people watch a movie, but that’s such a good idea. That’s super fun.

Renee Teeley:
It’s like Mystery Science Theater 3000 but for scary movies, yeah.

Drew Farber:
That’s so awesome. Yeah, that would be a good one to do that with. Yeah, horror movies in general, I feel like that’s just an awesome thing to do with them.

Dane Golden:
Fantastic. Drew Farber, how can people find out more about you and what you’re up to?

Drew Farber:
You can definitely visit my LinkedIn page, which I try to keep up-to-date with most of the work that I’m currently doing. That’s pretty much it. I try to stay pretty tight with all my work and just keep it in one spot.

Dane Golden:
Excellent. Thank you, Drew Farber.

Drew Farber:
Dan and Renee, thank you so much for having me on. This was a blast.

Dane Golden:
My name is Dane Golden and my cohost, she’s R-E-N double E, T double E T double E-L-E-Y, Renee Teeley. We want to thank you, the listener, for joining us today, don’t we, Renee?

Renee Teeley:
Yes, absolutely. We hope that you love this podcast just as much as we do.

Dane Golden:
I want to thank you and invite you to review us on Apple Podcasts or the app you’re using right now. If you could just take one second and just click that Share button on the app you’re listening to right now, share this to Twitter or Facebook with a friend, let them know we are offering great information, that they should watch us on the Video Marketing Value podcast.

Dane Golden:
Renee and I do this podcast and our various other YouTube videos, speaking engagements, and all the other projects because we love helping businesses and marketers just like you do YouTube and video marketing better. Thanks to our special guest, Drew Farber. Until next week, here’s to helping you help your customers through video.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Scroll to Top