How to cut a Movie Trailer that sells

trailer Jan 12, 2021

Do most filmmakers get it wrong?

Is your trailer an after thought and once you have shot the film you then decide that you need a trailer because that is what you do.

Have you really considered what a movie trailer actually does?

As a filmmaker you tell a story and many cut a trailer that tells the same story that is in the trailer and after watching the trailer you realise that you now know the story and understand that all the best bits have been condensed into the 2 min trailer, so then you only watch the film if it has an actor you really like, but here is the key. You may not be a big Hollywood producer, so chances are most people wont know anyone in your film if you are independent.

What your trailer actually does is to sell the movie to sales agent, distributors and the audience. It is a sales tool and not designed to tell the whole story but to get people interested into watching the movie.

It is as sales pitch so treat it like that and know your market. Yes the story is important to you but the reality is that no one else cares like you do so you are selling a product to someone and asking them for money and for one and a half hours of their precious time in their life. So you have to convince them that it will be worth their time and money.

Having said that there are several steps you can make sure you have done to educate yourself and to make sure you have the best trailer you can have.

STEP 1: Find at least 5 popular films that are similar to your film. Try to find films that have a similar story, and appeal to a similar audience. Make sure when you select these films they have had success in a financial sense in the box office and other sales channels.

STEP 2: Find these movie trailers via video services or directly on distributors page etc.

STEP 3: Take time to break it down scene by scene and shot by shot.

How long is the trailer?

How many scenes is in the trailer?

What is the run time of each scene?

What is happening in each scene?

What are the music cues?

A quick hack to copy a successful trailer is to download the trailer and place it in your trailer timeline and then find similar shots and scenes that you can replace from the original trailer. This will result in you having a very similar style of trailer but it will contain your films content.


Now you have your template covered you can delete the original trailer and can cut and tighten your trailer so that it appeals to your audience and market. Tell the story enough to hook the audience in but not enough to tell the whole story.


This step most people skip.

Upload your trailer as a private link and send it to test audience and ask them for honest feedback. Send it to professionals but also to people who you know like the type of film you have made.

Take their feedback on and even if you disagree with what they are saying they may have very good points. remember they don't know what is going on in your film like you do and if they are having a problem with the trailer then so will everyone else.

Re-edit and refine until you have a solid trailer.


Now you have a solid trailer it is time to find a sales agent and distributor. Keep your trailer private and don't make it public because a good distributor will have a proven plan for release and your public sharing of the trailer may interfere with their process. I know you want to share it with the world because of the time and effort you have spent on this movie of yours, but you also want commercial and creative success because that is what will give you the opportunity to make more films in the future. It is a business and successful filmmakers understand this.

If you found this useful and want more education and support in your film career then we have your back at


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