When you're just beginning your film project, as I am, what's in order is the creation of a trailer that will help you raise funds, help you communicate the idea of your film before there is anything yet to see. We call this version a "fundraising trailer". They are tricky to make, and if done right, it will make people who see it say, "I really want to see this film." And it will make potential donors, you hope, open their check books to begin the flow of cash, to build the momentum of the project.
You should know at this point how much money you need to raise. I break it down into stages or phases. Right now, I am in the Development/Research phase, and I've calculated $40,000 is needed to get me through this phase. $40,000???? For what!!! Yeah, you can expect that reaction when you throw that kind of number out. The reality of filmmaking and fundraising is that you self-fund what you can until the money flows, and that is built into my $40,000 R&D expenses. You find pro-bono help, you find deferred payment help, you put it on a credit card. You still want to quantify it, because you may be able to later when there is money raised to pay yourself back and to pay the others who have been helping you as favors for now. (In case you are wondering, the $40,000 includes the need for research trips, a grant writer, an editor, a camera person, and paying myself.)
People, in general, have absolutely no idea what it costs to make a film, and that's a conundrum for all filmmakers. It's part of the education that you have to do to remove the shock and open their hearts to a worthy cause. This right here will kill a lot of projects, scare a lot of filmmakers -- especially the first time ones. They will either be stopped because they don't know how to "sell" their idea, or won't have the passion or the "insanity" to go forward "whatever it takes". Yes, I say insanity, because you really have to be a little insane to do these "high wire acts". You have to be a risk-taker, you must through caution to the wind, have an iron will, and the kind of strong faith that believes it can move mountains. As I tell my film students when I have the occasion to teach, filmmaking is about obstacles, one after another, and getting past them no matter what so you can finish.
Back to making a trailer. So I have now spent 6 weeks creating my trailer. It started off needed to be a 7 minute one, and has now ended up 15 minutes long! It's been an exercise in the economy of storytelling. After the 15 min. version was almost done, I decided to craft a teaser, a 90 second version of the trailer. It was something to put up on Facebook, to send out on Twitter and LinkedIn, to hopefully gain some attention from people who have been seeing and reading my updates but perhaps haven't got a clue what I am trying to do.
The challenge was to find the premise, or the nugget -- the logline, some call it in Hollywood, or the elevator pitch -- i.e., if you had the good fortune to catch a movie mogul in an elevator and had only 30 secs. to tell him your film's story or premise, could you do it. And so, in Hollywood, these loglines are carried around in the minds of screenwriters ready for that elevator door to open to a mogul.
Many times I've tried out "loglines" for this film. Many versions came. Understanding your film's story comes in waves, or is like trying on hats to see which on fits. As I worked on the 15 minute trailer, the ideas behind the film began to crystallize. And one morning, the log "rolled" out as I rolled out of bed. And I got up and went to my computer, still in my PJ's, and began to craft the 90 sec tease. It took me the whole day, but by late evening, I had it. And it's proven to be quite effective in capturing some promising reactions to those who have previewed it: "Wow!" "I want to see more!" "I'm intrigued!" and even "...an hors d'oeurve....yes making people want to stay for dinner".
Still tweaking the 90 sec, and will post it when I am done for your feedback. The 15 min. version will be posted here soon.