The trail to making a new trailer.
When the editor who was going to cut my film THOMAS CHAPIN, NIGHT BIRD SONG and its next trailer dropped out of the project, I knew it would probably fall on me to cut the new trailer myself.
Cutting it myself was not a problem; I had cut many trailers. The problem was I had never succeeded in creating a trailer for this film under 13 minutes. There seemed to me to be so much story to tell. But I was going to have to try!
I remember pondering for weeks how I was going to accomplish this seemingly impossible task. One night, I decided to Google "how to make a great film trailer."
Up popped a blog by a marketing woman who was writing about exactly that! Inside her blog was the name of a "trailer specialist" who taught workshops on this very thing to documentary filmmakers. CLICK and I was at his website www.billwoolery.com.
As I read through his website, not only was I impressed by his credenitials -- trailer creator for some of my favorite Hollywood films, such as E.T., Usual Suspects and Unbearable Lightness of Beings -- but his prices were documentary-friendly. I could actually afford his help!
So I sent off to Bill my existing materials -- my sample of archival footage, a sample of my newly shot Hi-Def footage, my three existing trailers, and some notes about the film and its themes and ideas.
When I heard back from him, he had looked it all over and decided he wanted to help me. He loved my idea, he liked Thomas Chapin a lot, he thought my HD footage was GORGEOUS, and though he was not a jazz fan, he wanted to cut a trailer with music at its center. So we agreed on a price and were off and running.
ABOUT THE PROCESS
I sent Bill an external hard drive with the following:
-- the three trailers, minus their music beds and on-screen titles. He only wanted the visuals and audio so he could use them to craft the new trailer.
-- the photo stills, the video materials, and the music used in these three trailers.
-- a list of key Ideas for my film
-- new HD footage of interviewees that were important to the film, but also important to show what our new footage looked like. I had selected for Bill the new "bites" that I felt were critical to include in this new trailer.
It would have to be 6 mins in length. It was to have energy and excitement. It had to WOW. He would delivery up to four versions, tweaking and finessing as we went along.
We started on September 12. He in Los Angeles, me in New York City, working together via Vimeo.com, an online site for video producers where he could post versions for me to view. The deadline was Oct. 25.
BACK AND FORTH
For Version 1, I let Bill absorb all that I sent him. I wanted to see his take on my story. We talked a lot in this phase, making sure he got my thoughts and I heard his. We both knew the first version would be almost like a shot in the dark, trying to guess what I would like and what might work. I felt I wanted to see what he would do with my material, not tell him what to do as if he were only a pair of hands. No, this was a man who had done this for a very long time and was coming to this with skill and excellence. I had to let him show his stuff. Result? He nailed it on some things and fell short on other things. But I was confident after seeing that cut that we were off to a great start!
And so we kept tweaking and finessing. I was sure that with each version we were getting close to a WOW trailer. And as he continued, there were many exchanges of this visual for that, many additions of this instead of that bite, and making sure the music was working right.
By Version 3, I was feeling we were close to getting it right. For him what was missing was an emotional high point; for me what was missing was a powerfully convincing ending clearly stating the reason to fund me. These two fixes would set the trailer on solid ground.
To create an emotional high point, I suggested we insert footage of Thomas's last performance where he gets up and plays just days before he passed away. Exchanging B & W photos of the event for video footage was the right call. The power of moving images! It's interesting how the emotional energy of the footage just zaps you and moves you to feelings those still photos just couldn't do as well.
The fix for the ending took a couple of tries. I provided him with more interview quotes to use as summary statements strung together about why Thomas was should be remembered and why the film was important. Latching on to the idea that this was an unfinished story, according to writer Larry Blumenthal whose statement ends the trailer, we felt we had hit the nail on the head. We finally had a strong ending.
By Version 7, we had everything fixed, adjusted, and as Bill said, the trailer now contained all the needed content for a funder to grasp what I wanted to do in my documentary. The trailer came in just under 6 mins. And we were both very happy with our collaboration. Bill paid me the nicest compliment: "You are my most organized client." And I said, "For your more than fair price, I wanted to make sure you didn't have to work at getting everything ready for you to do your part."
We finished before our deadline, and had a very pleasing collaboration, and created a WOW!
The new trailer will be posted on this website's home page in the very near future. Come back to view it.