AWFJ’s recently published opinion poll about movie trailers attracted so much attention, we decided to follow up with an interview with Evelyn Brady-Watters–who, along with her sister Monica Brady, created the Golden Trailer Awards.
Nine years ago, after realizing that audiences were paying attention to movie trailers as a distinct form of entertainment, the Brady ladies set about building an event to honor worthy trailers as art.
The Golden Trailer Awards. airing Memorial Day (May 26) on MyNetworkTV (8-10pm), has a huge industry following and moviegoer fan base. The show has actually spawned a new career for the Bradys, who’ve left producing commercials to ride the wave of this short form artistic expression, which has become a major trend.
Speaking for the pair–actually, they tend to finish each others‘ sentences anyway–Evelyn recalls that they’ve always loved to watch movie trailers, but their current focus on them was born of necessity.
“We were going to produce a movie based on an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, and we needed to make a great trailer to help sell the project. When we went looking for an editor, we quickly found out that movie trailer editors are anonymous, not credited,” says Brady.
“We tried to find a movie trailer awards, so we could pick out who was editing the best trailers, but there were no awards. So, we went to Harvey Weinstein and Steve Wooley for recommendations for editors. Harvey commented that trailer awards would make a good show and Steven said he’d like to be a judge. We thought it was too good an idea to pass up, so we said we’d produce it. Then Quentin Tarantino liked the idea and said he wanted to be a judge. So, we had a good start right out of the gate, with a lot of industry support–I mean, the studios made submission right away and that’s how we began.
MERIN: But your quick acceptance by the studios and success with audiences indicates you really identified a niche trend. Why was this such a good idea? Why did it click so quickly?
BRADY: Because of the importance movie trailers have in pop
culture today. Short form content suits us–especially the younger generations. We’re geared to ‘give it to me now‘ in snip its, clip its, and something that’s fast. It’s a tie that binds.
Movie trailers are an art in their own right. People like to watch and discuss them–even more than the movies themselves. People no longer ask if you’ve seen a movie, they’ll ask if you’ve seen the trailer for it. It’s no longer “Have you seen “No Country for Old Men?,” it’s have you seen the trailer for “No Country for Old Men?” Or have you seen the Trailer for “Batman?” Or what trailer have you seen and which is the best? Over lunch, or while they’re getting their hair cut.
MERIN: Do they discuss the quality of the trailer itself or what it indicates about the quality of the movie?
BRADY: Trailers open up all sorts of discussions. They lead in all sorts of directions.
MERIN: What makes a good trailer?
BRADY: To me, it hooks you in, it teases, it whets your appetite with images and music, and leaves you hanging. It doesn’t give away the third act, but leaves you wanting more. That’s the essence of a good trailer for me, but Monica always considers great music, the quick pacing of cuts and beautiful graphics that, she says, gives her a that gut wrenching emotional feeling that hooks her.
MERIN: Is there a special art to editing trailers?
BRADY: Absolutely. And it’s evolved. If you look at trailers from 20 years ago, they’re simplistic: the graphics and titles basically introduce you to the stars and say come see this movie. When you watch trailers from the 90s, you see that those for films like “Rosemary’s Baby” were not done by editors from the studios, but by people from the advertising world who know how to get you, to hook you quickly. Their trailers are faster, they’re all about a story, they get you to the second act and they’re exciting, they use the best music.
When our show started in 1999, “The Matrix” had just come out. Talk about a great trailer! Faster cuts than you’ve ever seen before, great graphics, great music, great story. Now, trailers are getting even shorter. Initially, the MPAA limited them to two minutes and 40 seconds, but now editors are making them even shorter than that, just on their own. They don’t want to lose their audiences, who expect that after two and a half minutes–or less–there’s going to be more to watch in the theaters.
MERIN: Does the Internet have something to do with that?
BRADY: Yes, absolutely, and TV. You’ll see a lot of trailers on TV that are cut to 30 seconds because air time is so expensive and they know that, hey, it‘s a Will Smith movie and everyone‘s going to see it, so let‘s just run the 30 second trailer. So there‘s lots of change. And a lot of decentralization in the people who’re editing. Making trailers has become a very specialized industry made up of trailer houses large and small–it’s no longer in the studios. If trailers weren’t an art form in their own right, they would still be cut inside the studios. But studio marketers know their value and want the pros. They call in the specialists.
MERIN: What’s the difference between a trailer and a product commercial?
BRADY: Of course there are similarities, but trailers have to give you hints–at least some part of the arc of the film’s story. Commercials are more linear–usually about big logo, and better product placement. Yeah, there’re clever commercials with quick set ups and punch lines, but trailers are more complicated with a lot of levels–trying to introduce characters who you are interested in and want to see more of, like Hitch, because Will Smith’s so funny or you want to see Kevin James because he’s such a likeable sidekick.
MERIN: How do you define the differences?
BRADY: Length, obviously, ‘cause you can’t have more than two minutes on TV with the prices the networks charge for air time. And, people choose to get to movie theaters in time to watch the trailers, but they don’t voluntarily see commercials. We realized that on the Internet, where trailers have really become content unto themselves–people go to see them in huge numbers.
MERIN: Do you have a favorite trailer?
BRADY: I do…but it changes with my mood and different times in my life. But one trailer I really love is “Requiem for a Dream”–I mean specifically the Moby one. It’s beautiful. And the “Garden State” teaser and trailer. One that I like a lot–but will go on record to say I didn’t like the movie–was “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” That trailer is so beautiful, but I got out of the movie and said they just should have put the trailer back to back and run it 90 minutes and I would have been happier.
MERIN: That’s an issue, isn‘t it–a great trailer that lures you into a movie that‘s just no good? A trailer is a promise, isn’t it?
MERIN: And sometimes they lie…
BRADY: (Laughs) We have an award for that–the Golden Fleece, the best trailer for the worst movie. That‘s really what you’re describing. In terms of trailers as art, we think that’s actually an accomplishment. But it’s true that an audience might feel a little gypped.
But is a trailer really a promise, or is it like someone selling you a car–putting the best face on it? Or sometimes it can just be hint, and you might read the hint the wrong way.
MERIN: Do you have an award for the most honest trailer?
BRADY: (Laughs) Well, yes, in a way–the Trashiest Trailer award for the most campy. This year it was for “Drive Thru” from Lionsgate. Last year, “Black Sheep,” from the Australian movie, won and it’s hilarious. John Waters does well in this category, too. People gun for the Trashiest Trailer award ‘cause it’s the most fun–and people love it. Also, when editors are given a real stinker of a movie, their job is to make the best of it–not to show it‘s a stinker. That a real art.
MERIN: Who actually makes decisions about what’s in trailers?
BRADY: The editors. They’re great short storytellers.
MERIN: Do they script the trailers, or how do they work?
BRADY: I think they’re very visual people who think in images, as opposed to writing copy. They pinpoint what elements of the film will make good components for the trailer and assemble them.
MERIN: Do trailers for documentaries–more of which are being released theatrically these days–require a different sensibility, different techniques?
BRADY: I think they’re harder to do because you don’t have that story and star power…
MERIN: That’s not exactly true, because in a documentary the issue often becomes the star, if you will.
BRADY: That’s true…but editors have to define the issue before it becomes the star, and to reveal it more substantially than just the dropping of a name or showing the image of a famous face.
MERIN: You’ve mentioned the importance of images in trailer making, but are audio elements equally important.
BRADY: I think images are most important, but you can’t overlook the auditory–and nobody does. For example, I’ve noticed that editors reuse the same music in trailers, and it’s often music that people associate with other movies or things they like. Or sounds–like Francis Ford Coppola is famous for using the same sounds over and over again in his films–and in the trailers for them.
MERIN: What are some audio elements they’re using time and again?
BRADY: The music that was written for “Requiem for a Dream,” actually. It goes (she sings) dun, dun, dun, dun, dun–dun dun dun dun dun and has a smooshy sound that I can‘t mimic. It’s like a wipe sound, and it’s probably called Wipe One. But you hear it over and over again. It was used in the “Lord of the Rings” trailer, it was used in “I Am Legend”–with different orchestras doing it, different ways of synthesizing it. But it’s the same music. I hear it a lot.
MERIN: To what extent is sound manipulated in trailers–with the use of subsonic vibrations, for example, which are prevalent in feature film soundscapes?
BRADY: Well, one thing they do is raise the volume for trailers in general, and they bump it up on certain moments in the trailers to get your attention. But I’m not sure about the use of subsonic sound.
MERIN: The Golden Trailer Awards come at an odd time in the year, quite apart from other awards presentations? Why?
BRADY: We’re actually our own year. We follow the season when trailers are cut, which would be at least six months in advance of the movie’s release. So we’re very current. We might even premiere certain trailers. That will become more important now that we’re a network show and have public participation in the nominating process.
MERIN: Has the Golden Trailer Awards evolved into full time job for you and Monica?
BRADY: Yes, but it took a lot of persistence for us to make a career of our short attention spans. Movie trailers are ideal for people with short attention spans. In fact, the Wall Street Journal call us “the Academy Awards for the short attention span.”
Monica and I joke that in off season we should hire ourselves out as A-D-D consultants. When we were producing commercials, we learned to juggle a lot of tasks at the same time and to focus with laser precision on a problem that needs solving. That‘s what producers do. With the Golden Trailer Awards, we watch thousands of movie trailers that last from five seconds to two minutes. That requires a short attention span agility.
MERIN: Do you think women have an edge in producing?
BRADY: Yes, definitely. Because women have an innate ability to juggle many tasks at once, without being bothered by it. I don’t think men function quite the same way. Women definitely make the better, stronger producers. You see this in most films.
MERIN: That’s a strong statement. But bring it on!
BRADY: Yeah. And with strong male producers, you’ll probably find somewhere on the credits that there’s a woman–with a lesser title. Like Lynda Obst, and Kathleen Kennedy and other great women producers. Obst and Kennedy have both been Golden Trailer Awards judges, along with Penny Marshall and other women. We feel it’s important to have women on the judges panel.
To read what AWFJ members have to say about movie trailers, please see our opinion poll.