Book pitches. Movie trailers. They serve the same purpose: to introduce the book or movie in the most attractive way possible. Thus, creating a trailer or pitch revolves around finding the most attractive view.
I’m not going to try a how-to-write-pitches post, because I have seldom done it, and never well. However, I enjoy seeing trailers and pitches and comparing them to the full-length production. I have something to say about them.
The other day, I saw Star Trek: Into Darkness in the theater. It was amazing, and was my first time seeing Eggs Benedict Cookie-batch (Benedict Cumberbatch) in action– but that isn’t the point. Needless to say, it was prefixed by decades of previews of movies to come. One of them was for the movie World War Z. As you can probably guess, the trailer is a little bit violent, so click on the link if you want to see it.
Is the movie worth watching? No, I don’t think so. The trailer, however, is worth studying.
We see here a classic action movie, dystopian, portrayed as emotional yet explosive– and of course, as a Brad Pitt masterpiece. Barely a third of the trailer isn’t taken up with his face, and that third is packed with explosions. We see Brad Pitt as a loving father trying to get back to his family.
That’s about it.
What are they trying to showcase? What, to them, is the most attractive feature of this film?
Brad Pitt, saying, “I need answers!”
Personally, I’m not sold. I thought the premise was rather good, though– there seemed to be a lot of mayhem and madness about the world. I’m curious: what actually happened? Who are they talking about defeating? What is going on? The trailer doesn’t say.
For comparison, consider Partials, a very similarly-pitched book (without Brad Pitt) that I was sold on. The back says, “’When our ancestors were attacked at Pearl Harbor, they called it a day that would live in infamy. The day the Partials attacked us with the RM Virus will not live in anything, because there will be none of us left to remember it.’ -President David R. Cregan, March 21, 2065, in a press conference at the White House. Three hours later he hanged himself.” (Via GoodReads.)
This is, in itself, a pitch. A very good one. It does the same thing as the World War Z trailer, but better: it shows mayhem and hopelessness, but instead of focusing on its main character/star actor, it focuses on the enemy. World War Z: who is the enemy? No idea. Partials: who is the enemy? The Partials, with the RM Virus.
In this case, the author thought the mayhem and enemy were more important than the main character, and he was right. In World War Z, the most important part is Brad Pitt and mayhem– to them, an infallible combination.
The movie I was going to see, Star Trek: Into Darkness, has a very distinctive trailer. It too has quite a bit of violence, but it’s worth studying as well.
What is this trailer trying to showcase? What is its most attractive feature?
By far, its Star Trek-ness. Star Trek has an enormous fan base, an enormous world– the universe is its world, and you can’t get better than that unless you do multiple universes (I won’t even mention Fringe). Its biggest feature, its most attractive feature, is that it is Star Trek. The trailer shows colored shirts, star ships, phasers, Kirk, Scotty, Spock, and of course, Khan.
Second to that, however, they are showcasing the story. You watch it and get the sense that everything is falling apart. Falling off cliffs multiple times; prophesying doom upon all who serve under Captain Kirk; and explosions. Lots of explosions.
This is important to the producers. Perhaps they could have given a detailed explanation of what Captain Kirk wants, with a few close-ups of him saying things like “I want answers”, as they did for Brad Pitt. But Captain Kirk isn’t important to the film. The story and the setting are important.
Considering that Brad Pitt is one of the most important things in World War Z, I doubt it will be much to see. I thought the same of Oblivion, wherein they showed close-ups of Tom Cruise looking determined, which was obviously most important to them, more important than what happened to humankind.
Remember: this isn’t a how-to post. It’s just noticing something very important about what’s important. But if you’re looking for a trailer or pitch to write, just keep in mind what’s most attractive about the story.