Dispensing kudos ranging from drama to Trashiest Trailer, the 13th Golden Trailer Awards, taking place today at the Rhino House in Bel-Air, honor a sector of the industry that is, in a growing number of circles, achieving its own rock-star status.
Decided by eight to 15 judges plucked from across showbiz, the contest whittles down the past year’s trailers, with one two-minute spot taking home the Best in Show title.
The Golden Trailers, wrapped in an effusive Hollywood package of comedian presenters, are a departure from other marketing awards. Where the Effies judge marketing effectiveness, the Golden Trailers hew solely to those glimmering flashes before the feature presentation, judging the trailers on a nebulous mix of evocation and innovation.
“We don’t say look for this or look for that,” says showrunner Monica Brady, who produces the awards with her sister, Evelyn Brady-Watters. “Judging is something that we leave to a great extent up to each individual’s own criteria. The trailers that rise to the top in each of the categories will be judged differently.”
The Bradys cast a wide net to assemble the judges, who rank their favorite trailers in each category to determine the ultimate winner. Decisions are based on individual tastes, with judges sometimes placing more weight on certain elements, like music or editing, depending on their background.
“It’s relative. So is what I consider the best trailer the best trailer for you? Maybe not, but if 15 judges can decide which is the best trailer then chances are they hit a percentage that is pretty high,” says 2011 judge Axel Niehaus, executive director at the Haus Intl., an artist-driven music house for advertising.
Last year Mark Woollen and Associates took home Best in Show for “The Social Network Trailer No. 2.” Distinguishing itself with a haunting choral cover of Radiohead’s “Creep,” the trailer carried an emotional resonance and became the keystone to a marketing campaign that convinced those who had written off “the Facebook movie” to take another look.
“I hope (the judges) are looking at the art and the craft involved,” says Woollen. “What we’re trying to do in our work is evoke an emotion and a sense of must-see. We are trying to come at it with a fresh perspective.”
“The Social Network” went on to win three Oscars, including adapted screenplay for Aaron Sorkin, and noms for best picture and director, though it’s not typical for Oscar contenders to win big at the Golden Trailers. A combination of summer blockbusters and critical favorites have won the top prize in the dozen years since the competition’s inception, with trailers for “The Dark Knight” (2008), “Mission: Impossible III” (2006), “About Schmidt” (2003) and “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2002) among Best in Show recipients.
Great films don’t necessarily make great trailers, and it’s the industry schlock that often emerges at the awards. For those trailers houses forced to put lipstick on the ugliest of cinematic pigs there is the Golden Fleece — the award for best trailer, worst film.
“It is easier to make a trailer for a really good movie and a movie that is ultimately going to have commercial success. Sometimes when you don’t have the material it pushes you to do groundbreaking stuff and that gets recognized,” says Jeff Lamont, co-owner and creative director at Mojo, which took 2007’s Best in Show for “300.”
Though one exec was adamant that trailer kudos never lead to more business, Lamont says the 2007 win got Mojo looks from studios it hadn’t worked with previously.
“You do get calls for other people; sometimes right away, sometimes over the course of the year,” says Lamont. “The campaign was successful but because it was a breakthrough movie I got some work. People would call and say do the ‘300’ campaign, which holds for everybody.”