Attention spans are getting shorter. The Golden Trailer Awards are getting longer.
“We always prided ourselves at corking it at 70 minutes,” says Evelyn Brady-Watters, who with her sister, Monica Brady, invented the show 16 years ago and, ever since, have just let it balloon. “We’re probably up to 80 or 90 minutes by now,” Brady-Watters said, with no small degree of mock regret.
Scheduled for May 6 at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills with actor-comedian T.J. Miller (“Silicon Valley”) as emcee, the GTs will honor a field that has not only become more and more a focus of pop-cultural attention and social-media discussion but also, as a consequence, more fraught with peril.
“With great franchises comes great responsibility,” says AV Squad’s Seth Gaven, acknowledging his debt to Spider-Man and noting the finer points of making trailers for something as hotly anticipated as “Game of Thrones” or “Furious 7” — just two of the campaigns that have led AV to 26 noms in 19 categories (including several where it competes with itself).
“With each successive movie, the ante’s been upped dramatically,” Gaven says of “Furious 7.” “How do you get around the familiar aspects of the other movies, and how do you show the things in the new movie that push it beyond the previous films? You want people to say, ‘Wow I gotta see that.’ ”
And if you have a film that’s utterly unfamiliar, in style, technique or subject matter? “Birdman” was an unconventional movie by almost any standard. That needed to be reflected in the teaser.
“It starts with a 30-second long shot of Michael Keaton backstage in the theater — a lifetime in trailer world,” says Mark Woollen of Mark Woollen & Associates, another multi-nominee. “What we were trying to do is introduce the kind of filmmaking, and the character, by having him come out of the shadows and dark hallways and imply he’s making a comeback, like a fighter coming into the ring. We did a montage from there to suggest different parts of the film, the drama, the magic realism, which ends with another extended take, 20 seconds-plus, with this ridiculous fight between Keaton and Ed Norton in his underwear.”
Woollen did “Boyhood,” which needed its own fine-tuning; likewise “Gone Girl,” which had secrets “we wanted to preserve for the audience,” Woollen says. “So we were really working with the first hour of the film, working up the basic premise, introduction of the characters but never revealing what actually happens. It was that way through the entire campaign. We were able to hold the line.
“And it’s amazing in 2015 that you can hold anything back.”
Such is the plight of the trailer-makers who get immediate, not always favorable feedback from their critics about giving away too much or not enough. Trailer-makers’ work, once disposable, can now be viewed forever.
It’s an era of tentpole trailers.
“And there’s probably a misconception that those are easier to cut,” says Nick Temple of Wild Card, which produced the “Jurassic World” trailer and has five noms, including for action (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”). “You certainly have equity in the titles, but because they’re such huge films, the expectations are so great. So when you deal with a film people feel they’re already familiar with, like the ‘Jurassic’ franchise, you have to raise the bar each time.”
Temple says while his company works on a lot of franchises (“Jurassic,” “X-Men,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Transformers”) sometimes it’s all about timing — Chris Pratt coming off “Guardians of the Galaxy” and landing in “Jurassic World,” for instance. He’s almost the first thing you see. Him and the raptors, anyway.
Other films pose other problems, such as “American Sniper,” whose successful campaign was a balancing act about war movie/family saga/character study, not to mention a subject for the op-ed pages.
“It was one of those perfect storms,” Temple says, “where there’s obviously an incredible marketing job going on from top to bottom and a great film, an interesting story and, again, timing — people obviously just wanted to see it.”
The Golden Trailers folk will give out 76 awards (there were no entries in certain of the 82 categories) among them a couple of new ones. “We have a TV category added, best teaser/trailer for a TV series or miniseries,” says Brady-Watters. “When you see the fare out there, whether it’s ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Game of Thrones,’ the Netflix and Amazon stuff, they’re coming to the industry to cut their trailers. We have had so many requests for that, and it’s a very worthy category.”
Ultimately, only 19 awards will be given out during the show itself, though.
“Leave them wanting more,’ says Monica Brady. “That’s the whole premise of the trailer to begin with.”