The art of the crafting a movie trailer has recently become a science. Every smash cut, cliffhanger, fade to black, and fancy shot of an actor’s name has been reduced to a formula that seemingly every studio follows.
The New York Times adds a new wrinkle to that analysis by splitting apart trailers for this year’s Best Picture-nominated films based on when its scenes appear in the movie. A basic formula seems to exist: follow the movie chronologically to introduce the characters and plot, then end with a series of quick cuts through the middle and end to show the major action. With some variance, Silver Linings Playbook and Beasts of the Southern Wild follow this outline fairly closely.
Then there’s ones like Lincoln and Amour that skip around wildly with seemingly no attention to the film’s timeline. Stephen Garrett, a trailer producer that the Times interviewed, suggests that these trailers focus less on the plot than the tone of the movie. They don’t need to follow the plot order if they’re just suggesting a mood.
It’s interesting to see how filmmakers choose to portray their works. Argo is about a story. Amour is about a feeling.