Trailers, Tips & Tools: Editing with Music
March 22, 2023
Whenever we decide to create a series trailer (for use in our theatre, website, and social media), I’ll start by meeting with our marketing and programming leads to get some ideas about what we want to communicate and how. The theme we agreed on for the “Celluloid Dreamland: The Cinema of Guy Maddin” series trailer was that it needed a kinetic style of editing along with a bombardment of images and an excess of overlays. We wanted the audience to not only know about the series, but also about the opening night events and the early filmmaking workshop.
With editing something like this, and maybe it’s coming from my roots in making music videos, I start with music. It’s an easy template for pace and length. I’ll find a piece of music and within that, a section that has an arc that’s roughly the same time as we want the trailer to be (approximately 45–60 seconds). The music used in The Heart of the World was perfect for this piece. Fast paced and dramatic, it matched the visual style and high energy we were going for. The rising strings section make for a great climax moment.
Time constraints are great for creativity and efficiency with editing, especially with a short format piece like a trailer. Start by placing a marker at the end length you want to aim for, then add your chosen piece of music and edit the section so that it has an arc within your time constraints. If it doesn’t fit well in your timeline, edit within the music extract, ideally a place in the middle where you can seamlessly mask it with a cut. Now you should have an arc to match the clips to, which helps narrow down which ones to use. You can think of it like a puzzle, starting with the border and working your way into the centre until it comes together and looks right to you.
Picking the clips to use can take the most time, depending on how well I know the material. I want to use moments from all of the films we’ll be showing in the series, and find a throughline that connects them. Because this trailer was meant to be quick, exciting, and dreamlike (just like Guy Maddin’s films), it was relatively easy to find interesting visual moments from each film. I wanted to open with something that brought us into the dreamland and luckily Maddin had the perfect scene to use from Tales from the Gimli Hospital Redux. Once I had a cut I was happy with, I created some effects to the titles and added grain to the timeline to bring everything together stylistically.
Look for a future post on titling effects!