The business of cutting a long story short

Sravanthi Challapalli | Updated on January 25, 2018

Sneak peek Slick trailers reveal just enough to whet viewers’appetites and hint at what is likely to unfold on screen.

Shots from the official preview of Bahubali 2

Trailers have evolved. Specialists make them, they are much awaited, TV shows and web series have them, and they get their own reviews

In an age of instant gratification, there is little occasion for breathless anticipation. Whipping up excitement around something is the way to create and sustain interest, especially in showbiz where the shelf life of movies has diminished vastly compared to a decade ago and more. Depending on the budget, the build-up ranges from glitzy audio launches and premieres to trailer launches, first-look unveilings, meet-the-stars events, song-making and on-set videos and teasers on social media.

The trailer of Breathe, a trilingual show on Amazon Prime Video starring film star Madhavan, scheduled to release today on Amazon Prime Video, got over 6 million views in 12 hours after its launch last week. The trailer of 2017 blockbuster Bahubali: The Conclusion, reportedly got over 50 million views in 24 hours on YouTube and Facebook. Shah Rukh Khan starrer Raees got over 10.5 million views in the first 20 hours. Ram Gopal Varma’s Telugu web series Kadapa’s official trailer has garnered over three million views in a month on YouTube.

Why they are important

Trailers create as much frenzy as the actual show itself: They are discussed across media traditional and digital, so is the pace at which they accumulate hits, get their own reviews, fan versions, spoofs and fakes. Search for them, and you’ll even stumble upon foreigners reviewing Indian trailers. cat.a.lyst spoke to a few specialists to explore why they have become such a phenomenon.

Chinni Nihalani, Founder and Creative Director at Promoshop, a creative outfit that designs audio-visual campaigns for the entertainment industry, says the shrunken lifespan of movies is the prime reason trailers have assumed such importance. “It’s more about what the opening day numbers are, the impact the trailer can create. It sets the bar for the business the movie can do.” PromoShop has worked on trailers for Irrfan Khan-starrer Qarib Qarib Single, Tu Hai Mera Sunday, The Lunchbox and Zindagi Na Milegi Do Bara, to name a few.

There are even advertisements in newspapers for trailer launches, observes Sahil Kajale, Creative Editor at Warriors Touch, whose Facebook page says ‘we make the promos that make you buy a ticket for the movies’. Outsourcing is not really a new trend, according to him. What’s new is that it has become more organised, with trailer makers having agencies and companies. “So now they are called visual promotion specialists. The department is becoming more recognised and respected.”

On an average, a Bollywood movie has one teaser and one trailer or just a trailer, says Siddharth Pande, Chief Editor at Pentacle Creationz, a visual promotions firm. These firms also work on teasers, song and dialogue promos.

Crafting a preview

Trailers have to strike a fine balance between the information revealed and reserved. They should not give away too much, but uncover just enough to pique curiosity and propel people to the theatres. “The trailer has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. It has to have flow,” says Kajale, who worked on the trailers for Saif Ali Khan starrer Baazaar and serial killer-thriller Raman Raghav 2.0 directed by Anurag Kashyap. In the case of Baazaar, the producers took Warriors Touch on board right from the beginning, shooting specifically for the trailer.

Today’s market demands that trailers be outsourced, unlike in the old days when film-makers did the job themselves. According to PromoShop’s Nihalani, a film’s editor has much to do during the post-production process, and a trailer has its own importance. Further, an editor is too close to the film. An outsider can offer new perspective. “Sometimes, the film-makers are surprised we saw something in the movie they did not,” says Kajale. Moreover, a trailer is a short version, and is an ad for a film, and special skills are needed for that, he adds.

In many movies, the plot is broadly ‘love, opposition to love, or an ex-lover, a fight, and happily ever after’. “What we do is present a simple story in such a way that people want to see it,” says Pande of Pentacle Creationz, who believes there is no formula to cut a trailer. There are a hundred ways to show action or love. “For Bang Bang! (the 2014 Hrithik Roshan film), we opened the trailer with sound effects to make it interesting.” It’s crucial to start with something gripping to hold attention, he explains. His firm is working on movies such as Aiyaary, Love Sonia, Gold and Bhavesh Joshi that cover a range of subjects. “People wait to see a trailer, whether they see the movie or not,” notes Kajale.

Abroad, there are the Golden Trailer awards but none in India. Movie enthusiast, 78-year-old VAK Ranga Rao, who has worked in the film field for a while, is dissatisfied with the quality of today’s trailers. “They show 20 different scenes of five seconds each, which is no better than showing stills. They do not allow me to get into the film,” he says. He would like them the other way round – five scenes lasting for 15-20 seconds each. Kajale of Warriors Touch says air time expenses often dictate a trailer’s style. Paid spots range from spans of 15 seconds to one minute. “Shorter spots allow the film-makers to put in more content, maybe not effective content, but it helps in hammering and making sure your film is visible more often.” As for a blitz of scenes in a single trailer, he adds that it depends on the tone of the film. Trailers can be chunky, playing out longer scenes, or fast, with 5-second cuts, he says.

Competition and undercutting

Though the market for trailers is growing, fees have not gone up in the last several years, says an editor who does not want to be named. Even basic inflation isn’t covered. There is always someone willing to do the job for a lesser amount of money — but badly. In such cases, the producers often end up doing a lot of the work themselves. In India, trailers can cost around ₹15-25 lakh apiece, but can go higher. Hollywood trailers are produced at five times this cost.

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Published on January 25, 2018
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