How to make a trailer for a screenplay that hasn’t been filmed

After shooting the initial part of my Kickstarter video, my friend and fellow screenwriter Kelly Anelons watched it and remarked on why I wasn’t showing what the movie could be. She brought up the old adage about “show it. don’t tell it” which is sacrosanct for screenwriters – at least it’s supposed to be.

So how do you show a movie that hasn’t been filmed?

Let me back up.  My initial idea for the video was simple. Shoot page one of my script.

To give you an idea of page one, well here it is:



A trembling hand reaches out and turns a faucet.

Water flows over callused hands. They pull up and splash water on an unshaven face.

JOHN COLLINS, 20s. Chiseled. In the mirror, his dark eyes meet his own.

He clenches a Polaroid photo, and stares at it.

He withdraws a nine millimeter pistol; loads the magazine and chambers a round.


Startled – John points the gun at the door.

We’ll be outside.

The gun lingers in the air.


Poker table. Empty bottles of beer on the bar.

The rising sun casts light around the front door. John clenches the gun tightly.

He marches to the front door. His hand reaches out, grabs the door handle.

He raises the pistol as he turns the knob – the door opens – the morning light blasts into the room.


John’s finger wraps around the trigger.

The screen fades to white as gunshots ring out.


So that’s page one. I like page one. I think it totally sets the tone for the film. There’s a guy in the bathroom. He’s looking at a photo you don’t see, and he’s loading a gun. Why is he doing any of these things?

If you care enough to form that question, than I’ve done my job on page one. Propose a question, give you a reason to turn to page two.

So to me that felt like a perfect way to to do my kickstarter video.  In fact we shot some of it, and you can see it right here.  It’s still rough, and needs a quicker edit, but for now, feel free to take a look:

Four of a Kind – Page One from Jack Marchetti on Vimeo.

After that, I give a pitch, which wasn’t very good, and consisted of a lot of rambling and word vomit and about my dreams of film making and why I’ve wanted to make this movie; all solid and needed for a Kickstarter pitch, but after watching it myself, I wouldn’t give me $5 – it just needed more.

So I thought – let’s shoot a trailer.

My camera man immediately said “if you can shoot 4-5 scenes for the trailer, you can shoot the entire thing.”  Not sure that’s possible, but I saw his point.  If you’re gonna hire actors, scout locations and shoot a trailer, just start shooting the movie. Well we weren’t there yet, so what else could we do?

My friend D. Forrest who did the story boards, as well as my friend Matches Malone are both really good artists; so I thought what if we did a moving story board, or an animatic. That seemed like a really cool idea. Well how do you make a trailer for a film that doesn’t exist?

Apparently I’m not the only one with this dilemma, as you can see from this IndieGoGo project.

So what did I do?

1. I immediately thought of all the memorable dialogue from the movie. My script is a character drama, with some action, but it’s mainly about the characters. Dialogue is what I’m best at so what were the scenes that had really cool lines? The best way to get actors interested in a project is to have them say cool things.  Matt Damon did “The Bourne Identity” almost entirely because of this scene.

2. Tell a story. Unless you’re doing a complete teaser, theatrical trailers tell you a story. Most often they tell you the entire story and there’s not much left to the imagination, but tell a story. My script is about four friends who ultimately betray each other – not necessarily on purpose. The pivotal moments are when three of them accidentally kill the others sister in a botched robbery, and the other is when one of them is ordered to murder the other three. So I worked that in there, by pulling out scenes that reveal that.

3. Less dialogue. Okay in point number one I said make sure to include cool things, however, nothing will bloat your trailer or slow it down more than lots of talking. Terse, simple, declarative phrases. My first draft of the trailer script was about 9 pages, which would’ve been about a seven minute trailer which is ridiculous. 90 seconds to 2 minutes tops. The less talking the better.

4. Music. Think about the music. This is important. Nothing will set the tone or emotion more than a song. Nine Inch Nails released Ghosts under Creative Commons. It’s 36 tracks of pure aural pleasure. Seriously, it’s fantastic. As long as you’re not using the song for a commercial purpose you’re free to use. However, keep in mind, “commercial purpose” is vague and if you use one of these trucks you’re agreeing to allow your creative work to also be used under Creative Commons. Pay it forward folks.

5. Elance is a site where you submit a job proposal and have people around the world bid on it. My first run in with Elance didn’t go so well as I had someone create a one-sheet poster for this project. They did a horrible job. What makes Elance good is that it completely protects you. If you hire someone to do the work, and they’re bad, or they don’t do it, or whatever you can modify the terms with them and not pay them, as you shouldn’t if their work is subpar. So if you can’t do the animations/editing/sound yourself, Elance isn’t a bad idea.

That about sums it up, as far as I can think of right now. An animation studio called MayoFlux is in the process of rendering backgrounds, prior to receiving portraits of the characters to use. Christina Rose has also agreed to provide voice over and her likeness for one of the female characters. You can check our her site here, or her video reel on vimeo.

I’ll post an update once the trailer is done, as well as the script I used.

## Update ##

Got the first comp from the animation company showing the “office” of the crime boss Vincent where he will order Mikey to murder his friends.

The office where Mikey is ordered to kill his friends.

Vincent's office.

One response to “How to make a trailer for a screenplay that hasn’t been filmed

  1. Pingback: A bump in the road and why using radio actors for dramatic readings doesn’t work | 4 of a Kind- The Kickstarter Campaign

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s