Filmmaking Blog Posts by Indie Film Factory

Your teaser trailer could look like a Hollywood blockbuster

The one thing you can learn from Hollywood is how to make an amazing teaser trailer.

The industry has it dialed in. In fact, movie teaser trailers have become so well-crafted, that people will line up for hours and pay to watch a movie just to see the release of a new trailer.  (i.e. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc)

In today’s post, I talk about this process and how you can emulate Hollywood’s success with some basic editing points for your teaser trailer.

But before I begin, I want to show you two movie teaser trailers from my last two features, using this beat edit method.

Each of these were crafted using the template that I’m about to share with you. And although both of these movies here are science-fiction thrillers, you could still use the following template for comedies, dramas, action films, and even children’s movies!

The information is pretty universal. In some cases, instead of a big action sequence, you could replace that beat with a big joke, or an emotional explosion from one of your characters. 

By using this template, you not only save yourself time, but create a presentation that can rival any mega million dollar production.

Teaser Trailer Beat Sheet

(Timing in Seconds)

0-.5:  Audience warning or MPAA rating card. This section is optional, but helps the viewer determine if its appropriate or not for them to  continue watching.

.05- .14: Company logos or production company headers. These should also be placed over some type of audio to draw the audience into the next image.

.14-.17: Director slate. This is typically the “directed by credit”.

.17-.21: Establishing shot #1. This should be wide shot and should give the audience a sense of location or setting. Hopefully, it’s something that can draw the audience into the story.

.21-.24: Establishing shot #2. This shot backs up the previous shot.

.24: The first hit. This is basically something that should come suddenly, abruptly and without warning. If it’s a thriller, it could be accompanied by some type of sound effect. Think of it as a string snapping right in the middle of a beautiful violin solo!

.25-.26: Establishing shot #3. Another shot to establish more of the world.

.26-.28: Characters searching, trying to do something. This should be a shot that showcases the main characters and their primary challenge

.28-.32: The push-in shot to the close up. This should be some type of a tracking shot that pulls into a character’s reaction. This gives the audience a little bit of information without telling the whole story. It also helps convey the characters emotional state

.32: The second hit. This zinger is a bigger hit than the first one. It should be some type of a big surprise for the audience. Maybe a car accident, or attack. It could even be a slap from an angry lover, or someone telling a really funny joke.

.33: Straight to black. This gives a beat break between the first set up, and introduces the audience to the new world of the second act. Think of it as a transition into the next segment of the trailer into.

.33-.34: Establishing Shot #4. Fade out from the black and into a new establishing shot. This sets up the new world for the character in the story.

.34: The third hit. Once again, another surprising jolt for the audience. It may not be as scary as the second hit, but it should be something that puts an exclamation point on the subject matter. Once again, it could be the delivery of another funny one-liner, or another set back for the protagonist. It could simply be a zombie looking toward the camera!

.35-.36: Plot clues #1 and #2. You should drop two breadcrumbs for the audience. This should explain what the theme of the film is.

.36-.37: Action sequence. This will be the first real action sequence you show. This could be people running from the monster, or two actors arguing about something.

.37-.38: The fourth hit. This is when you reveal your antagonist.

.38: The hero’s reaction to the previous hit. This is typically a reaction shot of your protagonist reacting to the building chaos.

.39: Establishing shot #5. This breaks up the previous excitement, and brings the audience back into the main plot problem.

.40: The fifth hit. Another shocking moment, or gag.

.401.41: Your main character(s) in action. This is their second attempt to solve the problem.

.41-.42 – The sixth hit. This next shot complements the previous beat. This is where the villain or antagonist strikes back, bigly!

.42-.43: The seventh hit. This backs up the previous hit, but even bigly-er!

.43: Plot clue #3. Another subtle breadcrumb that gives an indication of the plot.

.43-.44: More action in response from your heroes.

.44-.45: Big shocking action! The previous beat should be followed up with a big moment of action or shocking moment. It could also be a gag or punchline.

.45: Plot clue #4. Yeah you guessed it. Another breadcrumb, or by now, it should be a pound cake! The entire plot is revealed.

.46-.46: Another big reaction from your main character. This shot could be in form of a scream, a laugh, or some type of physical action that expresses the character’s frustration.

.46-.47: The bad guy wins. This should be a takedown of one of the good guys. The bad guy should win on this beat.

.48-.52: Title slam #1. Ask the audience a question, or give them something to read. This is were you show the audience a text clue and how good your typography skills are. This could be something in the effect of “who will survive?” Or, “can two lovers find common ground?”

.52: Another big reaction from your main character.

.53: Plot Clue #5. The fifth clue regarding the plot, but this time taking a different direction.

.53-.56: Plot clue #6. The sixth clue should be a little bit more expansive on the previous beat. For example, Just when you thought the movie was about a killer shark, you realize here that that’s only part of the problem. This could be in form of dialogue, or a conversation between two characters establishing their challenge for the audience. It could also be an action sequence if the movie involves stunts.

.56-.57: Title Slam #2. Another text clue or question, reinforcing the previous plot clue.

.57-.58: Plot Clue #7. This clue should be the final clue, and should give the audience (if they haven’t gotten it already) an exact idea about what your movie is all about. If they haven’t figured it out by now then you haven’t done your work properly in earlier beats.

.58-1.00: The title of your film. This is literally where you tell the audience what your movie is called.

1.00-1.02: Your last chance to make a big hit. Think of this is the last explosion of the teaser trailer. There should be a big thrill, joke, or action moment that sends the audience out with some excitement!

1.02-1.05: Credits. These are typically stacked titles that showcase the director again, and some of the key production folks associated with the project. It’s also a great opportunity for you to put your website or social media handles. There should be some type of call to action following this last beat.

By following these this basic beat structure, you can dramatically improve your teaser trailer and give your movie the best marketing tool possible. I hope it helps.

That’s all for now. Make Movies!


Kelly Schwarze is an Emmy © Nominated filmmaker who has written directed and produced 6 feature films, dozens of music vides and commercials, and has owned successful media companies in Las Vegas. 

Kelly also does one-on-one consulting for filmmakers. Click here for more details.

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