Trailers have long been an integral part of promoting and creating buzz for major feature films in Hollywood. But what about short films, which have limited budgets and niche audiences? Do short filmmakers create trailers just like their big-budget counterparts?
The short answer is yes, short films do have trailers. While lower profile than blockbuster movie trailers, short film trailers serve an important role in the independent filmmaking world for generating interest in festival submissions, competitions, and potential crowdfunding campaigns.
In this article, we’ll discuss the purpose of short film trailers, how they differ from standard coming attraction previews, where they are distributed, and tips for creating an effective trailer even with a small budget.
The Purpose of Short Film Trailers
Short films run anywhere from 2 minutes to 40 minutes in length. With less runtime to work with compared to the average 90+ minute feature, short films succeed through masterful storytelling that immediately immerses the audience.
In many cases, film festival attendees or judges will decide which short films to watch based solely on a short teaser or preview. This is where a short film trailer comes in handy.
A strong short film trailer:
- Generates interest and intrigue ahead of the premiere or festival screening. Viewers are hooked and want to see more.
- Gives audiences a sneak peek into the story, tone, characters, and style without giving away all the details.
- Allows the short film to stand out when being considered for film festivals, contests, or other events like Sundance Film Festival, Short of the Week, and Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.
- Helps market independent short films with small production budgets and limited resources for promotion. Filmmakers can pitch their work.
- Can be used as part of a crowdfunding or grant application to showcase the potential of the short film.
Many short films are passion projects by student filmmakers or independent directors looking to showcase their creativity and storytelling ability in hopes of being discovered. With runtimes shorter than a TV episode, short films rely on concise, gripping trailers to capture the audiences’ imagination right away.
Short Film Trailers vs. Feature Film Trailers
While accomplished short films can captivate viewers in just minutes, feature film trailers market movies ranging from 90 minutes to over 3 hours long. This significant difference in runtime means short film trailers adopt a different approach to previewing the movie.
- Short film trailers tend to be 1-2 minutes maximum. Some teaser trailers are only 30 seconds. This keeps the audience wanting more.
- Feature film trailers are generally 2 1⁄2 to 3 minutes to showcase the broad story arc, main characters, and production scale given the longer runtime.
- Short film trailers hone in on the specific style, emotion, or message of the concept rather than laying out a complex plot.
- Feature film trailers highlight the entire story journey, often outlining the main narrative beats from start to climax.
- Trailers for indie shorts are often made by the filmmakers themselves on modest equipment. The priority is conveying the heart of the film’s idea.
- Big studio budgets allow feature film trailers to showcase top-tier video and audio production quality as a preview of the full experience.
- Short film trailers take a more artistic, symbolic approach meant to intrigue and hint at the film as a whole.
- Feature trailers use hard-hitting sales messaging, dramatic narration, and popular music to market the film like a big commercial product.
- Short film trailers premiere along with festival and contest submissions to impress judges and potential press.
- Feature film trailers follow strategic media plans leading up to premiere night, often many months in advance.
While short films have smaller budgets, their trailers speak to the inspiring creativity that comes through constraints. Rather than comprehensive previews, short film trailers serve as artistic, symbolic invitations into the worlds they’ve created.
Where Short Film Trailers Are Seen
Unlike the big-screen theatrical release of Hollywood previews, short film trailers have a targeted distribution fitting their more indie status. Here are some of the main outlets:
Film Festival Submissions
Most short filmmakers focus on entering major film festivals like Sundance, South by Southwest, Tribeca, and others. The trailers become a key component of their submission packages to immediately showcase their work.
YouTube and Social Media
Uploading the trailer on YouTube and promoting it across social media platforms is a standard way to distribute the preview. This allows filmmakers to build buzz especially if the trailer goes viral.
Film Website and Press Kits
The short film trailer adds compelling visual content to the film’s official website and electronic press kit used when contacting industry press.
A slick short film trailer helps filmmakers demonstrate the potential of their project when trying to crowdfund production costs through sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter.
For filmmakers building an audience, adding the trailer to email newsletters and outreach helps drum up anticipation.
Short film trailers cater to niche groups of indie film lovers, festival judges, and industry professionals rather than mass worldwide movie marketing. Targeted digital distribution allows them to efficiently reach their intended viewers.
Tips for Creating an Effective Short Film Trailer
While short in length, effective short film trailers require thoughtful planning and execution. Here are some tips for indie filmmakers looking to produce a compelling trailer on a tight budget:
Hook with a Memorable Moment
Identify an intriguing, surprising, or emotionally resonant scene from your short film that immediately hooks viewers while representing the broader story. This could be a dramatic line of dialogue, a striking visual, or an unusual event.
Showcase the Visuals
Even without expensive CGI, focus on highlighting the compelling cinematography, color palettes, locations, costumes, props, or other visual elements that set the mood and genre.
Pick the Right Music
Music is key for setting tone and pacing. Look for an instrumental track or soundtrack selection that matches the emotional spirit of your short film. Avoid anything too cheesy or distracting.
Tease the Story Without Spoilers
Provide just enough story context and character motivations to pique interest without giving away plot twists or surprises better saved for the full viewing. Leave audiences wanting more.
The trailer should flow seamlessly using brisk editing that accentuates excitement. Avoid Amateur Jump cuts between clips. Transition B-roll can link disparate scenes.
Add Clear Titles and Branding
Insert polished opening and closing title cards identifying the short film’s name, director(s), and producers. End with release details prompting viewers to follow for premiere updates.
Have a Call to Action
Motivate audiences to remember your film by including links to your website, social profiles, or mailing list. You want viewers to take action beyond just watching the trailer.
By combining an intriguing story tease with high-quality sound and editing, short film trailers showcase a movie’s potential in just 60-120 seconds. Focus on your unique storytelling angle rather than trying to mimic full marketing campaigns. Festival audiences want to experience something new in those precious minutes.
With platforms like YouTube providing easy access for posting, short film trailers now have endless digital distribution opportunities that early indie filmmakers lacked. As with the films themselves, passion and creativity drive memorable short film trailers more than big budgets.
Do Short Films have Trailers?
While short films operate on much smaller budgets and promotional capacity than feature films, a well-cut trailer remains an invaluable part of standing out to niche audiences.
In just minutes, an artistic and evocative short film trailer can capture the compelling vision of the filmmakers seeking to make a splash in the indie scene.
For festivals, contests, potential producers, or crowdfunding campaigns, an effective trailer may be the first step to getting short films the visibility they deserve.
While not as mainstream as big studio marketing, short film trailers help talented directors introduce their cinematic worlds and voices to audiences looking for the next creative breakthrough. Constrained to just 1-2 minutes, they demand focused storytelling and editing skills.
The next time you watch a breathtaking or boundary-pushing short film, remember the brief but impactful trailer that likely first piqued your interest.
In an increasingly crowded digital media landscape, short film trailers draw in audiences seeking to be moved, challenged, and inspired by emerging filmmakers with sequences as brief as single snapshots.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long are trailers for short films?
Trailers for short films are usually 1-2 minutes long. Some very short teaser trailers can be 30 seconds. This keeps them concise and intriguing.
What does a short film include?
A short film includes all the components of a standard film like characters, plot, conflict, resolution, etc. but condensed into a much shorter runtime of typically 2-40 minutes.
What is a short movie trailer called?
A short movie trailer may be referred to as a short film trailer, preview, promo, teaser trailer, or festival trailer. There is no definitive term.
What should be included in a short film trailer?
A short film trailer should include visually striking shots, key dialogue, music that sets the tone, the title and credits, a compelling moment to hook interest, and relevant festival/release details.
How long is a normal short film?
The average short film length is around 10-20 minutes. Very short films can be 2-5 minutes, while longer short films approach 30-40 minutes max. Generally under an hour is considered a short.
How long is the average short film?
The typical short film averages between 10-30 minutes long. Most film festivals have categories for shorts under 15 minutes, under 30 minutes, etc.
Does a short film need a plot?
Yes, even with a limited runtime, a short film needs some narrative and plot structure including a setup, conflict, and resolution. It follows traditional storytelling basics in a condensed form.
What is the minimum for a short film?
The absolute minimum length for a film to be considered short is around 2-3 minutes. 1-5 minute shorts with a simple story or joke are sometimes called “one-gag films.”
How many scenes should a short film have?
Most short films have at least 3-5 distinct scenes to establish characters and settings. 10 or more shorter scenes can work for very condensed storytelling under 15 minutes.