Discovering the Art of Creating Trailers: A Conversation with Giaronomo Productions’ Paul Cartlich
Paul Cartlich is an award winning Trailer Editor & Producer. Having carved a name for himself at one of London’s top agencies – Empire Design. 2012 saw him transfer to their New York office to head up the editing team, creating high profile television campaigns for shows such as The Walking Dead (Comic-Con trailers seasons 1,5 & 6) Breaking Bad, Mad Men and theatrical trailers including Kick-Ass, Louder Than Bombs and the critically acclaimed Rust and Bone.
He is the recipient of several major industry awards including a Golden Trailer Award (Frost-Nixon) and a Key art Award (The Counsellor), Paul is currently at Giaronomo Productions in New York as a Senior Creative Editor.
The Fan Carpet had the pleasure of speaking with Paul Cartlich, who has created Trailers for Rust and Bone, Frost/ Nixon, Filth, I Am Not a Serial Killer and Louder Than Bombs, he tells us about his process making Trailers, the importance of Trailers and the challenges making a Trailer…
Trailers are important to the promotion of a film, what was it that first inspired you to work in the film industry, specifically the Trailer side of things?
I’ve always been mildly obsessed with film, but music was my way in.
I’ve been buying records since I was 14 and I studied music and technology at university in Leeds. I dabbled as a DJ but was always interested in using music in a more creative way and I found myself paying particular attention to what tracks were being used in trailers, and how they enhanced them. I realized that could be the way to combine two of my passions for a living. I got my start at a post production company in Leeds and then made a beeline for the best trailer houses in London. I was lucky enough to work initially as a junior editor at Empire Design in London and then later headed up their creative editing team over in New York. Others would argue that I have a short attention span and that’s why I was drawn to such short form story telling.
Why do you feel Trailers are important?
First impressions are everything. I know it’s a cliché, but you really don’t ever get a second chance to make a first impression. We often remember the first time we met someone, but can’t recall the second or third, so it’s that first hit that counts. You’ve got 2 and half minutes (and some people will decide faster than that) to compel your viewer to see the movie. And with the explosion of trailers online in the last 10 years, it’s become even more important to sell your film in the first hit.
When I started out in the trailer industry 11 years ago, trailers were very much all about viewing them in the cinema where you had a captive audience – popcorn in hand – ready to see a film. Viewers were already in the right frame of mind and for that moment the trailer was the event. Now in the online trailer world, you’re competing with a totally different and more savvy audience with distractions from other devices, colleagues and Internet content so you have to make sure your trailer stands out from the crowd.
There are a lot of myths about Trailers, some Trailers make a film look better than it is, some Trailers are bad but the film is really good, can you talk about the process when cutting a Trailer?
One myth about trailers is that the editor of the film, edits the trailer when he’s finished with the film, sort of like a little extra task, but editing a feature and being a trailer editor, whilst sharing many necessary components, require a very different skill set. Sometimes we’re working on a trailer before the final film exists. The people and logistics involved in getting a trailer to competition is a mini production in itself. And as for bad trailers for good films and good trailers for bad films, it’s like any creative endeavor. No one ever sets out to make a bad film, or a bad trailer. But yes, some films are a challenge. When I have a film that’s a challenge, I always focus on the merits of the material, sometimes the Cinematography is stunning or a particular actor is on fire, so I always try to showcase the best features of any film I’m working on.
Some films that perhaps aren’t classics have just enough fantastic moments or scenes and end up really lending themselves to short form.
Sometimes it can actually be rewarding working on a film that has obstacles and challenges as you have to come up with ways to get around this.
What are the challenges when creating one?
The challenge for me is simply to make the best trailer I can within the parameters of the brief and to be happy and proud of it.
Films come to us in many shapes and sizes so it’s hard to generalize, as no trailer is the same. For example we could get delivered a finished graded film to work from, or we could be delivered footage as the film is still being shot and we have to get a junior editor to assemble the feature to a script as and when the footage comes in whilst we cut a trailer. Generally this would be for a teaser trailer usually a year or so before the film is released. These kinds of jobs are the most challenging but more often than not these are the bigger blockbusters that come in this form, which are pretty exciting to work on. As a film nerd I always relish these kinds of jobs.
Is there a set of rules for each Trailer made or does it depend on the project?
There are some general rules; most trailers are divided in to three acts and there is usually a moment of jeopardy and that applies pretty much across the board, whether it’s comedy, horror or drama. With some trailers you’re not allowed to reveal certain plot lines or there are embargoes on particular shots or story lines, which in itself dictates where you can go with your piece. . In some huge campaigns that have multiple trailers, you reveal different story arcs in each trailer so it’s a sequential thing over three or four trailers.
After a particularly successful campaign you’ll often get a brief that says we want a “such and such” trailer, as it’s a formula that’s worked, so studios are keen to recreate it. That’s tricky, as part of the reason something works is because it’s a set of special elements that came together at the right time and simply doing a paint by numbers trailer based on previous success of a different film rarely works. It’s never a one size fits all solution, which is part of the challenge and a huge part of the joy.
What do you look for when creating a Trailer and what was one of your favourite Trailers to cut, and why?
I like to know what music I’m using before I start cutting and it’s the first thing I think about when I start on a project. I even go so far as laying music down on my timeline before I’ve started cutting and creating a rough sound bed before laying down any dialogue. It helps me to formulate a structure and work out what musical and dramatic beats I need and when to change music.
Some editors are different and lay out their dialogue structure before adding music but I can’t do that. The cue might change many times due to budget issues/client choices or realising myself that that cue isn’t right, but it’s just the way I start a cut. But everyone is different!
One of my favourite trailers I ever cut was for a French film called Rust and Bone back in 2012. This was because I found this amazing song by M83 before M83 became popular in the trailer world. The client didn’t want any French dialogue, which meant the music, was even more important and the song managed to convey exactly the right mood and tone that I wanted for such a beautiful and heartbreaking film.
In terms of what I’m looking for when I first get a film, I suppose it’s incredible shots or perfect lines. Also, that “moment” or scene in a film that can be used as the turning point, or even as the opening to the trailer. A “moment” that embodies the whole film. Every film has it and when I see it, I know it just has to go in the trailer.
Would you ever consider doing something else in the industry?
Initially I was desperate to do long form, especially documentaries, but now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I am too immersed in this world. The trailer industry is such a niche and fascinating market and I have to say I love being a part of it. I have a half dream of completing the screenplay that I’ve had sitting on my desktop for the last five years, but I just had my first baby so I now spend any spare time blowing raspberries or changing nappies. I think the screenplay might have to wait a little longer.
What do you feel are the most common mistakes when it comes to trailers?
That’s an interesting one as trends are shifting all of the time and what is classed as a ‘mistake’ one day often becomes a new trend the next. For me personally though a consistent no no is editing against or off the musical beat. If the music and story aren’t working together, you’re making life hard for your audience and then you’ve lost them. Another mistake that it’s easy to make is to overload a trailer with lots of action shots just because they’re exciting. They are exciting but you need to tell your audience enough of the story for them to understand what they’re coming to see.
I’m a big believer in trailers making sense. I know this might sound obvious, but sometimes trailers can be confusing by again being overloaded with action or copy cards instead of basic exposition or a crucial scene or that “moment” I always look for.
What are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?
Unfortunately due to the high level of security that surrounds unreleased films, I can’t say what I’m currently working on, but I have just cut trailers for indie films – I Am Not a Serial Killer and Louder Than Bombs and also a TV Spot for Jason Bourne.