There’s been quite a bit of discussion regarding a trailer for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, specifically, whether or not one exists, has been seen by a human, and/or will be officially released anytime soon. I got involved in that conversation not necessarily because I had some inside information but because I’ve had quite a bit of experience with clips and trailers as a film journalist.
A number of people suggested I post some facts about trailers and the process of making them public. First, what I’ll say here is general information, not necessarily regarding an Eclipse trailer or Summit’s intentions. Towards the end, I’ll get into some of the specifics about Eclipse. This article is not intended to be an all-encompassing tutorial about movie trailers — just a few facts worth noting.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding clips and trailers. Perhaps there used to be — after all, there was no such thing as YouTube before February 2005 — but today anything goes. Time frames and delivery methods (Internet, theaters, television, official sites, IMDb, etc.) are basically left up to the producers and/or distributors. Notice that I won’t be using absolutes here — I rarely (see that?) use words like “never,” “always,” etc. Instead, you’ll see me say “usually,” “occasionally,” etc. There are always (remember, I said I “rarely” use these words, not “never”) exceptions to industry practices.
“Clips” (bits of film footage) are available as soon as the first scenes are shot. They are usually under a minute and can be as short as 20 seconds or even less, and normally don’t have titles or voiceover. Theoretically, filmmakers can post clips of a film the day shooting begins. I’ve seen it happen. Short videos can be posted, either officially or through leaks (that’s another story), at any time during or after the production starts. It’s pretty common among indies, especially, which may not have a distributor and need all the attention they can get.
“Teaser trailers” are usually longer than clips but shorter than official theatrical trailers. They are typically under two minutes, are more polished, and may have titles at the beginning and end along with a voiceover. These may also be distributed online or elsewhere during production. It’s not that difficult to take raw footage and create a teaser. If I recall correctly, there was a teaser trailer for The Dark Knight long before the film had even been completed, more than a year before its release. It’s not uncommon.
“Theatrical trailers” are the longest ones. These are the extended trailers you see in theaters tacked onto feature films, posted on the Internet, and shown on television in 30-second chunks. In most cases you won’t see these during the production. But whether or not they officially come out during post-production or just prior to release is a decision made by the producers and distributors.
In general, those are the types of clips and trailers you see and when and where you see them. But there’s more to the story. There are companies who do nothing but create trailers. The producers and/or distributors will send footage to these production houses who will then put together the videos. This process, just like releasing clips, can begin as soon as footage is available. This can occur anytime from the moment the cameras roll until the film is released. Usually it happens as the film wraps and enters post-production.
Companies that make trailers don’t simply make one and hand it over to the producers and/or distributors for release. In general, they create multiple versions, or test trailers, which are shown to the producers and distributors. The filmmakers, various executives, and even the public may view these test trailers and help decide whether or not they should be recut or released. Focus groups may be hired, or they may be posted online for people to give feedback. Sometimes they are accidentally “leaked.” I know of one recent instance where the person who edited a trailer posted it on his own personal website to show to potential clients — “here’s some of my work.” Naturally, it got out and showed up on YouTube and elsewhere before he had a chance to (was ordered to) take it down. Other times, though, they are deliberately “leaked.” This way the producers and distributors can get reactions to the test trailers without necessarily getting the blame if they’re not up to snuff.
At some point the powers-that-be (PTB) decide it’s time to officially release a trailer to the hopefully anxious public. They may work out a deal with Apple, AOL, MSN, Yahoo, or another company to exclusively post it first. Or it might just show up on the film’s official site, YouTube, etc. This might happen within days, or weeks, or months of the film’s release. Remember, there are no set rules.
Theatrical trailers that are actually shown in theaters can appear long before a film’s release. There were plenty of trailers shown this past summer and fall for movies “coming Summer 2010” or with no date at all attached. Most of the time these tend to be the big budget tentpole films (blockbusters) and franchises like Harry Potter. But I’ve seen trailers in theaters for smaller, independent films long before release. There are companies who package the trailers with the films, and the theater owners themselves often have a say in what trailers are shown with what movies. It is not necessarily the case that a feature film will have a trailer attached to it from the same studio. When I saw Paranormal Activity it had seven trailers attached to it, all for horror films. This package was genre-driven, not studio-driven.
Those are some general rules. For the fans who are eager to know whether or not an Eclipse trailer exists and when it will be released (or if one has already been seen), you can take everything I posted above and apply it to this film. In addition, the existence of such a trailer depends on your definition of “exists.” Is there a trailer that is complete, has been approved by Summit, and is about to show up somewhere officially? I can’t say, and director David Slade recently said that he doesn’t know. Is there a trailer which has been completed? Probably. Remember what I said about test trailers. There could have been multiple trailers produced over the past few months for the PTB to approve. So, to answer the question, does an Eclipse trailer exist? Probably. Has it been seen? Probably. Has it been seen publicly? Not that I’m aware. Is it about to be officially released? I can’t say and the director doesn’t know. So that’s where it stands.
An official trailer can be released at any time. Could it happen tomorrow? I doubt it. The industry shuts down at this time of year. Offices are closed. Nothing happens in this business between Christmas and New Year’s unless someone dies. But anything is possible. After the New Year is more likely. There has been speculation that Summit would hold off on showing it in theaters until March, attaching it to Remember Me, their next scheduled release. That would seem to make sense, on the face of it, but it’s hard for me to imagine that the fans who go to see Remember Me because the film has Robert Pattinson in it wouldn’t be going to see Eclipse anyway. If I worked for Summit I’d rather try and expand the audience by showing the trailer with films that attract a different demographic. Remember, trailers aren’t necessarily attached to films from the same distributor. Some say it’s too early to exhibit a trailer for a film that won’t be in theaters until late June. But remember, it could be days, weeks, months, or even a year or more between the time a trailer is shown and the film’s release. Those rules don’t exist anymore. I can’t imagine fan frenzy peaking too soon. The idea that a trailer now would hurt the film seems unlikely to me.
Personally, I’d like to see one sooner rather than later. In some cases there is such a thing as burnout when a film has too much hype too soon. But this is the Twiverse, and things work differently here.
Thanks to Larry Richman for trying to clear this up for us.