The Art of the Trailer Edit

Admit it…we all love to watch the trailers before a feature film in the theater. We look forward to seeing what’s new at the movies, and the more exciting and compelling, the better. We used to call them “coming attractions.” When a trailer edit is at its best, it makes us want to go see the movie it’s promoting; if it doesn’t work, there will most certainly be repercussions at the box office or streaming platform. 

What’s the trailer edit all about? 

For us in the screening room, the trailer edit is all about a great sound design. Tracks that stick in our gut and make us jump when it’s not expected. But when you cut great sonic style, which obviously includes music, against compelling imagery, dialogue, and maybe some star power, then we’re in. And if it works on us, it will probably work on you too. 

We certainly don’t mean to overlook the work of the writer/producer in the overall scheme – they are crucial to the process, but that’s not the point. 

The picture editing may be the first thing that pulls us in. With years of film directing experience on the D6 team, we understand this better than most, but as the world of production and post-production evolved, and as the equipment got better and easier to use, the things an editor can do early in the process increased: visual effects, multi-track sound mixing, graphic design, and more. Now, what leaves the cutter’s machine is often closer to the final concept than ever before, and it will inform the people in the chain as to what they need to do…from Foley to ADR, mix to pix and so on. The power of a great editor is undeniable. 

The editor, working in a dimly lit room, sometimes alone, screens and logs the raw footage and starts the process of creating the message. We of course work closely with the trailer edit team to tell them what we want, that’s the way it usually works, but a top trailer team will almost surely take that ball and move it toward the goal in a way that is best for the marketing objective. And it’s still got to be fun, cool, and persuasive. 

After all, it’s about entertainment. 

Trailers and promos are little pieces of art that often can stand-alone. That’s why so many great trailers tease a movie that may not be as good as the promotion. That is the first goal of the trailer…it is an invitation to get you in the tent. It’s the job of the movie’s quality to keep you there. 

In the TV and now the OTT world, we call them promos. They must do the same thing: engage the audience, excite them, and hopefully, they will change the viewer’s behavior…namely, watch that title, on that channel, at that time, on that day…not some other drivel. 

So, the next time we watch a great trailer or promo, let’s think of it as art, albeit art with a very distinct message…to watch what it’s promoting. 


Frank J. Radice is an Emmy winning Journalist, Producer/Director, Musician, Author, and Media/Marketing Executive. He is the managing partner of the consulting firm, VIDA F.R. Co. in NYC, and London, and the Expert in Residence, Vixen Labs, in the U.K. He’s on the advisory boards of SCAD Savannah Film Festival, Digital Hollywood, The Broadway Walk of Stars, and Observatory Pictures. Frank is the former President and CMO of NATAS (The Emmy Awards), EVP the NBC Agency, a former Chair of the Promax BDA UK Conference and Awards, Expert in Residence for Definition 6, and consultant to Univision Communications, and the El Rey Network. 

As a marketing executive for more than 20 years, Frank received the TV Week “Campaign of Distinction” award, was inducted into the PROMAX/BDA Hall of Fame, and was named Brand Builder of the Year by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable. An award-winning composer, he co-created the long-running “America’s First Family” theme and is a two-time Emmy nominee for original music composition for NBC’s Today show. He is an Emmy Nominee for Best Promotional Announcement on MSNBC, and is honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for his contributions to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” 

In addition to extensive experience in advertising, promotion, and music, Frank has a lengthy background in journalism. During his 17 years with ABC News, he was honored with the Columbia University, DuPont Award, and 2 national Emmy Awards. He was a producer for “Nightline,” “Good Morning America,” “ABC World News Tonight,” and “The Last Word with Phil Donahue and Greg Jackson,” and senior producer, product development, ABC News Interactive. He was also Executive Producer, Entertainment News, for CNN, and a segment director, Entertainment Tonight. 

Frank and wife, Vida, co-wrote “Sam Katz on the Loose.” a pop-up children’s book illustrated by Charles Fazzino, and published by Random House. He can be seen regularly on the global speakers circuit, and on Substack with the “Gillmor Gang,” and his music can be heard daily on “SalonTV.” He also publishes “The Radice Files,” a daily newsletter about tech, media, politics, and culture.