Supertrailers and Superteases

I’ll be spending a good part of my day today reworking a supertrailer cut, and I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned these before on the blog.

A supertrailer is the short one to three minute preview of an entire season of a show that’s used in marketing. You can often find them posted on YouTube or network websites in the weeks prior to each new season. A supertease, on the other hand, usually comes at the end of the first episode, offering a glimpse at the remainder of the season to keep viewers hooked.

Everyone does things differently, but whenever I’m asked about structure for a supertrailer or supertease, I think that rather than throwing them together as a random string of highlights, you should group content by theme. I wandered from my old formula recently and the result wasn’t quite the same.

Try structuring your supertrailers this way so you don’t end up with just a bunch of noise:

First: Interview heavy opening segment establishes the world of the series. What’s special about the cast? The location? Their situation?

Second: Big noise and action. All the great moments of conflict and powerfully visual stuff. Don’t forget all those great reaction shots!

Third: Emotionally raw content. Crying, sharing, humanizing moments that will make viewers feel for your cast. Sadness, joy, whatever — remind us again that the show isn’t just about a premise, it’s about the people who populate it.

Fourth: Big action or conflict ending with a solid interview bite or in-scene soundup that looks toward the future.

A solid supertrailer forms the foundation for a supertease. Pull out everything from episode one (since the supertease runs at the end of that episode) and fill in the missing spaces or awkward pauses with content from episodes two through the end of the run (or however far along you are in shooting). Why pull out the episode one content? Well, you’ve just seen it all go down before you get to the supertease, so it’ll lose it’s oomph.

14 thoughts on “Supertrailers and Superteases

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  1. Hi Troy, this is a great article on “supertrailers”, thank you.

    In the same realm, as a producer, what do you like for length in a “reality TV” genre sizzle reel? Seems they say 3-5 minutes on the web, but what would that ideal number be — 4 minutes, 3 mins 30 secs?

    Also, what format do you prefer — mpeg, wmv, other…on a CD, or embeded in email or html, etc?

    What is your guess or personal taste when it comes to a super “sizzle”?

    Thanks in advance,
    Brian Burke

    1. I have seen some very effective sizzles that come in at 1:30, others at 3:00 or so. Anything over that, folks tend to tune out. I had one that came it at just over ten minutes once, but it was a very special circumstance.

      Ask yourself if your sizzle conveys the concept of the show, highlights the personalities of any built-in cast or host, and most importantly makes the buyer want to see more.

    2. One more thing… as to format, most people still want to see a DVD unless you’re going to send them a clickable link (no one wants to type in your website address). There are plenty of places you can post something for password-protected review. Some swear by VIMEO.

  2. Great info. I have to say, in my screenwriting studies and webbing nobody ever mentioned sizzle reels but it’s an obviously powerful marketing tool. I’ve seen / heard of actor’s reels.

    “Ask yourself if your sizzle conveys the concept of the show, highlights the personalities of any built-in cast or host, and most importantly makes the buyer want to see more.”

    I think I can do that, my question / preoccupation is, for example, if an RTV has a “competition” format, such as “DWTS”, does it suffice to have a pro dancer talk about challenging situations and conflict that arise in the craft, or should the writer / creator have individuals act this out, as if the show already exists? I can do the latter, would take more time and expense. Of course the bottom line is I just want the concept to be well-received and understood.

    Apologies if any of this is covered in your book, arrival is scheduled for Saturday with a horse and carriage.

    1. I don’t know if sizzle reels are as common in traditional scripted television, but they’re a huge part of pitching reality.

      As far as your hypothetical about having the pro dancer talk about a dance competition format, the odd answer is “whatever works.” If that gets the idea across in an engaging and active way and is intercut with some footage of the guy/gal doing their thing, that may be all you need. If you do one that’s mostly “talking head,” keep it short as people bore easily watching those, in my experience.

  3. Such great advice, I am over the moon at having found your blog. I just ordered your book. I have an idea and want to develop it, I am slowly getting the tools. Thank you!
    Just an average Jane with a docu-reality inside her head trying to get it out.
    Dea 🙂

  4. Another q– I’m just delving into the sizzle reel, parallel to my rough one-sheet and treatment. On a budget, and a cheap laptop with Win7, and this version of Windows Movie Maker bites! In my prior XP version I could do some pretty awesome amateur stuff quickly. That sits in a stack of burnt laptops (what an industry!).

    It’s not really the time or place to go to a Mac and a version of Final Cut. With the author himself mentioning that “sometimes the production company will supply you” with the aforementioned, I think we’re on a budget from here on out (always was)! This from a guy who wrote 3 specs on Cinergy (free) and would laugh when someone said I needed Final Draft (I didn’t).

    So, anyone have good tips on freebies besides “WMM” and “Wax”?, or opinions thereof? Or, Troy, do I need to finally bite the bullet?

    Thanks in advance!–Brian

    1. Sometimes a production company will get involved with the production of your sizzle reel, yes… but you’ll have to draw some pretty strong lines about who owns the material if that sizzle gets made and they don’t get the show sold — what happens when you want to take it somewhere else but they own the sizzle reel?

      I don’t have any freebie software suggestions, but I had Adobe Premiere Elements for quite some time before I went to Final Cut on my projects and found it to be a pretty good little program (it’s a stripped down basic version of Adobe Premiere).

      1. Thanks for the tip on Adobe, Troy. I should have been more specific– if I’m compromising a pitch with a sizzle by using freebie progs rather than Final Cut, but between your answer and my recent thoughts, I’m pitching the show, not my effects or filming skills. Whereas,,,I’ll check out Adobe for sure, seems to have worked for you.

  5. As a follow up, I dl’d Adobe Premiere Elements for free, have been playing with this watermarked version, and have enjoyed the many tutorials available online. For those weighing this vs other free or low-cost programs, APE has some nice effects like color correction that you would only find in costlier versions.

  6. Troy, to recap, I want to create a “competition based” RTV series about a certain, in-trend occupation that I have extensive knowledge of. I’ve used your book and advice as a guide, My treatment went well, the sizzle reel is in post-production.

    Using the same guidelines for production and post from your book, I’m highly impressed at how things are working, all very efficiently, when I have the time. Just wanted to share what a great feeling that is, thank you.

    After editing much footage in the past few days, and going into it using your steps, I’m in a “block”, which is my fault. I feel that if I seriously want a competition RTV, the sizzle should reflect that, i.e., that it should really look like a competition. So far, my product looks like what the occupation is about, showing it in practice, which conveys the job, but not the point that I want a competition. I feel bad that it’s sort of mismatched to the treatment.

    An added fear to this– I’m afraid the sizzle will get more focus, and the treatment will be tossed aside by execs. I don’t feel the subject has the longevity or interest level needed for a docu-style RTV series… short-term it does, highly, and that’s a fear.

    I might be over-thinking, but feel there needs to be stronger continuity or connection between the treatment and three-minute sizzle reel.

    Thanks for any tip as it will surely help.

    1. I think you’re absolutely right in feeling that your sizzle needs to be closely matched to your treatment. If I order a steak and you bring me a hamburger, I won’t get it even though both are made out of the same thing. Not much advice her on how to salvage the sizzle unless you simply say “here’s an informational short on the subject if it helps to clarify.”

  7. Thanks Troy, that last line gave a much-needed laugh, just in my visualizing that moment, hehe. If they say “uhh, no thanks”, at that point, I’m really screwed, lol.

    Good to know suspicions / intuitions are confirmed, and this gives me what I really needed to hear, and I know how to go about it now, much appreciated.

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