Story Idea Development

The Screenwriter’s Trailer

“If it sells, it’s art.”
― Frank Lloyd Wright

If you want to get your movie noticed, you need an eye-catching trailer.

“Hey, wait for a second. I don’t have a movie yet. All I have is a concept on a piece of paper. How can I possibly make the trailer!?” says, the Voice in Your Head

Yes, that’s the whole point. Once you have written the High Concept of your movie in 25 words or less, you need to take the idea to the next level by creating a Screenwriter’s Trailer.

“The Screenwriter’s Trailer? Haven’t heard of it before!”

I bet you haven’t! Because it’s an ideation tool developed by Yours Truly after 20 years of experience as a writer, and exhaustive research into movie trailers that succeed or fail to generate a buzz with the audience.

“All right. Now how do we go about writing this Screenwriter’s Trailer?”

Here’s how to go about writing your Idea Development Trailer:


  1. Hook People Immediately with a great line of dialogue, an unexpected jolt or a wonderful piece of music.
  2. Use the Five Senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, touch), and use their visual counterparts on the screen.
  3. Use the Four Elements – Earth, Fire, Water and Wind. Make your protagonist lick the dust, stand in the rain or fight the wind, or you may burn a house etc.
  4. Explore the Heights, Lengths, Breaths & Depths: put your protagonist on top of a mountain; trap him inside a narrow tunnel, chase him off in the middle of a desert or drown him in the ocean.
  5. Uniquely Familiar: say something original or show an actor in a totally new light or darkness that shocks or amuses the audience so much that they can’t seem to wait for the movie to release next month.

“Cool. Any examples, please?”


(not an exhaustive list)

  1. Action: 300
  2. Adventure: Life of Pie
  3. Comedy: The Hangover
  4. Crime: Silence of the Lambs
  5. Drama: The Shawshank Redemption
  6. Neo-Noir: Pulp Fiction
  7. Love Story: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  8. Sci-Fi: Inception
  9. Super-hero: The Dark Knight
  10. Thriller: Fight Club

“A great trailer is its own mini-story.”

John Long – Hollywood trailer hack  

The first advertisement of your movie is the trailer. If it can sell tickets at the box office for one straight week, the second advertisement comes into play: word of mouth—which is called publicity, and always comes free of cost.

“Sometimes, a trailer looks great, but the movie sucks. I hope we’re not headed in that direction!”

Quite the opposite. Our primary purpose of writing the trailer before writing the actual screenplay is aimed at including all the ‘right elements of entertainment’ in our film.

Because you are free to include in your trailer as many ‘gems’ as your imagination allows you at this moment. Then you get down to writing the screenplay, and put those jewels one by one in the crown.

Chances are when you have written an eye-catching trailer, you will be amazed to see some new faces, hear new voices, touch new themes, and feel new emotions. Bingo! Embrace the change, and revise your first storyline in light of the new discoveries. Because, if it sells. It’s art!

Keep in mind, though, there is no right or wrong way to write your trailer. You can write in bullets, or even use still images, and make a slideshow with captions if you will. However, you must attempt this only after you have written a (High Concept) Logline of your story in 25 words or less. (See: High Concept)

Task 1
Write a trailer for your pre-approved high concept movie. Let your imagination run wild at this early stage.

Task 2
Revise your storyline plus your 25-word logline in case you made important discoveries in your trailer.

Have fun!

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