- Keep shots short. Online attention span dwindles when watching video.
- Get on stage with the performers. Move around.
- Produce new plays.
- Use music. It helps instill the feeling you want your audience to have.
- Shoot in High Definition; it's cleaner, it's prettier, and looks more professional.
- Think about what the audience wants. Appeal to non-artists. (Some artists get caught up in thinking that their process-oriented goals and interests are interesting to me, the audience member. Most of the time they're not. I don't care if you're interested in the use of vertical lines and citrus fruit; what I care about is that I'm going to have fun and see myself reflected. I think most audience members view things with self-interest and in pursuit of fun and awe. Like other business, make everything about the customer.)
- Stylize. This isn't a documentary, it's a trailer. Make the trailer itself a piece of art. Frame your shots as though you were painting a picture. So have a production meeting with the director, producer, and marketing associate. Write a script; sketch a storyboard. Added bonus: making sure you know exactly what they want, means you don't need to edit more than once.
- Produce new plays.
- Withhold. Don't show a whole scene; Show bits of lots of scenes. Focus more on the feeling and less on the plot.
- Set aside time to shoot the trailer separate from the director's rehearsal time. This is good, too, cause once you've had your preliminary meeting with the producer, director and know what they want, then you can take full control of the actors for the allotted time you have to shoot. They will be more focused on what you need from them for the camera; you can get multiple takes; you can place the talent in space. The trailer will look more organized, more in focus, more produced.
- Keep the trailer around 2:30.
- Avoid voiceovers; unless you're going for cheese.
- H.264. This is a kick ass codec that keeps video looking sweet and crisp without taking up a ton of space (or time with uploading).
- Use H.264 and use Vimeo PRO. Vimeo PRO allows you a 5GB upload limit per week; this is a lot. One minute of HD footage is approximately 1GB of hard drive space. But with H.264, you can compress 2:30 of really sweet and crisp looking HD footage into roughly 600MB. This is faster for upload and gives you the option and space to post a series of trailers and teasers. These are fun to make and can be fun to watch. And Vimeo also offers a few more formatting options for embedding than youtube; plus, Vimeo's site is less congested looking than YouTube.
- Produce new plays.
As a video artist and theater artist, I am excited by the emergence of video trailers as way of promoting a company's new work. Not only does this mean more work and opportunity for me, but also it means more new work for the community to see.
New work needs video promotion because, unlike Macbeth, we have no idea what it looks or sounds like. The greater theater audience doesn't know about Jon Ferguson's Super Monkey or what Mixed Blood's production of Ruined is about, because they're new. They're not Shakespeare. They're not Lloyd Webber.
I mention Super Monkey and Ruined because these are two particular productions that benefitted highly from video promotion. I can personally attest--and I'm being 100% honest--that if it weren't for the Super Monkey trailer, I wouldn't have gone to see the show. It worked for me, and it worked for at least some of the other 2,443 people who watched it on YouTube.
Full disclosure: I shot and edited the trailer for Ruined. I use this work as an example not because I think I'm Mr. Awesome Trailer Man, but because it worked effectively. Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer helped. Mixed Blood's name also helped. Its ticket sales were—from what I've been told—exceptional, but I also have a hard time believing that the trailer's 1,100+ views didn't have something to do with that.
So, there it is: Video trailers help sell tickets. These are some Do's and Don't that I came up with; like most artists, I am very good at being opinionated but do not think that I've got it all right. Feel free to add/edit this list! What else has worked (or not worked) in your experience?