2020 was a year that rocked the entertainment industry to its core. With movie theaters shut down and release dates being pushed further and further into the future, there wasn't a sector of the industry that escaped unscathed—including the trailer industry, where late nights in the edit bay were suddenly replaced by Zoom calls and creative direction over Slack. Yet each week we continued to see an incredible offering of trailers and teasers—pieces that perfectly condensed complex stories into two-minute works of art.
Whether these pieces inspired our next binge-watch (in a year where binge-watching became a competitive sport) or got us excited for the day when we'll return to the magic of movie theaters, they brought much-needed distraction and artistry to this turbulent year. So, for our last trailer roundup of the year, we wanted to celebrate this special industry and highlight some of the memorable work done this year.
Who better to help us with this than the pros themselves? We asked a group of top trailer industry execs to share their favorite pieces of the year and tell us what they loved about the work. They did not disappoint, providing an excellent celebration and retrospective on some of the incredible AV work done this year. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this, and to everyone else who works to give us the phenomenal trailers we cover each week.
Take a look, and we'll see you in 2021!
Judas and the Black Messiah
Warner Bros. Pictures
Trailer Agency: Open Road
Chosen by Nick Temple
Founder/Chief Creative Officer
Wild Card Creative Group
"Crushing combination of dialogue, sound design and music brilliantly melded into one. It would have been easier to cut on every beat, but the confidence to hold on certain shots is what defines this trailer for me—summed up in two: the smile and wave from Jesse Plemons to the look of consequence from Lakeith Stanfield. Truly special."
Chosen by Alex Battershall
"Packs more energy and emotion into two minutes than most films manage in two hours. It's such a simple but effective trailer. So much is explained through looks and glances, you get the bare minimum of expository dialogue but still completely understand everything that is happening, which allows the music and chanting to capture the mood and tone perfectly."
Chosen by Lauri Brown
SVP Creative Advertising
"The start of the piece is simple, clean and pulls you in. The music is a great find. The signature musical riff is good, and overall the cue helps the story feel even more contemporary. Even though repeating a phrase or using a speech isn't new or groundbreaking, they make it particularly effective here. Nothing is trying too hard to push you in one direction. It's well done construction that lets the tension, and what looks like a great a performance, really build."
Trailer Agency: Trailer Park
Chosen by Charlotte Phillips
East Coast Creative Director
"One of those trailers where you immediately think, 'Holy crap, I wish I'd cut that.' The pitch-perfect use of music, sound design, storytelling, graphics and bonkers editorial flair all combine to create a perfect trailer which somehow makes you smile and completely unnerves you at the same time. I've fangirled over it an embarrassing number of times."
Da 5 Bloods
Trailer Agency: Mark Woollen & Associates
Chosen by Sara Korajczyk
"The piece is special to me in that it serves as a montage of three mediums: archival footage from the Vietnam War, film footage, and shots from a live performance of 'Time Has Come' by the Chambers Brothers. The manifestation of these three elements gave me a driving, full-spirited view of the story of four determined war veterans, in a way that elegantly teased the film's plot."
Trailer Agency: AV Squad
Chosen by Ron Beck
"Before the slick title treatment slams on, we hear a final bite that's so well earned, it's almost impossible not to get goosebumps, 'Me?...I'm Nobody!' The two-and-a-half-minute thrill-ride leading up to that moment is a near-perfect blend of exhilarating editorial, badass hyphens, stylistic match-cuts, an unbelievably fitting cue, and the greatest use of rhythmic sound design since Baby Driver's 'TeKillYah' trailer in 2017."
Trailer Agency: Buddha Jones
Chosen by Brent A. Hagel
Trailer Voice Artists
"Beautifully cut by the editor. Great use of ADR storytelling along with authentic Star Wars sound design. The music supervisor's choices continue the Star Wars immersive experience nicely. The graphics and font design look great, and audio mix is top notch. The trailer continues franchise world creation beautifully, holding the series fanbase in suspense. This is the way, Buddha Jones."
Trailer Agency: Concept Arts
Chosen by Charlotte Dwan
"As a documentary lover, the Boys State trailer has been a stand-out this year. It assuredly positions the tone of the film through its witty editing, satirical music cues and simple yet highly effective graphics. It's also a brilliant example of successfully setting up multiple key characters and illustrating a narrative arc without giving too much away. The trailer is tongue-in-cheek yet alludes to an undercurrent of something much darker, which in turn positions Boys State as a timely, yet enjoyable, watch. In short, I was left partly bemused but totally captivated and couldn't wait to see the film!"
Trailer Agency: Level Up AV
Chosen by John Cantú
"I'm not saying it was destiny for her to cut this, but the editor behind the opening salvo for Marvel shows on Disney+, Diana Lopez, is a friend who's also a veritable encyclopedia of horror, camp, surreal film history and vinyl classics. From the sonic masterclass in manipulating the Platters to the sly in-joke of an angry Fred Melamed setting the beat as he did in the iconic Serious Man trailer to the seamless transitions between formats and film eras, I don't even know how one could fit any more trailer-geek catnip into 80 seconds. It's the coolest piece I've seen all year, bar none."
20th Century Studios
Trailer Agency: MOCEAN
Chosen by Ric Thomas
"Even though there were less trailers this year, there's still been loads of amazing and inspirational creative. Especially creative borne out of the dumpster fire itself. I was so close to choosing AV Squad's last-minute barnstorming trailer for Nobody, but in the end I had to go with this—MOCEAN's trailer announcement date piece for Free Guy. It's 2020 in a piece of marketing, and proves that all you need to sell a movie these days is a brilliant script, a Zoom call, an indeterminate release date—oh, and Ryan Reynolds."
One Night in Miami
Trailer Agency: AV Squad
Chosen by Corey Nathan
Trailer Geeks and Teaser Gods
"The way everything came together, starting with a film that grapples with such timely, critical subject matter. The trailer achieves very high levels across multiple creative disciplines; but more importantly, it introduces this film as real currency in a larger conversation our culture must have. Looking at one virtuous dimension of the collaboration, the way the rhythms of the piece elevate it to an almost religious experience, and the music choices root the piece in its historical context with just a hint of Sam Cooke, but then bridges it into its contemporary significance with Lecrae's 'Welcome to America.' Yeah, it all comes together. The music, the design, the editorial choices, the script ... everything. I still have chills."
Trailer Agency: Mark Woollen & Associates
Chosen by Matt Lian
Creative Director/Senior Editor
"A deeply unsettling and meticulously crafted work of art. The use of various sound motifs, which these days tend to feel expected or gratuitous, here is handled with such nuance—the subtle repetition of the patter of face smacks, echoed/repeated pieces of dialog, the cadence of a kitchen knife against a cutting board—these sonic touches weave a rich aural tapestry that cohere the piece as a whole. The music is sparse but highly effective, and the visual storytelling is confident. There is a darkness simmering below the veneer of our heroine's perfect life, and every choice in this trailer accentuates that."
Bonus: Benedict Coulter picked a TV commercial for the U.S. Army rather than a trailer. Check it out below.
What's Your Warrior?
Trailer Agency: N/A
Chosen by Benedict Coulter
"I love everything about this spot! The editing, graphic layers and composition. But most of all, the originality of the Chicago remix. Not at all what you would expect for an Army commercial!"