Tonight I broke down the movie trailer I’m using as a model for my Turncoat book trailer. It’s a 2:39 teaser for the 2002 Spider-man, and I chose it because it conveys the premise of the story and promises the movie will contain action and romance.

Here is my breakdown:

My breakdown isn’t 100% accurate. There are more than 75 shots in this trailer. You can see where I cheated a little (shot and reverse!) and a lot (action!). I’d guestimate that there are really more than 100 shots in the trailer. But the exact number of shots wasn’t what I was trying to determine. I’m interested in structure and content.

I placed voice over (VO) in Red, and dialogue in Green. The first 26 seconds of the trailer are entirely voice over. The images are all of Spider-man. We don’t see Peter Parker’s face until second 23, when he pulls his mask off and we whip pan into a white flash and go back in time.

That’s when the switch to dialogue occurs. Everything we’ve seen up to this point is the extraordinary world of Spider-man, swinging through the caverns of Manhattan and fighting crime. Now we get the ordinary life of Peter Parker (It wasn’t always like this.) We’ve jumped back into the movie’s first sequence, to Peter’s status quo, his collision with the catalyst, his transformation, and the benefits of it (seconds 27 through 104).

This is a clever structure. If the trailer started with the ordinary life of Peter Parker, like the movie, the audience might lose interest. Because the trailer is not the movie. This isn’t a paying audience. This is an audience that is (most of the time) waiting to see something else. We’re quick to tune out. But by starting with the visual excitement of Spidey vaulting skyscrapers, the trailer hooks us. Now we’re on board to find out how Peter Parker became Spider-man.

But we need to know what the conflict will be. At second 105, roughly half way through the trailer, we meet the antagonist, Norman Osborne, who will become Green Goblin. At 1:27 Peter accepts the call to adventure, and voice over is reintroduced to state the film’s themes. We know this movie will be about something.

At 1:39 Peter accepts his new identity. With this single exception, the story content of the trailer is entirely Act One and Act Two. “I’m Spider-man,” is more of an Act Three moment (possibly end of Act Two), but it’s the only one I see here.

The romance subplot is peppered in at 0:27 (Can I take your picture for the school paper?) and at 1:01 (Wow!) and at 1:50 (Do I get to say thank you this time?).

At 1:41 the title cards start, with the release date, which will be repeated later. The titles read: One hero will take you for the ultimate spin. I honestly didn’t follow them too closely. A filmmaker I admire once pointed out that we hate to read words on screen, and I tend to agree with him. Much of the last 40 seconds is spectacle, and who wants to read when you can watch Spidey swing through New York?

There’s a “button” on the end of this trailer, a joke that works well for the tone of the film, but probably wouldn’t suit my project, but it’s worth noting that I’ll need something to punctuate the end, a line or a shot that take us out on a high note.

Now that I’ve identified the story elements that worked in this example, I can start scripting my trailer for The Turncoat.