If a major movie isn't set to come out for a year, how do they make teaser trailers? Do they shoot the scenes meant for the trailer first, or do they make their own special footage?

By: Kristen, Rocklin, California

A.B. Replies: You must not be a member of that growing American subculture that is obsessed with movie trailers. I read about that subculture in the papers, so it must be very significant and totally real. It seems more and more movie fans are stampeding into cyberspace to view trailers the second they become available; then they play them over and over again, forming critiques and analyses and building super-early momentum for a film. It is all very exciting.

This is one reason studios are putting out their trailers earlier and earlier: the obsessives. The other reason is the same as every other motivation in Hollywood: money. The much ballyhooed "box-office slump" may be fading--thanks to money-minting romps like X-Men 3 and Superman Returns--but the competition is still thick and fierce for your summer popcorn dollar.

You may think people like Johnny Depp are above that buttery, salty dollar, because Johnny Depp lives in France and seems too European to be bothered with such base obsessions. I suspect that is incorrect. I suspect even Johnny Depp wants that dollar.

That's why we're seeing the maddeningly short trailer for the far-off The Simpsons Movie right now, and an action-packed one for Spider-Man 3, even though the superhero flick's still shooting in New York City. For Sony Pictures, it's never too early to start thinking about how you will spend your 2007 movie money. So, they've let us know what would previously have been considered an unforgivable spoiler: Peter Parker gets waylaid by a terrible, Mulder-style black oil that makes him wrestle with his slippery, fatty inner darkness. Or something like that. Also, hey, look--it's that guy from Sideways! Oooh, and Topher Grace, too!

How the studios create such quick trailers is pretty simple. Oftentimes, they ask the directors to film the trailer-friendly scenes first. Those scenes are then rushed to an editing house to create a trailer.

"Sometimes specific shots and effects are done first, so they can make it in [the preview]," says Eric Mickelson, a producer at a Los Angeles trailer company called Flyer Entertainment. "However, the majority of the time, teasers are cut from 'dailies,' scenes that were shot for the film but have yet to be edited together in feature form."

In rare cases, a director will stoop to shooting scenes just for a trailer. Oftentimes, those scenes are first in the production schedule.

"One example was The Stepford Wives teaser trailer from a few years ago," says Bryan Greenberg, a marketing professor who is writing a book about the movie-trailer industry. "They shot scenes of Nicole Kidman cooing into the camera--something about 'For the man who has everything...' and used that to create a special trailer."

Obviously, not special enough.

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