Trailers that sell the live theatre sizzle. DC Theatre Scene’s picks for best video trailers

Turning a stage show into an enticing video is an art. There are three trailers which I think are among this year’s most outstanding. And, best of all, if they happen to convince you to see the show, tickets are still available.

Companies may hire outside firms to create their all-important show trailers or have the talent within their own staff to manage them.

Before we look at this year’s best, let’s find out how they are produced.

I’ve been a fan of Everyman Theatre’s video productions for some time. Kiirstn Pagan is their in-house video production manager, so I asked her to describe her process:

Kiirstn Pagan, Everyman Theatre videographer

Do you work from a storyboard or do you start from scratch in the editing room?

For trailers, it’s the latter… I watch the show at least once before recording, then I record the show with an audience in the house, almost always at our Pay What You Can performance, which happens the day before the official run of the show begins. Although for more well known shows, there are certain lines of dialogue that I know I want to include. Like for August Wilson’s Fences last year, I knew that I wanted to include at least part of Rose’s “I’ve been standing here with you…” monologue because I think it’s a really poignant moment in the show. And for A Streetcar Named Desire, I wanted to include Stanley’s “Stelllaaaaaaa!” because it’s so iconic (though it didn’t actually end up making the final cut).

Do the directors or actors have final approval of the shots or finished product?

No, directors nor actors are a part of the approval process for any of the videos I do, between these trailers or our more behind-the-scenes type videos, which I also create for the theatre. But our Director of Marketing, Managing Director, and Artistic Director have final approval before we distribute.

How many cameras did you use for Dot?

I always only use one camera. We have a Canon 5D Mark ii DLSR and two canon lenses: 75-300mm zoom and 24-105mm zoom. I usually use the 75-300mm when recording shows. And then I have a Rode shotgun mic with hot shoe mount for DSLR. I like to record from either house left or right (depending on the show) near row F, which is six rows back from the stage.

When was the Dot content shot?

Content for trailers is almost always shot during our Pay What You Can performance, which happens the day before the official run of the show begins. For Dot, that was December 6.

Do you have favorite camera people?

Not camera people per se, but I definitely look to other content creators for inspiration, including other theatres. Via Everyman Theatre’s YouTube channel, I follow dozens of other theatres and performing arts organizations and try to watch their content regularly to see what everyone is doing. I’m a big fan of videos produced by Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago and the National Theatre in London.

I particularly like the National Theatre’s Careers series, where they interview employees at the National and give an in depth look at what their job entails and often tells how that particular employee got involved in theatre and why they do it. These are the kinds of videos that I would love to produce more at Everyman—videos that are not just about the stories we produce on stage but stories of how we as a theatre function and the stories of people who work here to make our productions and other programming (like classes) possible. My favorite videos that I’ve done at Everyman have been “day in the life” videos with resident company members Danny Gavigan and Beth Hylton. I actually followed them both around for a full day to give our audiences a peek into the day in the life of an actor.

What do you edit on?

I have an iMac at a desk in the Everyman administration offices. I’m also a graphic designer at the theatre, so I work full time creating various print and digital content for Everyman, not just for our productions, but for our educational and institutional needs as well. I edit using Final Cut Pro X (I’m on the most recent version, 10.3.1).

How long does it take from shooting to getting the completed video?

It depends on the show, but generally for the trailers to be effective as a marketing tool, it has to be turned around pretty quickly. For Dot, I shot the show on December 6 and the trailer was publicly released online on December 19. The show closes on January 8, so that gives the trailer three weeks to help us sell tickets.

To get word out about the show before performances begin, we do a lot of things, but in the realm of video, we will often do interviews with folks involved in the production (like the playwright if possible, the director, designers, or actors) as well as record rehearsal footage and release those videos before performances even begin.

For Dot, we created a four part series of videos with footage from an interview with playwright Colman Domingo. When we did The Great American Rep last season, featuring Death of a Salesman and A Streetcar Named Desire in a rotating repertory, there were a couple of interview style videos with the directors as well as videos highlighting the nature of the rep (like a set changeover video and the Day in the Life of The Rep video with Danny I mentioned before) in addition to trailers. You can see all those videos here.

How long have you been doing this?

I’ve been interested in marketing for the theatre for a long time—since high school. The first promotional videos I created were for the UMBC Department of Theatre when I was there as a student, and I had a hand in helping to create some video content at Center Stage when I worked there between 2011 and 2013. But I got really involved in creating content first hand a couple of years ago at Everyman. I took over as the sole video producer on our marketing team in 2015 when our then Director of Marketing, Jonathan Waller, was promoted to Managing Director. My first trailer was for our production of Lynn Nottage’s Ruined. I’ve created about 60 videos in total for Everyman over the four years or so that I’ve worked here.

Is there any professional recognition for trailers?

Ha, I’m not really sure… at the end of the day, trailers are commercials, and there are awards for that through the American Advertising Awards. We haven’t submitted work to the Baltimore Addy’s in the past, but maybe we should start!

Thanks, Kiirstn. You’ve just done the perfect intro for our picks for the three most outstanding show trailers of 2016.

Dot Produced by Everyman Theatre. Created by Kiirstn Pagan

Signature Theatre uses Chiet Productions for filming. That content is then turned over to James Gardiner,  Signature Theatre’s Deputy Director, Creative Content and Publicity who directs and edits all Signature video projects including this for Titanic.

Chiet Productions also worked with Arena Stage to produce this stunning trailer for Carousel.

Other posts that may be of interest:

2016 by the numbers

Most memorable plays of 2016

Lorraine Treanor About Lorraine Treanor

Lorraine Treanor has been editor of DC Theatre Scene since 2006. She has produced plays and concerts in her hometown of Chicago, and twice in the Capital Fringe festival. Her daughter Nina Norris is an artist working in Chicago. Life's a blast because she shares it with writer Tim Treanor.

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