Structure of the Kairos trailer

This is a tweet thread I wrote about the Kairos trailer you can follow me @LukeCoalman

The Kairos trailer was animated and produced by Studio La Cachette and was made for the graphic novel by Ulysse Malassagne

The Kairos trailer is so cool it holds up really well. I wanted to try and break down the structure.

(I haven’t read the graphic novel, only watched the trailer about 100 times)

The trailer starts with a short intro sequence. Establishing shot>guy wakes up> Dinosaur thing comes through the fireplace>he gets thrown around>dinosaur kidnaps his partner


This sequence gets your attention and makes you want to find out more. It ends with this cool transition. The whole sequence is about 30 sec long, longer than I expected.

I’m going to jump to the ending. The ending is a big action sequence. We see the guy who has now become a monster fighting the same Dinosaur soldiers. It’s  super fun and exciting this is probably the part everyone remembers. This sequences is about 40 sec


The reason this sequence works is because it’s set up. We know who he’s fighting for. Guy has wife kidnapped by Dinosaur soldiers>Guy fights dinosaur soldiers to get to his wife. We’re emotionally engaged. DRAMA!

In Between those two sequences we have a bunch of cool vignettes

The vignettes are usually two shot each, what they do is show the scope and scale of the story. They are what makes this feel epic.

When we’re shown these random images our brains are scrambling to fit them into a narrative.

So the overall structure of this trailer is Guy and wife are attacked by dinosaurs, wife is kidnapped> vignettes of fantasy world and random things happening>guy fights dinosaurs to get back his wife> cliffhanger ending

I’ve looked at some other (epic) trailers and they have a similar structure

  1. Overall narrative (something very simple scene or sequence)
  2. Cool vignettes (something to show the scope of the story)
  3. Cliffhanger ending (what makes you want to see more)

The point of the of the overall narrative is to provide structure to the trailer. It’s usually a scene from the film that’s reworked into this format. It’s there to provide a beginning/middle/end

This is a trailer the idea is to tease the story make people go out and see the film or show. That’s where the cliffhanger comes in. Bad trailers tell you the whole story, good trailers give you just enough information and leave the important stuff out.

In Kairos the coolest scene, where the guy crashes through the scaffolding, ends right as he’s about to land in a crowd of Dinosaur guards. That’s an exciting cliffhanger. The story that was set up doesn’t pay off that makes you want to see more.

In school I wasn’t a huge fan of trailer films. There’s something disingenuous about them when their teasing at something that doesn’t really exist. The worst part of the Kairos trailer is that I just want to see the whole movie.

Trailers are also an art form, good ones are really tight and balanced. They play directly with our emotions. End

The problem with 4 quadrant films

This last week I watched Coco. (I know well overdue, and don’t worry no spoilers) The film is Pixar at its best, making something so enjoyable but hits you hard. Pixar does everything at such a high level that it’s almost taken for granted. Watching the film made me think about animated features in general.

Big budget animated features fall into a category sometimes called four quadrant films. Four quadrant as I’ve heard it refers to: Old/Young , Boys/Girls.

53_Quadrant
four quadrant film demographics

The idea being that these big budget films should appeal to the widest possible audience. When Pixar started making films they ended up creating a template for these wildly successful films. These films appealed to old/ young, boys/girls. They are funny, exciting, and at the core heartfelt. This became the new template for animated features.

When we try to tell rich stories what we do is add more stuff. If we need something exciting we add a storyline that’s exciting. If we want something funny we add funny characters. If we want something emotional we add a relationship. The piling on of storylines is happening across modern filmmaking. Disney is becoming an empire of four quadrant films. Marvel and Star Wars universes also fit into this wide market model. There’s a high demand for all these films to be a little bit of everything. Exciting, funny and emotional, and the easiest way to do this is to add more stuff. To add more storylines, characters, locations and events. It’s no wonder that films keep getting longer.

That brings me to Coco. What stands out about this film is how contained it is. The film is able to stay very small, and personal. At its core it’s a film about a young boy and his family. Sure there’s a big outside world, but it surprisingly focused. He doesn’t have friends, he doesn’t have a school bully. They makes small stories feel big. Pixar acts like a different kind of movie studio. Still they make critically acclaimed, financially successful, four quadrant films.

Why this is important for us indies, is that our stories/series/films are small by nature. There’s all the pressure in the world to make four quadrant films. That’s not the point of indie. The point of indie is to make something specific, and special. So the hard part is about finding what’s specific and focusing like crazy on it. It’s about finding the people looking for something special. This might mean simplifying your idea. That doesn’t mean your work has to have less meaning or importance. This is the hard part, the thing to work for.

Big impact in a small way.


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Film Crit Hulk and why shorts are meant for learning

I liked this Twitter thread from Film Crit Hulk about short films. Despite his name, Film Crit Hulk is one of the very best places to read film criticism and learn about storytelling and filmmaking. That’s why this thread is so good.

The thread made me think of is the place shorts have in our culture. Short fiction in any medium. Short stories, short comics, short films. The truth is people don’t seek out this work. The industry is too busy to seek them out. They might go a film festival. I don’t think audiences seek them out either. Yet, at the same time beginners are encouraged to make shorts. This gets to Hulk’s final point.

The purpose of most short films is to learn. Short projects are where you cut your teeth and learn. I encountered this situation earlier this week. Isaiah and I are in the middle of production our next short comic. It’s going slowly, we’re undermotivated so we had a call. We wanted to take a cold hard look at the project. What we came to is that we’re either making things to build an audience or we’re trying to make something good. It would easy to say that we’re trying to do both. When you’re trying to figure out your goals, stick to one. Having too many goals will split you in different directions. It became clear is that if we were interested in growing our audience we’d be working differently. One might make more content share more often. What we were focused on was making something good. More specifically it was about learning how to make something good. Getting better at storytelling, and finding a story we’re excited about. After we finish this project, learn from it and move to the next one.

Start with short fiction because it’s a great training ground. It’s a great training ground because you will falter and fail. The iteration, the feedback will make you better at what you do. It might seem ideal to start a big project now. Working on short projects gives you a taste of how much energy any project takes. When you have the experience of making many things, you can stare down a big project with a bit more confidence. Knowing you can see it through the other side.

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