The Special Shoot Trailer

It’s not uncommon for blockbuster movies to earn over $100 million at the box office, which means that the marketing of films is an essential, and oftentimes expensive, part of the equation.  With opening weekend dates carved out years in advance, audience awareness is essential, which is often why a “special shoot” trailer is produced.

Shot exclusively as a trailer and not featuring any footage from the film, “special shoot” trailers have one purpose: get people talking.  It’s not art—it’s making a product look attractive.  But why don’t we see more of them?  Well, apparently the MPAA has some rules.

By definition, a movie trailer MUST consist of a series of shots from the film being advertised and achieve that in less than 2 minutes and 30 seconds.  The “special shoot” trailer, however, is when the studio either/or extends the regular limit of 2 minutes and 30 seconds in addition to including footage that will not actually appear in the finished film. The MPAA allows the studio to do this once a year.
Yet, with the internet and alternative marketing platforms, studios have a number of venues to advertise their films.  Viral websites and mobile have become commonplace for promotional footage.

Here are a few of our favorite “special shoot” trailers.


A neat little vignette, this was pulled shortly after 9/11 since it contained prominent footage of the World Trade Center.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

Shot as a teaser, this footage never appeared in the film.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

James Cameron enlisted special effects guru Stan Winston to direct this $150,000 trailer, which showed a futuristic assembly line churning out copies of Terminators that all looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger (who had previously been destroyed in the original film).


Director Alfred Hitchcock was so intent on keeping the surprises and twists to his 1960 thriller a secret that the trailer featured the filmmaker walking the set and playfully teasing the audience.  Even the music was upbeat, borrowed from his film The Trouble with Harry.  With Psycho, Hitchcock didn’t allow the stars to promote the film; critics weren’t given private screenings and a firm “no late admission” policy was put in place.  If you didn’t see the film from the beginning, you didn’t see it all. It’s all misdirection from the Master of Suspense.  Even Janet Leigh’s cameo in the trailer is misdirection: it’s actually Vera Miles, who played a supporting role in the film, sporting a blonde wig.

Star Trek

J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the franchise teased the construction of the U.S.S. Enterprise, assuring the audience that it would be ready for the release date.


Roland Emmerich’s 1998 American take on the Japanese kaiju icon resulted in mixed to poor reviews, but none were the result of this successful teaser that teased the successful Jurassic Park franchise.


The danger of the trailer being released without a film having its script first.  This teaser for director David Fincher’s feature debut hinted at the Aliens was headed toward Earth.  Not so much in the finished film where they wind up on a mostly empty prison outpost.

Smokey and the Bandit Part 3

This particular trailer adds fuel to an ongoing urban legend.  There was supposedly a cut of the film (as promoted in this trailer) that featured Jackie Gleason playing both the Smokey (Buford T. Justice) and the Bandit (previously played by Burt Reynolds).  The finished film had franchise co-star Jerry Reed playing the Bandit role.

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