Spoiler alert: Don’t read on unless you’ve already seen, or don’t care about spoiling, the twist endings of Sorry to Bother You and Tully.
Movie trailers have become something of an art form. There are trends in movie trailers, techniques and processes, and even awards for the best trailers, television spots, and campaigns of the year.
But there’s something to learn about the form and function of storytelling from movie trailers as well.
To explain, take a look at the following trailer for one of the best indie movies of the summer, Sorry to Bother You.
Notice how the trailer does a few things right off the bat.
First, it introduces the protagonist— Cassius Green — while also subtly establishing the inner conflict he will deal with throughout the course of the film. Then it explains the external problem Cassius deals with — money and the fact that he can’t find a decent job.
The trailer shows Cassius excelling at his latest job, getting promoted, and, finally, dealing with the moral repercussions of what happens when the thing you’re really good at doing isn’t at all benefiting the world around you.
The one thing the trailer doesn’t include? The massive twist.
But let’s look at another example, the latest movie from Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody: Tully.
The trailer for Tully does the same thing as the one for Sorry to Bother You.
It introduces the protagonist — Marlo, an exhausted mother of three — and establishes the fact that she’s barely surviving parenthood. It shows Marlo getting so overwhelmed that she finally accepts help from a night nurse — a younger woman named Tully.
Then the trailer goes on to show how Tully will help Marlo with far more things than just getting enough sleep at night.
Again, guess what the trailer doesn’t include? The heartbreaking twist.
Let’s get one thing straight: the twists in these movies are big. They’re the kind of things that make you leave the theater in awe.
Sorry to Bother You includes an entire plotline about Armie Hammer’s character turning human beings into mutated horse-laborers that isn’t even alluded to in the trailer. And Tully turns out to be a figment of Marlo’s imagination, an iteration of herself projected from her psyche so that she can simply survive motherhood.
These twists change the way you look at the films themselves. They make you wonder about the story and the characters in ways that you never imagined you would upon deciding to see the movies.
But, not only are they not necessary to show in the trailers, they shouldn’t be in the trailers at all.
For the twists in these movies, and in all good movies, shouldn’t be the reason a film gets seen. The twist shouldn’t be the selling point or the marketing ploy. Your story, like the stories of Sorry to Bother You and Tully, should be so good that the twist itself almost doesn’t matter.
It matters, of course, to the overall plot and structure, but not to the characters, themes, or the story itself.
A story should not be its twist. There should be — there must be — more to it than that.
Sorry to Bother You is a fascinating, satirical look at capitalism, but also a story about how young people are expected to find their place in the vastness of this world.
Tully tackles parenthood, what it means to be an adult and a mother, mental illness, and how to retain your own identity.
These stories, at their cores, are about so much more than their twist endings, and the trailers for the films reflect that.
Your stories should do the same.
Britton Perelman is a writer and storyteller based in Los Angeles, California. When not buried in a book or failing spectacularly at cooking herself a meal, she’s probably talking someone’s ear off about the last thing she watched. She loves vintage typewriters, the Cincinnati Reds, and her dog, Indy. Find more of her work on her website, or follow her on Instagram.