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(SOUNDBITE OF DRUM ROLL)

GUY RAZ, HOST:

The Golden Globe Awards are on tonight, but we're going to turn now to a part of Hollywood that doesn't get a lot of attention or flashy award shows, the modern movie trailer. Here's our producer Brent Baughman.

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BRENT BAUGHMAN, BYLINE: This music you're hearing is one of the most common music cues in trailers today.

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BAUGHMAN: This audio right here is from a trailer for the Golden Globe nominated film "The Artist," which is a silent movie, so no dialogue. But here it is again in a trailer for Steven Spielberg's "Munich."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "MUNICH")

CIARAN HINDS: (as Carl) You think you can outrun your fears, your doubts...

BAUGHMAN: And again in one for Gus Vanzant's "Milk."

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "MILK")

SEAN PENN: (As Harvey Milk) You get the first bullet the minute you stand at the microphone.

BAUGHMAN: And again...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "THE IRON LADY")

MERYL STREEP: (As Margaret Thatcher) I have done battle every single day of my life.

BAUGHMAN: That's Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady" also from this year.

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JOHN LONG: I think the point is it works every time.

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BAUGHMAN: That's John Long. He and his business partner, Lee - go ahead, Lee...

LEE HARRY: I'm Lee Harry.

BAUGHMAN: ...did the trailers for "The Muppets" last year. They run a trailer production company in L.A. called Buddha Jones. And why is it called Buddha Jones again?

LONG: This is a question we get from everybody. And it was - it's our version of Pink Floyd.

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BAUGHMAN: Anyway, back to that music. It's actually from the soundtrack of a not very successful 2003 film "The Life of David Gale." But it's so good at punching just the right emotional buttons Lee Harry says it's almost irresistible.

HARRY: Sometimes in the back of your mind, you know, I'm not going to use that cue. That cue's been used to death. But I want to evoke a feeling, and this piece does it perfectly.

BAUGHMAN: Aside from using reliable music cues, how do trailer producers do it? Where else can someone make you feel inspired or heartbroken, make you laugh or shriek, make you root for a protagonist or against a villain, do all that and convince you to spend $11 in a minute and 30 seconds? It wasn't always so complicated. It used to be getting an audience's attention was a lot easier.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "A CHRISTMAS CAROL")

BAUGHMAN: This 1938 trailer for "A Christmas Carol" begins with a shot of the actor Lionel Barrymore, Drew Barrymore's great-uncle.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "A CHRISTMAS CAROL")

LIONEL BARRYMORE: Hello, ladies and gentlemen.

BAUGHMAN: Fireplace? Check. Armchair? Check. Leather-bound book, pipe? Check, check. And he basically looks into the camera and recommends the movie.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "A CHRISTMAS CAROL")

BARRYMORE: I'm going to introduce to you a character I've loved for many years.

BAUGHMAN: Et cetera, et cetera. So, you know, early trailers were very comfortable. Wheeler Winston Dixon is a film professor at the University of Nebraska. Compare this, he says, to a modern movie trailer like...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

BAUGHMAN: ...maybe the most buzzed-about trailer this past year for "The Dark Knight Rises." It set a record for online downloads.

WHEELER WINSTON DIXON: The shots are shorter and shorter and shorter and more and more fragmented. And in fact, there have been a number of studies that demonstrate that the average length of a shot in a film has been shrinking every single year because audiences absorb information faster and there's also this sense that you don't want to bore them.

BAUGHMAN: So that's one way to keep your attention: quick edits. Here's another tool trailer producers use. They call it the rise.

HARRY: There's going to be...

BAUGHMAN: That's the crescendo...

HARRY: ...rise....

BAUGHMAN: ...in the trailer that builds and builds and builds to a place where the sound stops and then...

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

TOM HARDY: (As Bane) When Gotham is ashes...

BAUGHMAN: ...a single line.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "THE DARK KNIGHT RISES")

HARDY: (As Bane) ...you have my permission to die.

BAUGHMAN: That's called the turn line. Lee Harry says...

HARRY: Oh, that's a good line. It kicks off a nice montage.

BAUGHMAN: And then at the end of the trailer, when you find out the title of the movie, that's called the main title reveal. And it usually comes with giant pounding drums.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "DARK KNIGHT RISES")

BAUGHMAN: Those are called hits, John Long says, appropriately enough.

LONG: Yeah. That's all part of the vocabulary of trailer making.

BAUGHMAN: So the question is if you're just pulling all these tools out of a toolkit, is a trailer producer an artist or a craftsman?

ROB MYERS: It's always - well, how do I explain it without sounding bitter? No.

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BAUGHMAN: Rob Myers. His trailer house, Workshop Creative, recently did the first "Men in Black III" trailer.

MYERS: Watching trailers in the theater for me is always a frustration because either I'm frustrated because I feel like I could've done a much better job, or I'm depressed because someone did something great that I never would've thought of.

BAUGHMAN: Sounds more like an artist, doesn't it?

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BAUGHMAN: I spoke to a lot of professional trailer producers about a lot of different trailers. And by far, this one from last year for "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" inspired the most envy and admiration.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO")

BAUGHMAN: It's a minute and 39 seconds, shots cut on every beat of an updated version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," some 170 fugue state-inducing edits. The trailer producers I talked to say it's all the more impressive when you know it might have started as a four-hour version of the unfinished movie.

MYERS: They might not have music on it yet. They might have green screens all throughout.

BAUGHMAN: And it's not like they knock these things out in a week.

MYERS: You know, I was assigned two new projects just before Christmas, and one of them comes out in 2013.

BAUGHMAN: With this much time, a producer gets to know a film as well as its editor, its director, anyone who actually made it.

MYERS: We break it down scene by scene, then line by line, and sometimes shot by shot.

BAUGHMAN: Then there are test audiences...

MYERS: Focus groups that look at things. There are all kinds of people around the studios. There are managers and agents, and they have to look at something and improve it.

BAUGHMAN: And then, just when you think you're finally done, you get a phone call, like Lee Harry once did.

HARRY: This is not working. Start over. I want you guys to go back and come up with something new, different, out of the box, something that's never been seen before. Call me back in 15 minutes.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE TRAILER, "THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO")

BAUGHMAN: All that in the hopes that you'll turn to your seatmate after it's over, and in that green glow before the next trailer, say: Yeah. I guess I'd see that. Brent Baughman, NPR News.

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