Ghostbusters director Paul Feig explains why the trailer wasn’t great

Paul Feig on the difficulties of making a comedy trailer


Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters has had to put up with a lot of stick. First, there was the stick coming from the people that hate any kind of reboot. Next, it was the stick from the people that hate the idea of women fighting ghosts. Then, there was the stick from the people (and there were quite a lot of these) who thought the film’s first trailer wasn’t that great. Opinions of it mainly ranged from disappointing to horrendous, which is weird, because the film was actually pretty great.

Chatting to SciFiNow about the film, Feig explained the deal with the trailer, and why it didn’t blow our socks clean off.  “Sony just felt they needed to establish something to give a nod to the original film,” he told us. “But we aren’t a sequel. We’re a reboot, if you will. So they put that ‘thirty years ago’ thing on, which was meant to just say, thirty years ago a film came out about Ghostbusters and now thirty years later a new movie is coming out. But I think it might have confused some people who watched it.”

Another problem was the fact that the film’s special effects weren’t complete when the trailer dropped. “The problem with the trailer for these kind of things is you don’t have a lot of special effects when you put them out early, and so there’s a lot of stuff you can’t put in,” said Feig. “What happens is you have to grab the big jokes that, when we do our test screenings, really destroy, but jokes in a trailer are a hard thing because everything is out of context.”

Paul Feig on the set of Ghostbusters
Paul Feig on the set of Ghostbusters

Feig’s best analogy the describe the situation is kind of genius: “A comedy film is like this, here’s the situation you have to create. You are out with your friends at a restaurant on a table. There are five or six of you, and you’re having the greatest time. You’re laughing and they’re telling stories and you’ve known them forever, so it’s so hilarious when one of your friends tells a story about yelling at somebody and you go, ‘Oh my god, that’s so funny because they are so timid and they would never yell!’ or the opposite of that, and you’re just having the greatest time laughing your brains out. And that’s fantastic, you have the greatest evening of your life.

“And then there’s the other situation where you are eating by yourself next to that table, and they’re laughing and screaming and telling stories, and you’re like, ‘That is so not funny, everything they’re saying is so obnoxious. Who the fuck are these people? They think they’re hilarious and cute.’ So, as a comedy film maker, within minutes of a movie starting, I need to seat you at that table with those people, and let you know everything about them so that when they start telling their stories you go, ‘Oh my god! That is funny because I know that that guy is normally timid!’ And so what a trailer does is basically a lot of times you are sitting next to that table, and either you get the context of what’s going on or you don’t.

“That’s why with trailers, especially with my movies that are so behavioural and the comedy is so dependent on knowing the characters, it’s hard to grab those jokes because at the test screening those jokes destroy. But out of context, you’re like, okay, it’s just a joke. Either it’s funny or it’s not funny because it’s just standing on its own merit and being said by characters that you don’t know anything about. That’s the problem with the trailers. That’s why I’m always like, ‘Please, just wait for the movie!’”

Ghostbusters stars Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones
Ghostbusters stars Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones

It’s also why Feig, along with many others, believes that comedy films should get more recognition when it comes to awards season. “It’s amazing because there are plenty of comedies that don’t work, but a lot of the time it’s just because you’re sitting their going, ‘I don’t really know these people. Clearly everyone thinks they’re funnier than I do!’” he laughs.

“It’s really hard! It’s the hardest job you have as a comedy filmmaker. That’s why we always get mad at the awards shows that award drama so much. Sure, drama is hard too but comedy is that extra bit of hard because we’ve got to get inside your head, fast! We have to make you love us fast!”

Ghostbusters is in cinemas now. Get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the film in the latest issue of SciFiNow.