Anton Volkov is in his last year at university in London, England, but instead of spending his nights drinking with mates, Volkov is scrolling through film classification boards and tweeting out trailer news to hungry fans.
Very, very hungry fans.
Trailer Track, which Volkov started as a Twitter account 14 months ago and turned into a website a few months later, is dedicated to movie trailers. Volkov has become one of the most reputable journalists for predicting when trailers will premiere, scooping other outlets with a little bit of investigative research. Volkov is inundated with questions on an hourly basis about the status of upcoming trailers for film’s biggest movies — including Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Justice League.
Trailer Track isn’t the only website or Twitter account that tracks trailers, but before Volkov started looking into it for himself, he was relying on big genre sites to do the work for him. He soon realized that the sources of information he had come to rely on to give him the information he and millions of other people wanted weren’t quite up to par.
“As a fan, I started asking myself these questions,” Volkov told Polygon from his home in London. “Why do these trailers come out when they do, why are they grouped together like they are, what can I take away from that. We got to a point where people started anticipating and expecting trailers, trying to figure out what movies they were going to be grouped with and when they were going to premiere.
“I decided to do what no one else was doing at the time: going through publicly available data and piecing the puzzle together.”
Here’s how Volkov figures out when a trailer is coming: He searches film certification boards, which are public knowledge, and checks to see what the most logical explanation for the premiere of that trailer is. For example, if a trailer for Justice League is registered as classified next week, Volkov works from there; What other movies does Warner Bros.’ have coming out that makes sense for Justice League to be attached to? The Lego Ninjago Movie is out, but that seems like two different audiences. Probably not going to be attached then.
Blade Runner 2049 though? Perfect fit.
Once Volkov groups the films together, the hunt continues. This is where marketing hints and more time spent on classification boards comes in. Volkov has become eerily good at predicting when the next trailer for a movie is going to drop, making him the go-to source for most Twitter dwellers and cinephiles — not to mention journalists who cover movies and their trailers.
No sign of the new #SausagePartyMovie trailer that was classified today….so seems it’s next week with GHOSTBUSTERS indeed.— TrailerTrack (@trailertrack) July 4, 2016
“There is some insider information that I decide not to post for a number of reasons,” Volkov said. “I find that the classification boards and Deluxe Digital [an industry tool for tracking films] are all that I need most of the time. But, fandom, and especially comic book fandom, those fans are very skeptical. With info from classification boards and Deluxe Digital, I can point back to evidence. Insider sources, their information can change so quickly, especially if it’s a blockbuster movie coming out of Warner Bros. or Marvel.”
It’s easy to spot what Volkov is talking about. Trailer culture has become rabid over the years, going from something theater audiences hate sitting through to obsessive fans analyzing premiere dates. Fans of big properties like The Avengers and Justice League will even wait two days in line at San Diego Comic-Con to glimpse a few minutes of exclusive trailer material. Earlier this week on Twitter, Mark Hamill tweeted a winking tease about when the next trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, one of the most anticipated movies of the year, would be released. He deleted it less than 24 hours later, backtracking his statement and admitting that Disney would announce the trailer when the studio wanted to.
Volkov points to Captain America: The First Avenger (in 2011) and The Dark Knight (2012) as the beginning of the current trailer craze. Post-credit scenes and stylistic trailers, Volkov said, gave fans something to hold on to and share with each other. Trailers went from being simple marketing tools to expensive, cinematic advertising. We’ve since seen the birth of the trailer teaser, done best by Warner Bros. for Justice League earlier this year. Warner Bros. issued a series of 10 tweets, which included five photos and five videos, to hype the debut of the movie’s second trailer.
Still, Volkov knows that the big budget blockbusters are the movies he doesn’t need to worry about. There are countless of Batman or Thor-dedicated sites that will put in just as much time and effort to learn when the trailers are coming. More likely, Volkov said, studios like Warner Bros. and Disney, aware of the hype surrounding new trailers, will try to get ahead of the game by teasing out their debut days in advance. We saw that with Justice League and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
With more websites focusing on trailers, Volkov said the reason people still turn to him is because of his quality control. He doesn’t report every rumor or publish every TV spot. Instead, Volkov tries to find trailers people will talk about, and then focuses on movies that may get interesting ones. It’s about crafting a voice for the type of trailer people want to see more of, Volkov said, alongside the new Justice League trailer.
“People want to know more and more about the trailers they’re watching and if they’re well done, they’re going to want to know more and more about those movies,” Volkov said.
Trailers have never had to compete with one another for attention more than they have now. It’s why there are elaborate marketing campaigns and Twitter accounts designed to tease upcoming trailers up until the movie is released. It can get to be a little much — even for the directors.
David Lynch, co-creator of Twin Peaks and acclaimed auteur director, told Rolling Stone that movie trailers were ruining the filmgoing experience.
“These days, movie trailers practically tell the whole story,” Lynch said. “I think it’s really harmful. For me, personally, I don’t want to know anything when I go into a theater. I like to discover it, get into that world, try to get as good of picture and sound as possible, no interruptions — so you can have an experience. And anything that putrefies that is not good.”
Lynch isn’t the only director who feels that way. Colin Trevorrow, the director of Jurassic World, told IGN that he thought the trailers ruined parts of the movie he wish had been kept as a surprise for the audience.
“They have shown far more of this movie than I would ever have wanted,” Trevorrow said, adding that he understands, “this kind of marketing has historically been able to get a lot of people into theaters.”
To combat this, directors have begun working with studios on creating a counterpoint to the two-minute, spoiler-filled trailer. Luke Scott, the son of Ridley Scott, has been working with directors like Ridley Scott and Dennis Villeneuve to create short prequels for films like Alien: Covenant and Blade Runner 2049. The shorts help bridge the narrative gap between the films in their franchise (Alien: Covenant and Prometheus, for example). Luke Scott’s work on the shorts accompanying Blade Runner 2049 bridges the events of the original Blade Runner, set in 2019, and Blade Runner 2049. While still a piece of marketing material, the longer, more elaborate and more cinematic spots feel refreshing.
“It is a revolution and I think this particular film [Blade Runner 2049] and the next one coming up,” Scott told Polygon. “I think they are not only a great way of marketing these kinds of movies, it fills in the gaps and gives more background on a character.”
Volkov, however, doesn’t agree.
“I love what Scott has been doing, going back all the way to Prometheus with Ridley Scott,” Volkov said. “I’m enamored with what they’re doing, but it’s never going to replace the trailer. We still need to see stuff from the actual film. There’s a trust with the audience that you end up losing as a result. The audience isn’t stupid. They want to see footage that’s going to be in the movie. We call studios out when footage in trailers isn’t included in the movie because we trusted the studio to show us what we were getting into.
When asked if he thought the attention being paid to trailers would eventually die down — or if trailer culture would implode — Volkov was vigorously opposed to the thought. There is a very hungry fanbase for the majority of movies coming out, Volkov said, and as long as that fanbase is their and hungry, the trailers will sustain them. A group of people willing to spend their days and nights talking about a trailer, even if it’s not released yet, is a pretty clear sign that studios aren’t going to tone down their marketing plans anytime soon.
“The reason I wanted to start this account and this site was because people were looking for some guidance and there wasn’t really any out there,” Volkov said. “I have an interest in it and I have a passion for film. Eventually, I’ll have to hand this off because I want to work in the industry and that’s a conflict of interest. But just because I step down from doing this doesn’t mean there won’t be someone out there who isn’t just as keen on keeping it up. People will always want to know when the next Justice League or Star Wars trailer is going to be released and studios will continue to buy into their hype.
“Trailers aren’t going anywhere.”