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Film Trailers

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Emma Wilkinson

on 10 July 2017

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Transcript of Film Trailers

Film Trailers
What is a film trailer?
What is the purpose of a film trailer?
Why are they called trailers?
It’s a film’s calling card

The purpose of the trailer is to attract an audience to the film/to encourage them to watch the film

AIDA is used to describe the purpose of a film trailer

Most trailers have a three act structure similar to a feature length film.

Todorov – Equilibrium, Disequilibrium, New Equilibrium

Todorov states that narratives have a 3 act structure.

Equilibrium – The norms of the ‘world’ are set out

Disequilibrium – Something happens to disrupt these norms, chaos ensues

New Equilibrium – Chaos is stopped, peace is restored. This New Equilibrium may differ from the first state in a number of ways.

A – Aware – The audience is made aware of the film

I – Interest – An interest in the film is created and cultivated

D – Desire – A desire to see the film is created

A – Action – A call to action is included to encourage the audience to actively go see the film.

Trailers tell the story of a movie in a highly condensed fashion that must have maximum appeal. In the decades since movie marketing has become a large industry, trailers have become highly polished pieces of advertising, able to present even poor movies in an attractive light.

They are called trailers as they used to be played after the feature films, however advertisers found that the majority of the audience would leave after the main film so they were switched to the front.
What would you expect to see in a film trailer?
What codes and conventions can you think of that would be included in a film trailer?
Institutional reference(s)
Titles (Intertitles; including actors/directors)
Release date
Film title and possibly a tag line
Quotes from media
Music/sound effects
Introduction to/hints to the narrative
Genre conventions
Introduction to characters
Actors (famous)
Quick cuts and edits

The Structure of a Trailer
Act 1
The beginning.

The premise of the story is laid out

Act 2
The middle, drives the story further and usually ends with a dramatic climax.
Act 3
Usually features a strong piece of "signature music" (either a recognizable song or a powerful, sweeping orchestral piece).

This last act often consists of a visual montage of powerful and emotional moments of the film and may also contain a cast run if there are noteworthy stars that could help sell the movie.

How is the 3 act structure used in the following trailers?
The Social Network
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Narrative Theory
The 3 act structure of trailers is based on this theory.
Barthes – Narrative codes

Barthes states that narratives use certain codes to structure themselves. 2 of these codes are:

Action – Sequential elements of action. Adds short term suspense

Enigma – Poses questions to the audience. Makes the audience want to know more. Creates mystery and long term suspense

Strauss – Binary Oppositions

Strauss states that narratives use opposition to drive the story forward


Trailers consistently use Barthes theory to entice audiences
Trailers also use Levi Strauss’ theory to create opposition and intrigue their audience
Case Study
Look at the trailer for your favourite film and create a case study presentation answering the following questions.

How is the trailer structured?
What elements of the story are revealed?
Who is the audience for the film? How do you know this?
How does the trailer attempt to appeal to and target this audience? (Look at specific conventions, examples within the narrative, genre specific iconography)
How can you apply narrative theory to the trailer?

Make it a creative presentation, and don’t use PowerPoint!

You will present your case study to the class in the final lesson of this week.
Full transcript