BSA306: An Introduction to the Trailer

“In trailers, images are selected and combined in ways that privilege attracting the spectator’s attention over sustaining narrative coherence. ”

(Kernan, 2004, p. 7)

Trailers are first and foremost a marketing strategy. They are made to make the audience want to go to the cinema to see the movie so the studios can make money. Therefore, the trailer needs to be an effective marketing campaign. Here are some of the ways this is done:

Showing all the good bits: Takes the most interesting parts of the story, condenses them and adds drama, but make it appear as a promise for more good bits. The audience always falls for it.

A strong sound track: Music is a powerful tool in marketing. It draws the audience in and helps to tell the story. It sets the mood for the film and brings a sense of emotion – something that audiences always connect to whether it be sadness, excitement or tension.

Eye-catching visuals: Filmmakers always take the best, most impressive shots and put them in their trailers because they want to wow the audience. Film, being a visual medium, needs to impress visually. This is the most important aspect of promoting a film as no one is going to want to see a film that is unappealing to the eye.

The art of anticipation: this is a very important tool for the filmmaker. Building a sense of excitement is important for building an audience because without the audience, there is no profit and, at the end of the day, this is what the studios want. Anticipation is built not only through the theatrical trailer, but also through teasers. Teasers can be anything from a poster to a 10 second clip to a 1 minute trailer. Deadpool’s marketing campaign was hugely successful. This campaign needed to be unique and “as saucy and audacious as the movie itself.” [2] For example, the costume reveal was on a billboard and featured Deadpool next to a poop emoji. This unique approach to marketing established the mood for the film, exciting audiences for what else was to come.

It seems to me that when people think of trailers they think of the trailer with the voice over, the one that is very dramatic and spells out a lot of the information for you. For example, Jane Campion’s 2009 drama Bright Star.

Personally, I dislike this kind of trailer. I feel the voice over takes away from the beauty of the film and distracts from what the film really is. Thankfully, trailer producers have moved away from the “voice over trailer” to a more theatrical approach where the characters and their stories are able to draw in the audience, leaving no need for a third person telling. Testament of Youth (2015), directed by James Kent is an example of a trailer that follows this newer style of story telling.



Janet Staiger writes on an historical approach to trailers, examining film advertising as it was in the early day of film. She quotes Jesse L. Lasky saying,

“…the tempo of a trailer is vastly different from the tempo of a feature. We cannot establish moods. We must get to the climax of a dramatic situation, to the peak of a comedy situation, to the very essence of dialogue.”

(Staiger, Pp. 3-31)

Staiger talks about the trailer as an artistic expression and how it is really part of the spectacle of the film itself, rather than a separate advertising scheme entirely. (Hesford, 2013, pp. 4-5)

The quote Staiger has used here from Lasky I have found to be beneficial in deciding how to structure my own trailer. It has made me realise that the intense, dramatic scenes I have filmed are most certainly appropriate for the trailer as, while it does not fully establish the mood of the film, nor entirely match the tempo of the full feature, it tells the audience what to expect within the plot of the film, that there is a very serious tone to the story being told.



  1. Kernan, L. (2005). Coming attractions: Reading American movie trailers. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press
  3. Hesford, D. (2013). The art of anticipation: The artistic status of the film trailer and its place in the wider cinematic culture (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland).