A2 Media Studies (Evaluation) - The theory of Trailers - Narrative

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  • 1. The Theory of TrailersBy Tanya McDonald
  • 2. What is a Narrative?
  • 3. NarrativeNarratives are not just from fiction - weexperience Narratives in our daily liveswithout even realising it. Everything from theearly morning news to the advertisementswhich surround us throughout the day havenarratives. Religious texts like the Bible actas a ‘Grand-narrative’ or a ‘meta-narrative’ asit provides a narrative for our lives.
  • 4. What is the difference between a story and a narrative?"Story is the irreducible substance of a story (Ameets B, something happens, order returns), whilenarrative is the way the story is related (Once upona time there was a princess...)" (Key Concepts inCommunication - Fiske et al (1983)…in other words, the story is the substance of theplot whereas the narrative is how the plot isconnected – how one sequence connects with thenext and how the plot moves smoothly betweenscenes.
  • 5. What is the point of the narrative?The narrative is the way the story is related and connects.Using those connections we, as the audience, are able tomake our own interpretations. Our interpretations areaffected by our experiences of reality and by influence fromother texts; because of this trailers are always (though notalways intentionally) influencing each other. Trailers seek togive the audience what we want, and that is a beginning,middle and end.Aristotle notes that "the most important is the plot, theordering of the incidents; for tragedy is a representation, notof men, but of action and life, of happiness and unhappiness- and happiness and unhappiness are bound up with action....it is their characters indeed, that make men what they are,but it is by reason of their actions that they are happy or thereverse." (Poetics - Aristotle(Penguin Edition) p39-40 4thcentury BC )
  • 6. Narrative (Continued) When we look at the conventions of a narrative we look at:Genre – By fitting into a genre the audience knows what to expectfrom a film and are able to predict its outcome.Character – The type of characters presented also allows forsome prediction of what they will do.Form – Allowing the audience a foreknowledge of the generalstructure of the film.Time – Narratives do not take place in ‘real time’.…and use them to help interpret the text. It is only through ourexperience of other texts that we are able to understand theseconventions.
  • 7. Time in Narrative Very few stories take place in ‘real time’ – a whole lifetime can be presented in a 90 minute film. Devices use to manipulate time include:FlashbacksDream SequencesRepetitionDifferent characters’ point of viewFlash forwardsReal time interludesPre-figuring of events that have not yet taken place
  • 8. Narrative (Continued)A classic audience seeks to escape the complications ofreality by watching a film, they want to be able to engage withthe text without too much effort and they also haveexpectations of form - a foreknowledge of how the plot willbe constructed. A fulfilling plot will have elements ofprediction and fulfilment which is not present in reality.Successful stories require actions which change the lives ofthe characters in the story. They also contain some sort ofresolution, where that change is registered, and whichcreates a new equilibrium for the characters involved.Roland Barthes noted that a text is like a tangled ball ofthreads which needs unravelling – for every interpretationyou can find another different interpretation just by
  • 9. The Narrator Identifying the Narrator who is telling the story is a vital question to be asked when analysing any media text. Stories may be related in the first or third person, the point of view may change, but the narrator will always:Reveal the events which make up the storyMediate those events for the audienceEvaluate those events for the audience The narrator also tends to position the audience into a particular relationship with the characters on the screen.
  • 10. Narrative (Continued)Lisa Kernan notes that ‘Trailers have a uniquestatus as cinematic promotions of narrative – andnarratizations of promotion’In other words, Kernan believes that trailers have aunique way of promoting narratives, however, theyalso act to narrate a promotion. So, not only dotrailers have the ability to promote the narrative andthe story of a film, they also have a narrativestructure of their own – the narrative structure whichaims to do nothing but promote the film.
  • 11. Bibliographyhttp://www.mediaknowall.com/as_alevel/alevkeyconcepts/alevelkeycon.php?pageID=narrativeLisa Kernan, ‘Coming Attractions: ReadingAmerican Movie Trailers’ (University of TexasPress, 2004)Key Concepts in Communication - Fiske et al(1983)