Themechanics/conventionsof an average film trailer
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) green band appears before the showing of allmodern film trailers, it exists to justify what is and isn’t appropriate for particular audiences based onthe age rating of the movie itself. Before April of 2009, the green band would read: “The followingpreview has been approved for ALL audiences” for films that have an age restriction of “U” (universal)- or in America, “G” (General Audiences). Since then the MPAA have introduced the green band asshown below which is shown before the viewing of trailers that are deemed as inappropriate foranyone under the age of which the film is rated. The MPAA allows each studio or distributor two anda half minutes to show the trailer. However, every studio or distributor is allowed to exceed this limitonce per year, if they feel that the film requires that it does.
The green band is shown first, always. In every official film trailer, it is a legal requirement to advertise the film producer/studio. This one in particular is New Line Film Productions (aka New Line Cinema). Up until recently, this film producer has been credited for many successful movies. With the disappointment of “The Golden Compass”, New Line Cinema was merged with parent company Warner Bros in 2008.
Trailers usually include an establishing shot at the beginning, this sets the scene and conveys the genre of the film. For example a crime movie is more likely to take place in an urban location similar to the establishing shot on the left, however science fiction movies are more likely to use a setting similar to the establishing shot on the right.
After the audience has established the setting, and potentially the genre, they are typically then introduced to the main character or the protagonist. There can be two or more main characters, in which case they’d be introduced together or one after the other. The audience is immediately meant to empathise with and/or admire the main character’s characteristics depending on the genre. For example, in a comedy the main character would conventionally be admired for their hilarity in some way.
Now that the audience has established where the film takes place, and they have established the main characters involved, it is time to reveal the main plot point that makes the movie watchable. This could be the big dilemma that needs a solution, the hilarious situation that the comedic character has got him/herself into, the evil presence that roams the haunted location etc. This is done through a montage of clips and shots, that change with an increased tempo, that show the best scenes of the movie.
This editing of these shots and clips build up to a crescendo of tension and/or excitement in the audience until what is typically the final line or visual shot in the trailer before the title and release date is revealed. In the film trailer “Knowing” the final and iconic line is: “What happens when the numbers run out?”. This line or visual provides the “knockout blow” that finishes the trailer with a dramatic and exciting ending, making the targeted audience want to watch the full movie.
Sound – diegetic/non-diegetic (soundtrack) The music/sound used in a trailer is just as important as the shots used. It makes the trailer more exciting and tense to watch by appealing to more than just one sense. In a horror movie trailer, the sound would typically be low toned, deep and slow paced. This builds up to a crescendo at the scariest moment of the trailer (about 1:45 in a two and a half minute trailer). In a comedy movie trailer the music is typically upbeat and very commonly pauses at times when the “hilarious” character says an important/funny line for example in the movie “The Campaign”, the music pauses when “Cam Brady” is insulting the mother of his political opponent.
Release date/social networking The release date of a movie is often revealed near the end of a trailer, usually followed by links to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter – only in relatively new film trailers – such as in the “kick ass” trailer below.
Sometimes, a trailer will include “special shoot” footage which shows a scene or series of scenes that aren’t used in the film itself. An example of this is “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” which showed this scene of a terminator staring through blazing fire. This scene wasn’t used in the film. It was simply shot for the trailer, to sell the film.