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Conventions of a film trailer
• All trailers will begin with a slide typically 5 seconds long which
contains the films age ratings by an authorised body. This is an
essential convention and film trailers are legally not allowed to
be shown without it.
• The production company’s name/logo is usually shown
immediately after to commence the film however sometimes it’s
shown after a couple of cuts which would briefly introduce
setting or the genre of the film. Screenshots opposite, are the
trailers for American Gangster (AG) and Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
(GR) which show the respective logos being displayed after the
introduction whereas for Public Enemies (PE) the logo is shown
straight away. AG & PE (Universal) and GR (Paramount) were all
made by high budget Hollywood studios therefore inclusion of
their logo/name is compulsory to illustrate who made the film
but to also generate as much awareness as possible to the
audience that their film will be high budget (and in some of the
audience’s eyes, therefore worthwhile watching).
• In the introduction for AG & GR the setting is clearly shown
(both have New York based plots) and The Queensboro Bridge
and the skyline are both scenes the audience will associate with
New York. The setting has to be made explicit!
The rest of the introduction, which is
also very explicit, highlights the theme of the
film: both AG & GR have a scene depicting
violence and both have a scene which
shows the main character however in GR
this is made less obvious with multiple
characters being introduced.
• It’s common for trailers to be 1-2 minutes long; any longer
would either give the plot away or potentially make the viewer
loose interest. PE is an exception clocking in at nearly 3 minutes
however all three trailers still follow the convention of fast cuts.
In order to create more excitement fast cuts have been used
which combined together may show intertwined or the same
scene creating a more action packed experience as a result. At
the same time the production company are also able to show
the main parts of the film to encourage a wider audience
however they never reveal the ending.
• There is no convention regarding the sequence and assortment
of scenes shown in the trailer having said this it’s unlikely that a
trailer will ever be created chronologically as this would reveal
too much of the film. Some trailers may begin with the ending or
finish with the start etc. to again eradicate any prediction of the
outcome of the plot.
• Another key convention of film trailers is the title of the film
along with the release date being shown at the very end. This is
vital information which holds arguably the most importance
throughout the trailer. Unlike other onscreen text, the title will
not be displayed simultaneously with the trailer scenes rather on
its own, usually with a black background. The title will have its
own unique style and font and will be the consistent title used
throughout the campaign for all medias. The release date of the
film may appear under the title in a smaller font or may
following the title with the next cut. The presentation of the
release date varies. It may be on a plain background or a unique
background/scene created specifically for the trailer. The release
date depending on the stage of the trailers release will either
specify a date, month or say ‘coming soon’.
• During the course of the trailer the directors/makers name will
be shown clearly usually in the form of: ‘from the maker of...’
which highlights their past successes to the audience hopefully
increasing their encouragement to watch the film. Like actors,
the audience will also have their preferred or favourite directors;
it’s essential to make sure they know who the film is made by.
• All trailers will include the actor names clearly to again
encourage those who will only watch the film due to actor
preference rather than the plot. With this in mind the
convention of actor names means that the producers will either
display their names early on in the beginning of the trailer or
right at the end to resonate and leave a lasting impression on
• On screen text may also expand past actor/director names and
serve as additions to important details within the plot of the
film. In biographical films it’s likely that ‘based on a true story’
will appear briefly through the trailer. The text usually relates to
a character or background information regarding them but is
also aesthetically pleasing and helps link separate cuts of scenes
together. With this in mind, to increase effectiveness there will
be limited text.
• There is always talking throughout the trailer whether its a
voiceover or character dialogue. The voiceover will be very clear
and slow so that it’s easy to digest for everybody. The dialogue
from characters is taken from lines in the actual film. Character
dialogue will only appear from the most important characters
and the content of their dialogue will be precise in setting the
background and future for the character and plot.
• One of the most obvious conventions in a film trailer is music.
The music can be a song specifically recorded, an instrumental
which is unique to the film or a song selected from a soundtrack.
The type of music will suggest the genre, style and plot of the
film. It’s usually a brief part of the song which commences in the
second half of the trailer however there may be snippets of
other songs earlier on in the trailer. The music is either
accompanied by text or character dialogue which brings all the
elements of the trailer together to culminate in the finale of the
trailer which is commonly the main character engaging in an
action scene or clever dialogue. Despite all three films being of
the gangster genre AG, PE and GR all have very different music.
AG has a song sampled from the funk era (AG set in the 70s), PE
has a fast paced swing song (PE set in the 30s) and GR has 50
Cent’s own hit song which reflects the ‘new’ gangster of the
modern era in comparison to the more classic portrayal in the
Conventions of the ‘gangster’ genre
• All three trailers have multiple scenes
depicting violence and associations of the
gangster lifestyle such as drugs, money
• The clothes worn all pertain to the
gangster genre however due to the era in
which the films are set the clothes vary. In
PE the actors are all in waistcoats and hats
whereas in AG the characters are wearing
suits and in GR baggy clothes and hooded
• The opening scenes indicate the genre:
AG/GR are both set in New York whereas
PE is set in Chicago. Both are huge cities
with reputations for crime making them
ideal for the genre