Activity 1: Movie Trailer


Before any film appears in the cinema, the film’s distributor creates a marketing campaign to raise awareness of the film amongst its potential audience. The campaign has to give an ‘idea’ of what the film will be like to the audience.

In addition to a Publicity and Promotional campaign, there are a variety of ways in which this can happen. Posters, adverts in the media (which are usually based on the original poster), trailers and television spots and websites.

Trailer Construction Lesson:  Take notes on the the sequence of conventions presented in the trailers (class discussion).  Now watch the trailer below and note the sequence of conventions presented.

An example of a movie trailer:

The Poster:

Discussion of Film Terms:

The Shot – The building block of all filmmaking, the shot is the image that is seen on-screen until it is replaced by another image through an editing technique
Framing – how an object is positioned within the shot; how much of the frame of the movie screen the object will occupy
Long Shot – the object on the screen appears small or seems to be far away. If a person is shown, you can see their entire body in a long shot. A long shot gives the viewer a sense of time and place. People and objects can look unclear or indistinct because the distance creates a lack of detail.
Close-up or Close Shot – a shot in which the object or person takes up nearly 80 percent of the screen space. The object or person appears very large to the viewer. The close-up forces the viewer to look at only what the director intends. It also provides detail of the object or person.
Medium Shot – the most common and naturalistic of the shots because it is familiar to our everyday lives. Can be considered a sort of “neutral shot.”
Focus – the director can play with the focus of the camera to communicate something to the viewer
Soft Focus – A director sometimes puts the subject ever-so-slightly out of focus. Usually used in romantic films or to blur an image to convey uncertainty
Rack Focus – when the director either suddenly brings the background or the foreground suddenly into focus
Deep Focus – allows for all the objects in the foreground and the background to be in focus
Angles – where the camera is placed in relation to the subject
Low Angle – the camera is below the subject. Makes the object look big, powerful, dominating, and in control.
High Angle – the camera is above the subject. Makes the object appear weaker and not in control
Eye Level – the camera is in line with the subject. Considered a “neutral” angle
Dutch Angle – the camera is tilted slightly. The image appears sideways within the frame. The dutch angle can show danger.
Lighting – the main source of light on a movie set is called the “key light,” and other lights soften, balance, or shade the key light.
Low-Key Lighting – characterized by darkness and shadows with patches of bright key light. Can create a suspicious or dangerous mood.
High-Key Lighting – characterized by brightness and openness. Most light-hearted movies or scenes feature high-key lighting.


Diegetic Sound — any sound that could logically be heard by a character in the movie environment
Nondiegetic Sound – any sound that is intended only for the audience and is not a part of the environment of the film, such as music or voice-overs
Internal Diegetic Sound – any sound that only one character can hear, such as a character remembering sounds he has heard before.

Student Task:

Part 1 : Deconstruction of a trailer. Find a trailer of your choice online, stream capture it (using RealPlayer).  Save as: firstlastname_trailernotes.doc in your Video Unit, Activity  folder. Post the text notes (not the Word document) to a new Activity 1 subpage under the video unit page of your wix.  Comment on the use of video, images, text, sound bites, scores, narrative.

Part 2:  The concept for this project was to pick any movie and cut movie clips and create a trailer from scratch, using imagination and creativity.

Checklist for your Trailer:

  • Trailer must be HDV 720p,
  • Trailer must be between 90 seconds to 120 seconds in length,
  • Students must research the plot of the movie,
  • Students must create a narrative for the trailer,
  • Integrate 4-10 sound effects,
  • export the movie as:
  • upload trailer to your vimeo channel and embed to the Activity 1 subpage of the Video unit.

Teacher Tutorials:

Setup Adobe Premiere HD trailer:


Plot:  Halloween Town is a dream world filled with citizens such as deformed monsters, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves and witches. Jack Skellington (“The Pumpkin King”) leads them in a frightful celebration every Halloween, but he has grown tired of the same routine year after year. Wandering in the forest outside the town center, he accidentally opens a portal to “Christmas Town”. Impressed by the feeling and style of Christmas, Jack presents his findings and his (somewhat limited) understanding of the holiday to the Halloween Town residents. They fail to grasp his meaning and compare everything he says to their idea of Halloween. He reluctantly decides to play along and announces that they will take over Christmas.

Jack’s obsession with Christmas leads him to usurp the role of Santa Claus. Every resident is assigned a task, while Sally, a rag doll woman who is created by the town’s mad scientist, begins to feel a romantic attraction towards Jack. However, she alone fears that his plans will become disastrous. Jack assigns Lock, Shock and Barrel, a trio of mischievous children, to abduct Santa and bring him back to Halloween Town. Against Jack’s wishes and largely for their amusement, the trio deliver Santa to Oogie Boogie, a gambling-addict bogeyman who plots to play a game with Santa’s life at stake.

Christmas Eve arrives and Sally attempts to stop Jack with fog, but he embarks into the sky on a coffin-like sleigh pulled by skeletal reindeer, guided by the glowing nose of his ghost dog Zero. He begins to deliver presents to children around the world, but the gifts (shrunken heads, Christmas tree-eating snakes, etc.) only terrify the recipients. Jack is believed to be an imposter attempting to imitate Santa, and the military goes on alert to blast him out of the sky. The sleigh is shot down and he is presumed dead by Halloween Town’s citizens, but in fact he has survived the crash, landing in a cemetery. Although he is depressed by the failure of his plan, he quickly regains his old spirit, having come up with new ideas for next Halloween. He then rushes back home to rescue Santa and put things right.

Meanwhile, Sally attempts to free Santa, but is captured by Oogie. Jack slips into the lair and frees them, then confronts Oogie and unravels his outer covering to spill out all the bugs that live inside him. With Oogie gone, Santa reprimands Jack before setting off to deliver the right presents to the world’s children. He makes snow fall over Halloween Town to show that there are no hard feelings between himself and Jack; the townspeople are confused by the snow at first, but soon begin to play happily in it. Jack reveals that he is attracted to Sally just as she is to him, and they kiss under the full moon in the cemetery.

Tim Burton has directed many well-known films including Big Fish, Corpse Bride, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Sleepy Hollow. His films typically surround a frightening theme such as death, ghosts, monsters, or mystery, and yet they are not typically of the horror or “scary movie” genre. Burton tends to take the stereotypes of such subject matters and challenge them or turn them around. For example, Edward Scissorhands is about a Frankenstein-type monster who lives in a large, creepy house at the top of a hill. However, the story is not about mayhem and insanity; rather it surrounds the main character’s kindness and naïveté as he comes in contact with modern suburbia. The film contains colour and humor and is more a study on society than any monster. Other films of Burton’s are similarly ironic and dreamlike, and all are strange and very creative.

source:  wikipedia

Characters:  Burton’s characters are memorable, darkly whimsical, and colorful. His films tend to contain:

  • hero (main character): e.g. Jack Skellington
  • love interest (not necessarily a damsel in distress): e.g. Sally
  • villain (who hinders the happiness of the hero): e.g. Dr. Finklestein, Oogie Boogie
  • helper (who helps the hero): e.g. Zero

Setting: an American town, either fictional (e.g. Halloweentown) or not

Narrative: Nearly all of Burton’s films can be mapped out following Todorov’s Model of Equilibrium and Disequilibrium (see section on Narrative Structure)

Iconography: Burton, like any good author, uses many icons and symbols in his work. The Nightmare Before Christmas is rife with holiday icons. For example, in the forest, each tree that represents an American holiday is marked by a common symbol for that holiday: a turkey for Thanksgiving, a painted egg for Easter, etc. In regards to the two places that make up the main setting for the film, Halloween Town and Christmas Town, there are many icons present that represent those holidays:

Halloween Town: pumpkins, Jack-o-Lanterns, ghosts, bats, spiders, spider webs, skeletons, fog, a full moon, black cats, candy corn, trick-or-treaters, wolves, a cemetery, coffins, dead leaves, witches, etc.

Christmas Town: snow, Christmas trees, snowmen, candy canes, Santa Claus, Christmas lights, toys, warmly-lit houses, candles, ornaments, wreaths, sleds, stars, elves, reindeer, trains, icicles, presents, etc.

Colours also play a role. Halloween Town is mainly gray, black, and white in colour with occasional hints of green, orange, and purple. Christmas Town is full of reds and greens along with some blue and white.

Style: Burton’s style is so unique that one can usually identify one of his works without having read the credits. Dark yet humorous, frightening yet endearing, and fitting into the categories of comedy, horror, family, and sci-fi, his films are full of imagination, and are rich with imagery, art, and detail. Burton is arguably one of the best in Hollywood when it comes to setting a film’s mood or tone; he utilizes many of the filmmaking tools to do so including diegetic and non-diegetic sound, background, mise-en-scene, and lighting.

online example of a trailer project:

Nightmare Before Christmas Trailer – Class Project from Suzette Durazo on Vimeo.