Coming Soon

An American Movie trailer beginning. In the UK, we dont have these...

Movie trailers are very effective in generating interest in films. But not all trailers are successful in spurring out interest in them. A romantic comedy trailer won’t acquire the audience wanted if they used darker colours, rock or metal soundtracks and imagery of blood, screaming or most other elements associated with a horror film. In order to attract the right audience to see it, a film has to use the language of the genre to do so.

In horror, the best way to attract an audience who will appreciate the work, is to use said elements above (rock and metal soundtracks are a recent addition to the mood of a trailer, previously it can be darker classical music or even atmospheric sounds). The horror audience picks up on these elements and recognises the filmic language involved. They’d be sorely disappointed if what they thought was a horror film, turned out to be (for example) a documentary. This is the link between audience and genre.

Hannibal Rising - Taking your date out for a meal wont ever mean the same thing again...

But what about general genres, such as comedy or action? Those can be mixed with other genres, with the use of several different hooks for audiences. The main focus within movie trailers will be on what Barthes describes as hermeneutic codes and proairetic codes. The former deals with issues of mystery – unanswered questions designed to intrigue and make an audience curious. The later are action codes, where questions about the outcome of events generate interest. These are hidden within virtually every Hollywood film trailer, as well as film industries around the world. It is something inherent to any good story.

But film studies aside, there’s several different sources for film trailers, and I’ve often fell victim to one of these. There’s the adverts you see on the TV and on the web when watching more professional videos. These are constrained by time, the amount of time they have to hook the viewer is usually around 30 seconds, possibly less. This gives them very little time to generate interest, and they rely on the action codes Roland Barthes talks about. Then there’s the trailers you see before the beginning of a movie at the cinema (or previously on VHS tapes, and even now sometimes on DVD) which are usually longer, at around 3 minutes or so. They have the time to set up questions to intrigue the audience. Many times, I’ve not really been into a film when seeing the TV advert, but when I watch the trailer at the cinema, I’ve changed my mind and wanted to go see it.

But for avid cinema goers, they don’t like to see the same advert played again and again, which is why some film companies actually produce multiple trailers, giving a few more snippets of the film, and even refocusing the attention on different characters or elements of the story. It’s a practice that I hope more film studios get into, because with the increase in media outlets from which we watch trailers, people are bumping into them more and more, and as someone who appreciates the importance of marketing on the financial (and therefore continued operation) imperative of a film studio, a range of trailers is preferable to the alternates – little marketing (which means a lot of films I would like, I don’t even realise they exist) or the same trailer over and over again (to which audiences will become annoyed and have the opposite effect to what the marketing was intended to do). And then of course, there’s that issue of sponsorship for independent productions – to which, especially on youtube, are a boom for increasing their production values, equipment, talent, etc…

Ok, I’ll put away the thesaurus now.

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2 Comments on “Coming Soon”

  1. Emily says:

    My one main qualm with a lot of film trailers that have been done in the past: the kind of voice over they’ve been given.


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