Introduction to Trailers

Lesson 1:

Introduction to Trailers       



Students will demonstrate their understanding of camera angles, movement, and shots by presenting specific elements to the class.


**This lesson is very tight to do in one lesson; the author suggests taking two class periods to cover this material in order for students to explore the concepts adequately.  An additional idea if this is done: watch a short film or longer clip from a film to have students analyze the film angles and movements and shots.  Mr. Bean’s Holiday is a 90-minute comedy that students enjoy watching and analyzing in this way.  You wouldn’t need to show the entire film if you don’t want/have time.**


Materials Needed:

At least two movie trailers

Peter Jackson’s King Kong ;

Arrival ;

The Emoji Movie

An iPad/camera for every group in the camera elements exercise

Directions for camera element exercise (printed out and cut for each group)

Framing Shots Handout copies

Camera Angles & Movements Handout copies (can be double sided with the Framing Shots Handout)

Ability to plug an iPad/phone into a projector to view in front of class



Have the students pull out a piece of paper.  Ask them what film elements can be used in a movie trailer: camera work, music, dialogue and/or narration, visual words, editing, acting, etc.  You may want to list these on the board as the students answer for a visual reference for the students and/or have them write them down on the paper.  Direct them to watch the trailer and then describe briefly what film elements they saw in the trailer—what specifically did the trailer DO with the film elements?


After watching the trailer, have them respond in writing to the following questions below their observations:

  • How did it capture their attention? (or why not)
  • What clues about the film’s storyline were given in the trailer?



Choose some students to share their responses out loud with the entire class: first discuss the film elements they saw and then how the trailer led to a response from them as an audience member.  Ask the students how the film elements can be used differently to create a different response in audience members.



Have students do the same thing with a very different kind of trailer.  Instead of having them write their response out on the paper, have them simply jot down thoughts/ideas as they watch.  After the trailer, have them pair-share their answers with a partner instead of discussing it as an entire class.


Once they have done this ask for two-three students to tell you what they felt the purpose of this movie trailer was – what did the makers of it want the reaction from their audience to be?   Using their answers, highlight how moviemakers want to get you in to see their film and use trailer as a teaser to get you involved and interested enough to come back to see the entire movie. They should capture your attention and give you a glimpse of the story and characters and pique your interest so that you want more.  It is sharing less of a storyline and more of a concept of the film.  What are “teases” that trailers rely on to grab their audiences’ attention?  Answers may include: arouse curiosity, shock, beautiful production design, familiar characters or situations, etc.  How did the trailers the students watched “tease” them?



Help the students to understand more deeply the film element of the camera itself; ask them:  What is different about watching a story play out on the screen versus on the stage?  What does the camera do?  The camera can be used to create effects and manipulate what the audience sees in the film (unlike a play production where audience members can look anywhere they want on the stage). 


The three main camera elements we will focus on are

  • Framing Shots: the camera set-up of how far away or close the shot will be
  • Camera Angles: from where the camera lens is focused
  • Camera Movement: how the camera moves during filming


The students are going to be the teachers of each of these camera elements.  Using the handout you will give them shortly they are to shoot a few elements to demonstrate and teach the rest of the class about that element.  They will have ten minutes to develop their work.  Their camera film/shot work should be no longer than 30 seconds. They will only have ninety seconds to present their camera elements, so they need to be wise about how they decide to film and teach it.  They can narrate live while the elements are shown on screen; they can film the instruction as part of the elements, or anything else they come up with.  But they will have a 30-second time limit on the actual filming and a 1½ -minute limit on the presentation.



Put students into groups of 2-4 (depending on the size of your group; you will want group totals to be at least five or a multiple of five).  Assign each group a number 1-5.  Give each group the corresponding directions, an iPad or camera (or they can use the camera on a personal phone), and enough copies of the framing shots/camera angles and movement handout for each member in the group. 


Give each group ten minutes to create their assigned framing shot, camera angle, and camera movement.  They can go outside of the classroom, but cannot interrupt any other classroom and must not go too far away that they can’t be back in the room in ten minutes.  Have them set an alarm to go off in nine minutes to give them a one-minute warning to return to the room.  Then send them off to film their elements and prepare their teaching moment. 


Once students are back in the room, have each group come and plug in their device and teach their elements to the rest of the class. Add in any additional instruction for each element that students might have missed teaching the class.




Give students a teaser of your own…they will be creating film trailers.  Only they will be developing original story ideas for their trailers.  Encourage them to think about this the next few days and jot down any ideas they might have for a movie (that they could then create a trailer for).  They will be brainstorming this more specifically next class period, but perhaps it can percolate in their brains until then.


Also talk with the students about the importance of respect and permission in filming with others.  Pass out a “Film Permission Slip” to each student and go through it to ensure that the students understand that filming shouldn’t go outside of the class without express permission by their classmates and parents.  Each student needs to bring a signed permission slip back before filming can begin.


Lesson 1.Camera Angles.Movement Handout

Lesson 1.Camera Elements Exercise

Lesson 1.Film Unit Permission Slip

Lesson 2.Framing Shots Handout