By Nick Willoughby

Film trailers are created to show the audience what the film is about and to encourage them to want to see it when it’s released. It’s important to not show too much of the storyline; otherwise people won’t want to see the finished film — they’ll already know what happens from the trailer! The following list describes a few things you may wish to include in your trailer.

  • A film genre: When audiences watch a movie trailer, they want to know the genre. By including shots of locations and key moments from your story, your audience can work out the genre of your film. If you were creating a trailer for an action film, you may want to include some of the high energy and action shots from your film.

    A crew chose a thriller film genre so they have included shots of looking lost and running away, shots of the children hearing noises, and shots of the character they meet.

  • An introduction: Many trailers include an introduction to the story or character to explain the background or history. Trailers for superhero films usually show clips explaining how they got their superpowers. If you were creating a trailer for a science fiction film, you may want to show clips of your character’s life before the aliens invaded. This could be made up of a series of shots building up to the main event in your story.

    In one crew’s film trailer they have included some of the first scene before the characters enter the forest and then a few shots of them playing around in the forest. This helps to introduce the characters and gives some background to the story.

  • Characters: A trailer is a great opportunity to introduce your audience to the characters in your film. By including important moments from your story and key moments from your actors, your audience can get to know your characters and work out their role in your film. If you were creating a trailer for a crime thriller, you may wish to include moments from the detective characters and any moments from your villains.

    Include short lines of dialogue to help tell the story and introduce the characters. Or, you could include clips of each character in the story and have each character reveal a little bit of the story with what each of them says.

  • Emotions: Audiences like to see emotions and expressions in a trailer as this helps them to understand the emotions they will feel when watching the film. If you were creating a trailer for a horror film, you may want to include clips of your characters looking frightened.

    In one crew’s film trailer, the movie makers included clips of the children in the forest looking lost and then getting more and more scared. They included voice clips from the characters, saying things such as “We’re not going to make it!” The more shots showing emotions and expressions from your characters you include in your trailer, the more likely you are to engage your audience.

  • The ending: This is an important part of your film trailer because it’s where you leave your audience. By the end of the trailer, your audience will make their minds up about your film and whether or not they want to see the full version.

    You want your audience to turn to the person next to them and say “I really want to see that.” To do this, you need to end your trailer with an impact. You could, for instance, aim to leave your audience with a question in mind, wondering what happens next.

Have a look through some trailers online to see how other directors do it. It’s a good idea to watch a trailer from a film you’ve already watched to see how its trailer explains the story without giving too much away.

Here is structure sheet that a film crew created for their film showing some of the key moments they want to include in their trailer.

A structure sheet can help you plan your trailer.
A structure sheet can help you plan your trailer.