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First Glance: Exploring film posters

Film posters are created in advance of the cinema release of a film: they are a form of advertising, showing the film's key features to its potential audience. They may be produced in various sizes and displayed in prominent places to generate interest in a film before it is released and whilst it is playing at cinemas. 

Generally, posters show the film's title, an image of a character or characters within a setting from the film, as well as the names of key actors involved and often a short piece of text known as a 'tagline' - for example, 'Face Your Demons'. Often a 'campaign' of several slightly different posters will be produced.

Student Task One

Look closely at the four posters for the movie Beowulf.

  • What do you notice first - what is your eye drawn to in each poster, and why?
  • From looking at the posters, what do you think this film might be about - what characters, themes, and settings might you expect to see?
  • What do you think the 'mood' of the film might be?
  • Try to find as many adjectives as possible to describe the ideas you have, based on what you can tell from the poster campaign

Exploring the film trailer

"They say you have a monster here. They say - your lands are cursed"

Film trailers work in a similar way to posters: both are forms of advertising for new film releases. Trailers may be shown on TV, in cinemas or on websites, or played on the radio, and may be anything between 15 seconds and two minutes long. Trailers usually feature the most interesting, funny or exciting moments from a film. They generally indicate the story or narrative of the film as well as showing audiences what 'genre' or type of film they can expect - for example, romance, comedy or action.

Student Task Two

Watch the trailer for Beowulf. After you have watched it through once, divide into groups and watch a second time to answer the following questions:

What do you think is the narrative or story of the film? In what different ways does the trailer show us this? Think about sound (music and dialogue) as well as the characters and settings you see. What impression do you build of Beowulf as you watch the trailer? Think about his appearance, his words and his actions. What do you think is Beowulf's aim – what is he setting out to achieve? Can you see any obstacles in the way of this? What other characters do you notice? Could you describe them, the different roles they play and their relationships with Beowulf? Can you say anything about the style or look of the film, based on the trailer? You could comment on special effects, characters' appearance and costume design, the setting…