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Using film trailers

In the classroom

Storyboarding and writing a voiceover script for a film trailer is a useful activity for primary pupils.  They are creating a multi-genre text that requires them to consider different audiences and communicate a lot of information clearly.  However, trailer making can be taken further to encompass teamwork and social skills, ICT, drama, and other cross-curricular opportunities.  There are various stages to what can become a half term’s worth of exciting and enjoyable learning with children taking on professional roles.

Reading trailers
As a class watch and discuss a wide range of age-appropriate trailers from different genres.  Explore the typical characters, settings and plots that are synonymous with those genres and how these are established in the trailers. Compare and contrast the purpose and effect of editing techniques used in trailers for fantasy, comedy, action, world cinema etc. Use these viewing (reading) sessions to explore the use of camera angles, music, sound, light and colour and discuss the choices made to excite, entertain and tease the audience.

Film pitch
Filmmakers have to 'pitch' their ideas to producers, who decide if the film will be made.  Ask pupils or groups to prepare and present a film pitch. Teachers and teaching assistants can play the roles of producers and studio executives. The pupils' ideas can be adaptations of children’s novels (that haven’t already been made into a film) or stories from other areas of the curriculum, such as history.  Pupils could even pitch an entirely original story.

When presenting a pitch, start with genre. Will your film be a mystery, adventure or comedy? Will it be live action or animation? Explain who will enjoy your film and why. Which actors do you want to play the main characters? Summarise the plot in an exciting way, choosing language carefully. Will you need CGI and special effects? Explain the locations you want to film in to create the world in your story.  Write a synopsis similar to the ones found on official film websites.

The production team
If they have not used them before then it is a good idea to introduce pupils to cameras and editing software before they begin planning their trailers.  If they have to learn to use the equipment on the job they will become frustrated and be less proud of what they produce.  Also, to storyboard properly and imagine how their trailer will look they need to have an introductory task where they can explore possibilities with the technology.  This is when groups can decide who is good at what and decide roles within their team.  Each group needs actors, a director, editors, someone to operate the camera frame, each shot etc.  Of course many roles will be shared but children like being given responsibilities.

Script and storyboards
The more thought groups put into planning the more successful the filming and editing will be.  This is the most important stage of the process.  Pupils need to plan and draw storyboards considering shot types and camera angles.  They can even start thinking about music here.  The voiceover script, on-screen text and any dialogue needs to be written now too.

Production design
There is a link to Art and D & T if any sets, props or costumes need to be designed.  Actors need to be rehearsing at this time and the camera crew deciding on locations and lighting.

The most fun stage still requires patience and teamwork.  Pupils can watch the 'rushes' on the camera's monitor and may need to re-shoot sequences.  The script and storyboard should be closely refered to throughout.  The better the planning, the easier the shoot will be.

This process will take the longest.  Footage needs cropping and sequencing before transitions, text, music and sound effects are added.  Pupils can add their voiceover using built-in or external microphones and add it to the soundtrack.  Groups may want to split up and edit their footage in pairs so they can compare each result and evaluate together.  Is the story clear and engaging?

Marketing and screening
Groups can create campaigns for their films with a poster and website to accompany their trailer.  'Publish' the children's work by screening their trailers in assemblies or in other classrooms and ask for evaluation and feedback from younger pupils. Are they interested in the characters and stories in the trailers? Would they want to see these films?