The Movie Trailer/Schmertz

The Movie Trailer/Schmertz.

The Movie Trailer/Schmertz

Close Reading Paper #1: The Movie Trailer/Schmertz

Trailer: also known as a preview, a trailer is an advertisement for a film. A trailer generally selects and remixes selected shots from the original film.


Close Reading: A close reading is a careful, sustained interpretation of a brief text or part of a text. The purpose is to identify its key ideas and themes.

For this assignment you will do a close reading of a movie trailer for one of the films covered. Some of these films we have already seen; others you will see in the next few weeks. View ALL of the movie trailers posted below.  Then, pick which one you will write your paper on. Answer this question: What does the trailer suggest that the movie’s key themes, issues or conflicts will be? What specific shots (or combinations of shots) suggest this?


M (dir. Lang):

Vertigo (dir. Hitchcock):

Do The Right Thing (dir. Lee):

Sunrise (dir. Murnau):

The Graduate (dir. Nichols):

Some tips for doing a close reading of film:

  • Treat the movie trailer as an independent text; try to put your knowledge of the actual movie aside as you study the trailer.
  • Turn off the sound to focus on just the visuals, then 2. cover the screen or close your eyes to focus on just sound, and then 3. view audio and video together to see how the sound fits with the shots (or how it bridges cuts between shots).
  • Imagine the text (the trailer) was a long, master shot and your job in organizing it is to break it down into a series of meaningful “closeups.”
  • Place your emphasis on the particular, over the general, paying close attention to individual shots and the order in which they are combined. How is the trailer structured? How do the parts relate to the whole?
  • This should be a two-step process. Take extensive, careful notes on the trailer before you draw your conclusions about its ideas and themes. Close reading requires you to gather extensive data (your observations) and think carefully about what these observations add up to.


Length: 3-4 pages, following the format described on the syllabus.

Evaluation method:

Your grade will be distributed equally across three categories:

  1. Your background knowledge (Sikov and any other course materials contained in BlackBoard)
  2. Your paper’s argument (development and organization). Mechanical and organizational problems will detract from the “argument” portion of your grade, as they diminish a writer’s credibility, or ethos.
  3. Your analysis of the trailer (application of concepts from this course)

Before you submit the final version of your paper, make sure it contains all these elements:

___ A focused title that lets the reader know what s/he is about to read

___ An introduction which contains an overview of the trailer

___ A thesis statement containing your main point about the trailer (at end of intro)

___ Topic sentence beginning each paragraph containing that paragraph’s main idea

___ Unified body paragraphs

___ Conclusion that pulls your argument together and reinforces your thesis

___ Careful proofreading/copyediting

The Movie Trailer/Schmertz

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