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KS3/4 English: The Great White Silence (1924)

Devise a marketing campaign for this epic record of Captain Scott's doomed quest

Main image of KS3/4 English: The Great White Silence (1924)
AuthorGemma Starkey
TopicFilm Marketing
Key WordsHerbert Ponting, Captain Robert Scott, simon fisher turner, silent film, Antarctic, polar exploration, film score, composer, music, south pole, penguins, seals, ice, Terra Nova
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The Great White Silence is the record of Captain Scott's quest for the South Pole. It is one of the most significant films kept by the National Film and Television Archive.

This lesson idea requires students to research, find an audience for, and write appropriate copy for an important archive film from the beginning of the last century. It is an interesting task because it not only requires substantial understanding of the film itself but also the ability to identify what might attract different audiences to it.

This lesson could also be adapted for use in the Art and Design classroom where students are asked to design a poster/flyer campaign for the film.

Lesson Objective

  • To be able to research, construct and evaluate an appropriate marketing campaign for a complex historical film.


Begin the lesson with a brief history of early geographical exploration - you can find out more about other polar quests by following the links on the right, thereby putting Captain Scott's expedition to the South Pole into context. Now introduce the class to Herbert Ponting's epic film The Great White Silence. Students can watch extracts and read around the film on Screenonline, you could also show the BFI DVD of the film or provide handouts.

Students could also familiarise themselves with the film by working through The Great White Silence Tour. For this exercise the final section on the film's distribution is the most relevant and worth taking some time over. Ask them to jot down 5 facts or observations about the film which they think are particularly important or interesting.


Main Attraction

(1) Split the class into groups. Ask the students to imagine they work in the distribution department of a film company - this could even be at the BFI - lucky them! They have been asked to market the cinema release of The Great White Silence to the general public. Ask them to think about the following questions:

  • What successful examples of marketing campaigns can they think of - i.e. - what ads have they seen on TV or in print form that have had a positive effect on them?
  • What do they think makes these ads so successful?
  • How might marketing companies measure the success or failure of their campaigns?

(2) Successful marketing is all about knowing your product and doing the right kinds of research to target audiences. Going back to the notes from the beginning of the lesson and the research they've done on the film, students should discuss in groups who they think the audiences might be for The Great White Silence. Here are some questions that might help focus their thinking:

  • Who might be interested in an archive film depicting the polar explorer Captain Scott?
  • Who might be interested in Simon Fisher Turner and his experimental music?
  • Are there any other elements of this film that might attract different audiences, such as its wildlife or the story of its restoration?

If students are finding this difficult, they could start with a specific audience group such as 16-19 year-olds or seniors. What aspects could draw these groups into wanting to learn more about Ponting's film? Now ask them to choose one audience which they'd like to focus on.

(3) 'Messaging' is a key marketing term. If a marketing team knows its audience well enough, it should be able to craft a message about its product or service that addresses them directly; this will give them a reason to watch, read, try and buy. Give the students Handout 1 which lists some positive quotes taken from reviews of the film. Using these quotes and/or their own notes and research, ask the class to identify what key messages could target their audience specifically?

How might they get the messages out to their audiences? They should think about what mediums are appropriate to their specific audience, for example might social networking sites be an effective way to contact 16-19 year-olds?

For an example of the actual DVD marketing campaign for The Great White Silence see Handout 2.


End Credits

The groups now have to report back on their work to the film company's Head of Marketing - a terrifying task! They should summarise the following:

  • What audiences they've identified for the film and why
  • What key messages will attract these audiences
  • How will these audiences be reached

Finish the lesson by watching the trailer created by the BFI for The Great White Silence on the BFI's YouTube site (see below).


External Links

Great White Silence trailer

Selling the movies tour on Screenonline:

Video Clips
1. October 1910 (5:49)
2. Arrival at Cape Evans (3:34)
3. The isolated polar party (5:06)
4. Amongst penguins (5:20)
Downloadable Teaching Resources
Marketing The Great White Silence: Handout 1
Marketing The Great White Silence: Handout 2

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See also

Thumbnail image of Ponting, Herbert (1870-1935)Ponting, Herbert (1870-1935)

Cinematographer, Director