Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Make a Book Trailer

Dear Fellow Writer,
Where do ideas come from?

Having an agile mind? One that sees connections between disparate concepts? Or the ability to see immense mileage in the mundane?

Perhaps the opposite. Being so foggy you think other people's ideas are you own? Like producers often do...

Or perhaps as many artists believe, ideas are delivered by spiritual muses from some kind of creative dimension outside our own. 

I prefer to think inspiration is that little spark of God inside all of us.

The one that makes us want perfection.
Keep writing!

Rob Parnell

How to Make a Book Trailer

Rob Parnell

An esteemed subscriber suggested I write an article on how to make a video book trailer. After all, the big publishers are jumping on this bandwagon now, so it must work...

You probably saw we just did one for Robyn's new book, Maya and the Crystal Skull, here.

Lots of people have been in touch to say they thought it's a powerful way to get the book across. But really, I just put it together because I like doing that kind of thing.

In the old days you didn't need technology to sell a book. It was thought that because people like to read anyway, then books would sell themselves. Alas, if that were true, they wouldn't need covers...

You can't judge a book by its cover, they say, but of course, we all do.

These days we judge a book by its media presence.

We want to be part of the hype.

Anyway, what's the process for making a video trailer?

Of course, it all starts with the writing.

The script for the Maya video was about two pages long. I wrote it in Final Draft 8 because that let's you know it's a visual project. I'd read the book of course but had my own ideas on what to focus the trailer on. The darker side basically, because that's what I like.

Also I don't believe in talking down to children or making things 'softer' for them. Children, I've discovered, are way more savvy than we often give them credit for.

It was interesting because we ran a competition of sorts to get kids to pick the cover for the book. 80% of them went for the dark creepy cover you see on the book today. The other one was light and airy but was considered 'boring' by the majority of kids. Fascinating.

When I'd written the script I ran it past Robyn to make sure it reflected her understanding of the book. I'd included a few lines of actual dialog from the book's text to ensure I was being faithful to her vision - and to flatter her ego of course.

Never forget the power of flattery in creative work!

Then I made a list of all the shots I'd need - about fifty in all. Quite a lot for a one minute video... but about right I think.

We called Leila Clendon, a 14 year old actress we knew from Kool Kafe - the play I put on last year. She was brilliant in that. Plus, we thought she had the right look for Maya - fragile but sassy. 

She came over with her dad and we shot some green screen - then went out and filmed her at the beach and in amongst some trees. 

The car shots were done in our driveway - and to give away a little trade secret - the car is not actually moving. I used a few tricks I've seen Spielberg employ to just make you think it's moving.

That took a day - not forgetting to get her parents to sign a "talent release form". This allows me to use Leila's image legally - and prevents anyone from coming back to sue us later if, for instance, the book's picked up by Hollywood and they want to make sure we have a clear chain of title on the project.

I also spent half a day filming Robyn's crystal skull - and lighting fires in front of the camera to get those shots of the skull through fire. That was fun. We also then filmed the bits with Robyn and I playing two of the characters from the book. Me as the bad guy of course.

The video took about a day to slice together and I showed the rough draft to Robyn before I did a proper edit. To be honest I think she was probably a bit bemused. It looked very dark and edgy at that stage!

Then I recorded the music on Mixcraft 5 - which allows you to see the video as you're recording. Ah, the marvels of technology. Took an evening over the music because I don't like paying for stuff I know I can do myself.

Next I put on the text captions, edited from the original script to make them shorter and punchier.

Initially I'd intended using a narrator - me - but it sounded a bit cheesy with me doing Morgan Freeman impressions. I decided the captions were more effective.

Last of all I put on the sound effects. They're the kind of thing you don't notice - unless they're not there. The crackling of the fire, the motor revving on the car, the sound of the wind on the cliff - they were all put on last. Oh, and the gunshot too.

All the post production tweaking probably took about two days when I got down to it. Actually less time than I expected.

I showed the final version to Robyn, who just said, Wow, and then I knew it was done. And like all good Internet directors, we stuck it on YouTube immediately for all the world to see.

There you have it.

All up - because we have lots of other stuff to do of course - it took about three months from idea to finished trailer. If I'd been working on it solid it would most likely have taken about a week.

Best part? Didn't cost a dime.

So now you know how it's done, it's your turn!

Okay, so I've got a nice Canon camera these days but you don't need a great one. In the past I've recorded pop videos with the internal camera on a laptop! And even most mobiles now record usable video.

As the saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way,

Keep writing!
 rob at home

"Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation." Graham Greene

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