PRODUCING A BOOK TRAILER (part 2): Creative Meetings

This above video is a specially shot book trailer which presumes to present the characters who populate the novel, violating what I understood to be one of the few rules of the genre: don’t interfere with the imaginative investment of the potential reader who is believed to want to make up his/her mind about what the characters look like. Of course, in a trailer, the marketing experience is preliminary to the literary one, and I guess the good people at Simon & Schuster assume that no one will remember how they portrayed the protagonists, their setting and their style.

In today’s post, I’m once again blogging about applying theoretical and practical knowledge to a new challenge: writing and producing a book trailer for an author who has admirably written what I like to call a Apocalyptic Gothic Romance, or alternately, an apocalyptic romantic thriller.

I’m so busy with the organizational and creative aspects of the project that I’ve decided to supplant my regular analysis of new and classic trailers with a diary of my hands-on-involvement in trailermaking, albeit for a work of literary rather than cinematic fiction. I hope it may be useful to anyone looking for an example of how it’s done. (Not done right or done perfectly or as a veteran book trailer maker might do it, but, nevertheless, done.)

I had a creative meeting last night. My editor and visual effects and story-board artist met with me to discuss a shot/scene list, to review scripts, to be apprised of the logistics of the project (pay, time frame, time commitment, working dynamics) and to correct, if need by, all my assumptions about what can (or cannot?) be done with editing and After Effects (and its ilk) tools.

I’m over-preparing, both as an expression of my excitement and as an outlet for anxiety, so I came armed with my wish list of footage and shots, my suggestions about editing, filtering and shot manipulation and my copy exploration of creative directions to consider. I presented 12 scripts that faithfully present the story and 28 shot/scenes that I’d love for my editor to have available to him. I shared the Key art that the client has already approved and discussed talent for our special shoot, as well as V.O. and compositional/library resources for the music cues we will need.

My creatives (who also have serious tech knowledge) educated me about the quality of the moving images we will need to license and capture in order to deliver the requested cinematic look. We then brainstormed solutions to the constitutive “problem” of a book trailer–that there are no dailies; that there is no film from which to grab visual elements–which also happens to be simultaneously and paradoxically, a goad to and a license for creativity.

We agreed emphatically to begin by storyboarding the approved script/direction as the first step in piecing together the trailer. As homework, I requested each participant choose his favorite approach in terms of story presentation, language, tone or attitude, but always with an eye to production practicality. I’m sending the client 3 or 4 directions this weekend for review, notes or approval. At the least, we’ll need a clear re-direction so that we can re submit and get an approved direction as soon as possible.

H, our storyboard hero, wants to get drawing. Me and D need to research the clips, music cues and begin negotiating licensing fees. From the storyboard, we’ll also confirm just exactly what we need to produce ourselves and capture on film. Special shooting is expensive, although it can often pay for itself in obviating the need to license the same footage from a stock house. And of course, there are some shots that you cannot beg, borrow or steal. You have to produce and film them yourself.

Today, a serendipity occurred. I was meeting with another client, when he called a friend on an unrelated matter. The voice that answered was the voice that I’ve been hearing in my head as the voice-over for the trailer. And this woman just happens to have done this kind of work professionally. We’ll see what the client thinks. I’m going to have her create an audition MP3.

Finally, I’ve got everybody connected via dropbox and we are going to work.

I’ll be back on Tuesday to report on progress.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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