Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Story of a Book Trailer

How long can it take to film one and a half minutes?  Not too much longer than one and a half minutes, right?

I was convinced that to make a short, yet evocative, trailer for my book I'd just need an iPhone, a willing kid, and about five minutes to spare. I'd shoot a short sequence, polish it a bit on iMovie, upload it to YouTube, and presto! Instant Book Trailer. 

My book trailer project was doomed from the start. I couldn't zoom in with my old phone, the neighbor was mowing the lawn, and my daughter had no interest in being part of a "phone film" no matter how elegantly I tried to put it...  Still, I gave it a ghost run and ended up with some random footage of a mailbox waiting to be opened and the mighty sound of a distant lawnmower.  My book trailer was indeed short, but evocative only of a yawn.

Since I had no money to hire someone to help me fix this bore, I had no other choice but to beg. I asked a friend who had worked as a producer of documentary films for some quick advice. She diagnosed my problem right away.

"You need a story," she said.  "And you need a script."

What? A script for one and a half minutes?  Who has time for that?!? 

She explained that it would require careful planning to accomplish so much in so little time: to present the main issue (¡La Cuestión!) visually, introduce the main character, and give the viewer a taste of the story.  Not to mention the actual filming, recording the audio, and editing... To make it look easy would be the hardest thing.

Fortunately, my friend took my little project as an opportunity to dust off her equipment and get behind a camera (not an iPhone!) That was almost two months ago.

To make the story of the trailer short, let's just say that it took two afternoons of filming; about an hour of recording; one smoke alarm going off; who knows how much time clipping, editing, making sure both the English and the Spanish audio tracks fit... and my deep gratitude, for there's no way I could've paid for the time it took to do all this. 

The Actor, the Director, and the Mic

I did pick up a few tips about book trailer making along the way...
  • do not try to summarize your plot--you only have a couple of minutes
  • think more poem than narrative--less is definitely more
  • engage the senses
  • if music doesn't add anything, leave it out
  • silence is meaningful
  • it's just a taste, keep it short
  • and let it go!
Book Trailer for
Letters from Heaven: English
Cartas del cielo: Español


Amelia ML Montes said...

Gracias, Lydia. What a great instructive post and loved seeing the final trailer video. May you have many readers. En nuestra cultura--tenemos tantos cuentos de nuestras abuelas. Tu libro es otra. Gracias.

Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

Felicidades, Lydia! I love the title of the book and so cool to see your trailer at the end. Adelante!

Lydia Gil said...

¡Gracias a ambas! ¡Y abrazos!