I was really excited to create my own book trailer for Madhattan Mystery but with zero budget, I couldn’t exactly go high tech. I’d have to use what was already at my fingertips: a camera, my imagination, and an old version of Windows Moviemaker. (The newest version wasn’t compatible with my XP operating system. Did I mention I need a new computer?) Since I live in Manhattan, I had tons of fun traipsing around the city, snapping most of the photos myself—but some stuff was impossible to get, like a photo of the abandoned underground train station in Grand Central since the public isn’t usually allowed down there. But after an online search, I found a great photo by a professional photographer, Sam Horine, who granted me permission to use it. Whew!
More complications were cropping up regarding the rights of a few more photos I had found online, so I ended up having to replace them. My friend, Delores, a second-grade teacher in Chicago, agreed to step in and pose for the character of Aunt Roz; and for the pic of a homeless woman, my friend, Mary-Ann, volunteered to sit on a dirty curb, wrapped in a blanket, holding a cup of coins. “A friend in need is a friend indeed!” But when it came to the photo representing Kim Ling, I was really stumped. A street smart Asian-American girl with blue-streaked pigtails and an angry expression that makes your skin crawl? Try Googling that! Luckily, a woman in my writing critique group came to the rescue. Her daughter, Catie, was eager to portray the character in a photo shoot and she knocked it out of the park.
Then there was the endless search for the perfect royalty-free music to accompany the video but that’s a whole other story. I’m so happy to have ultimately found a piece called “Sneaky Snitch” by Kevin MacLeod on incompetech.com. Let’s leave it at that.
So I guess my point is that even going the easy route and creating a trailer with still photos was not that easy–for me anyway. It takes a village!
Who doesn’t love a good book trailer? I’ve already begun planning mine, even though my next book, MADhattan Mystery (Bloomsbury/Walker Books), isn’t due out until Spring of 2012. The story centers around a mystery in Grand Central Station that takes the main characters on a wild goose chase all around Manhattan. Think of the book trailer possibilities! I’d love to go all Hollywood – hire actors, a special effects artist, John Williams to do the score, James Cameron to direct – maybe do it in 3D! (Ooh, I just got a little head rush.)
Realistically speaking, it’ll mostly be me with my Canon PowerShot begging favors from unsuspecting friends. I’ve already put a bug in the ear of my best friend, who does video projections for Broadway shows. Hopefully, he’ll find the time to work his magic for me. In lieu of a Christmas gift this year? Steve, if you’re listening… [QUICK ASIDE: In a newspaper montage that flashes onstage during Tony-Award-winner Memphis, he included a blurb that read, “Bonk’s book sells out!” It’s just filler and goes by much too quickly to make out what it says, but still… Maybe it’ll have a subliminal effect on all those theatergoers.]
Anyway, back to book trailers. I’ve found that some of the simpler ones, if done well, can be more effective than the mega-produced variety. The official trailer for Because of Winn-Dixie, one of my favorite books, is just a series of still shots with captions and background music but it really works. Whereas the extended trailer for bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain, which is a high-quality video with professional voiceover, seems way too long and as a result, loses its impact. (It’s still a fantastic book though, and the dog in the trailer is adorable.)
So simple is probably the way to go. Although, now that I think of it, Blythe Danner (Gwyneth’s mom) would make the perfect Aunt Roz character for my trailer. Quirky. Sophisticated. Heart of gold. Moves back to NYC to resume her acting career after her husband cheats on her. We’d have to blow-dry Blythe’s hair straight to match the description in the book – I wonder if she’d work for scale. No, no, forget it. Simple pimple.