Still photo from ‘Barcode’ – a test shoot
With the rapid growth of self-published authors and small publishing companies there is also an increase in the production of film/video trailers for books. The few which I have viewed are not very good. Here is a short guide to help them create a better film.
Keep your idea simple
Even the trailers made by large publishing companies do not always pass a decent level of film competence. It is better not to have a trailer than to have a bad one. A bad trailer might suggest that your book is not very good or badly written.
Keep your film idea simple. Do not think you can encompass your whole novel into a two minute trailer. Concentrate on the main dramatic scene or be subtle and just hint at what your story is about.
Here are a few suggestions, mainly aimed at the self-pub author who would like a trailer.
Most movie trailers are less than a minute but you could stretch your trailer to two minutes.
You need someone to make your trailer
Unless you have a large bank account and want to hire professional film makers I would suggest you contact your local film school and find your director and crew there. You will find someone who would love to work on a short film with you.
If you think you need actors contact your local drama school/college. You will find eager actors/actresses looking to be given a chance to show off their talent. There is also a web site called STAR NOW (which is worldwide) where you will find professional and amateur actors, all of them are looking for work. Some of them will work for free if you pay for their travelling expenses. Check out that site for more details.
If you know anyone who works for a Casting Agency contact them and see if they can get someone on board your film.
Bad actors can sink your book trailer so avoid them. It is better to write a ‘voice over’ script and have someone read it; then edit that voice with images which best ‘sell’ your book.
Think about using original music with your film. Contact a local classical composer or rock band.
Before you start to shoot create a short storyboard. It does not have to be a work of art. Matchstick men drawings will be good enough. It simply has to convey what you expect to see in each shot. It is more productive to spend two hours at home or in the pub with your director creating a storyboard than wasting time on location wondering what you are going to shoot next.
Keep your trailer down to about two mins. Leave your audience wanting more.
Author Film Interview
The alternative to filming a short drama is to film an interview with yourself.
Again contact local filmmakers to make it for you.
I would say that 10 minutes is long enough for an author interview if you are dealing with only one title.
How do you sell a 300 – 500 page novel in two minutes?
Using three examples from recent feature films – if you were making a trailer for the following films what would you feature?
Macbeth with the witches
Macbeth with Lady Macbeth, a knife in her hand
Macbeth confronted by Macduff
A Roman Soldier brave and victorious in battle
The same Soldier now incarcerated
The Soldier, now a Gladiator, enters an arena
A couple meet on the ship’s deck
A world of elegance contrasted with below decks squalor
A night sky with few stars, the ship at sea ……
You never show what happens in the third act. Better to leave your audience guessing.
The French film industry
Sometimes when they make their trailers for the American market, they tend to make them with no dialogue, to sell their films using only visuals. That is not a bad way to approach your book trailers.
Less is more. Good luck.
Ron Taylor (ex BBC)
Storyboard drawing: Peter Parr