Ingenuity for television, film, & the web

“Whom must I kill to get published?” – a case study in book trailers.

When independent publisher SJ Heckscher-Marquis, from U.K. based “Throwaway Lines” called us with the opportunity to create a trailer for their new release, “Whom must I kill to get published?”, we were no doubt interested – but puzzled? A trailer for a book, we thought? Well as it turns out, knowing us primarily from our television & film productions, it was they (TAL) that opened our eyes to the fact that this promotional format IS directly culled from the very television/movie promo format that is the cornerstone of narrative marketing and promotion. In-other-words, “who else but us?”

"Whom must I kill to get published?" © 2011 Throwaway-Lines/UK

Like with all trailers, the first question that begs a good answer: what is the subject about, and who(m) drives the story? After being given a brief overview of the novel, it became apparent however, that the only way to do justice to the book – and give respect to the author’s vision, would be to actually read the book. That took the client by surprise. “What? You mean you actually care enough to understand the plot and setting?”. It was at that moment when I, personally, was more intrigued than ever to delve head first into this burgeoning format.

I mean, here is this new frontier that gives producer/editors an opportunity to get in on building characters from the ground up! A scenario where we get the creative freedom to contribute a look, feel and pace of a creative end-product! And as a hired gun to boot!! In typical “product advertisements” (commercials) our jobs are only to develop a commercial based on one undisputed physical element: the product itself; where producer/directors are expected to portray casted actor – as the targeted end-user. Kind of limiting and over-stated at best. In T.V. and film, the characters are dependent on the real actors breathing life into them. But, with book trailers its a new game entirely! We – the producer/editors are the director and casting agents rolled into one! Is that cool or what!

Like most historical moments of redefinition, there needs to be several factors present – for which it appears book trailers fall, beautifully. First, we have an identified business sector in flux: print media, which is undergoing a seismic shifts that is reshaping literally every facet of the way it does business. Starting with the method of distribution. Leaving the paper-ink world and meeting up with new technologies is the trend toward reaching the consumer. Such technological wonders, such as the iPad, Kindle and Nook, are opening doors to what was once the reality of impossible odds: where a new creative talent could ever dream of finding an audience, much less ever hold a key to directly distributing to them. Enter the independently exalted juggernauts of tomorrow: the independent publisher! [Let the angels sing…for the door of opportunity is ajar!!]

While it would seem that the world has been completely lost its desire to read at all – lured by the sensuality of a glossy LCD screen, blanketing a luciously decadent chocolate-dripped micro-chip. A far better and more hopeful way of looking at it, might be by the opportunity for any self-promoted writer/creator with web access, to finally have a weapon that puts him/her on equal footing with the imperial monsters of media. You know, something that gives even those on the most modest budget, the power to impress and entice new audiences, as [they] rediscover the brilliance and simplicity of the written word. (Ahh…can ‘ya taste it?)

Regarding production cost of book trailers, an effective trailer need not feature high paid actors, or feature any actors at all, or contain artillery-level special effects (unless you want that, of course). The only suggestion we offer, is to stay true to what you have, and not try to be something you are not. In-other-words, you are better off with simplicity of execution then trying to look like a 5-star epic release and come off rather foolish.

It can be said, and with utmost confidence and pride, that every character and scenario you are watching in the “Whom” trailer, as all of our trailers, is built piece by piece. Layer by layer. While many self-produced and novice efforts use entirely stock-purchased images, or self-made footage, we feel the only way to present believable characters and background scenarios is to create each element by hand (compositing). If you watch closely in the “Whom” trailer you will notice city references, hotel scenes, character interactions, all working cohesively as if the scenes were made for this project.

Man on a couch before digital surgery.

For instance in “Whom”, the story’s protagonist (Wes Pennington), was created by combining separate and unrelated human part elements – in sum forming Wes’s physical being. His head was purchased from a high rez stock shot, displaying a guy in his 30’s sitting at home lounging on his couch, while his body and arms are courtesy of a Google® image search, and then composite all together in Photoshop®. We did this with Wes several times in the clip, as well as the other characters. From there, background scenes were composite in Adobe After Effects to resemble a somewhat film verte’ effect; with black and white layers providing contrast when dissolving into more realistic color settings.

In the all important area of audio, the music track is actually made up of three completely separate cues edited in various blend points, while sound effects were treated using sound design techniques, where the sfx infused into the music – and less typically Foley-like drop-ins. Music and FX – meticulously screened, edited, and blended to sound more like a custom score. Regarding the voice-over: Typically voice-overs are provided by any one from the ample army of professionals with golden pipes. In this case however, our client asked writer/director Henry Barrial to lend his unique voice and indelible personality to this maiden release title.

Finally, now an independent writer or publisher, armed with the all encompassing “adver-market-promo” tools of social media, along with a professionally produced book trailer, can create substantial awareness and buzz that can lead directly to new fans with the bucks.

Give us a call at 917.664.5735 so we can discuss working on your next project! Or, if you prefer – Email your specs and we’ll provide you a competitive price quote.

By-the-way, “Whom” is a really great read. I really enjoyed it. You should pick up a copy, or download it to your favorite e-reader. – Bobby Francavillo-NitroRRMC-producer/creator of “Whom” the trailer