It's fun to see a good book trailer (and occasionally hilarious or painful to see a bad one). The average cost for a decent and professional two minute film clip can run anywhere between $1,000 to $5,000 (and it goes up from there).
But where would you start? And what if you don't have $5,000 to drop on a two minute promotional? (Or $10,000 to $15,000 for that matter).
Don't panic. If you don't have that kind of money to spend on a book trailer, you're in the good company of most other writers.
Here's what worked for me, and maybe it can help you as well. Also on the topic of book trailers, check out the interview Suzy did with Christopher Mannino.
1. Take an inventory of what you know (and what you don't).
Start with what you know. We've all heard this as writers and the principle carries over to film. As you look at shooting your own film trailer, what strengths do you bring to the table? Do you have a background in theater? A penchant for putting together family videos? Some experience in Final Cut or Adobe? Obviously one strength you bring as a writer is the knowledge of your own story. How would you as the author want to communicate that story? What scene or sequence would communicate best?
Likewise, take inventory of where you'll need help. Don't know anything about post-production? What about setting, lighting, props, camera and angles? Marketing beforehand? Marketing afterwards? Start a list of 'must haves' that you will have to outsource. (Try to keep this list small - for example, you may not know much about marketing on YouTube, but rather than outsource do a quick Google search on the subject or learn from other writer's blogs, like this one!)
2. Work with who you know.
It's all about who you know. At least it is if you don't have oodles of money. Is there a writer's group in your area? Do any of those members use a camera or shoot film occasionally? (The genre barrier is thinner than you might suppose). Some aspiring camera crew flunkies are willing to shoot for a minimal fee or just to get another piece in their portfolio. Ask your local groups, clubs, or church members. Who do you know who can fill those 'must have' roles you detailed above? The more roles you can fill with volunteers the less green stuff you'll have to fork over to professionals. I was able to find a couple of members of our writing group to help, a girl from church volunteered, a couple of guys from a sports club as well as family and friends. I bought a lot of pizza, everybody had a great time and we ended with a piece I was proud of.
3. Communicate the story through film.
As a writer you've protected your baby through thick and thin. You may have even chosen the self publishing route to maintain creative control. However, as you dive into trying to capture your story on film, you'll be forced to tweak your own work. For our own set on A Hero's Curse it was great fun to get to see it come to life, but tweaks had to be made to the story, even for a two minute promotional trailer. Most of the tweaks are small - the cat didn't look that way in the book (but this was the cat that showed up on film day), Essie didn't dress that way until half-way through the book (but it was the best thing for camera), and a couple of other minor tweaks. I think the biggest change came with the blindfold. Essie prefers to appear sighted - so she doesn't wear a blindfold - in a way she tries to reject that part of herself and do her best to hide it from others - so when she puts on the blindfold two thirds of the way through the novel, it is in a moment of desperation. But a few chapters later, when she chooses to leave the blindfold on, it is a statement that she has accepted who she is and she is ok with that.
To shoot the trailer however, we had to somehow show she was blind in a climactic way as a "reveal" - the best way to do that was by her putting on a blindfold. It works great in the trailer and communicates exactly what we needed to show. Be ready to be flexible as your story transitions from the written page to the live action screen. Take other's suggestions seriously. And recognize you are shooting a trailer, not writing another book chapter.
4. Love and like your finished work.
Make sure you love the piece when it is finished. If you don't love it, find out why not and work to make it right. It might mean re-shooting a scene or re-writing the script. Don't be afraid to take the extra time to get the details right. (Of course, this has to be balanced by not exasperating your volunteer help!) If you love it, you can 'like' it, and others will too. Uploading to YouTube, posting to your blog and then linking to Facebook and other social media can generate a buzz about your story. Take advantage of the buzz by creating contests, adding good content and being available to interact. (Suzy does a great job with her contests posted with her interviews).
Fun facts: it took nearly twenty hours of prepping for and shooting film to create a 2:45 clip. It took nearly another twenty hours of post-production work and marketing prep leading up to our launch. Our camera guy got a terrible nose bleed as we were shooting Essie in the historic house - but he shot through it. Our primary candidate for Tig's role didn't show - so we were able to catnap a friend's long haired cat (with permission) for the shoot. Unfortunately the cat had been shaved the day previously - but he did marvelously anyway and added something distinctive.
We burned dozens of maps to get the shots we wanted.
Have more questions? let me know on our Facebook page or Google+
I'm always excited to talk about writing, film, and good stories.
Here's the finished trailer: