Monday, April 5, 2010

A Trailer in the Woods

© Gerry Boyle 2010 all rights reserved

I’d heard for some time that the video trailer was becoming an expected feature of book promotions so for my tenth mystery novel, DAMAGED GOODS, I decided to take the plunge. It turned out to be an interesting experience, for all kinds of unexpected reasons.

DAMAGED GOODS is about a reporter, Jack McMorrow, and his wife, Roxanne. She’s a social worker, who is threatened by a deranged and angry guy after she removes a couple his abused kids from their home. McMorrow, meanwhile, has befriended an “escort” after he interviews her for a story. Mandi turns out to be more than he bargained for.

But more importantly, the book is 320 pages long. How long did we have for the video? Two and a half minutes. Where to begin?

Videographer Ned Warner selected a handful of key images that would tell the story and capture the flavor of the book. Filming began and so did the surprises. Here are a few:

• A book is a product of the writer’s imagination but a video needs real images, scenes, locations. The filming process forced me to consider the setting of the book in a different way. Instead of creating the scenes, I was looking for a reality that matched my imagined places. Even if you think you know where your book is set, you’ll find that you’ve distorted reality in the creative process. So when Ned said, “Where does this all happen?” I had to think. In the end, we focused on images that were basic, elemental, and fleeting: dark woods. A rifle shot. A woman’s face in a second-story window.

• A book trailer is a hard thing to explain. Especially when we’re on a woods road in rural Waldo County, Maine. Ned was on top of a stepladder with his camera. We had a rifle. We were on take 20 or so. And a dog came barking and bounding through the woods, followed by his owner. Fortunately the guy was more curious than hostile. I tried to explain the book promotion thing but could see I wasn’t getting through. Finally I just said that Ned was from New York. Ahhh, the guy’s expression said. Whatever craziness we were up to finally made sense.

• The last 30 seconds of the video is me talking into the camera. That’s about a half a page. How hard could it be? Very. Memorizing it was one thing. Getting through it without a mistake was another. We had goof-ups at the beginning. Goof-ups in the middle. Goof-ups on the last word. When I finally got it right, a barn cat jumped through the scene. A passing truck backfired. More outtakes than a Jackie Chan movie. More respect for actors on stage and screen.

• In the book, there’s a scene where a doll is stabbed and smeared with fake blood. Seemed benign enough when I wrote it. But seeing it there on the screen was very creepy. It made me wonder if this is what readers would imagine? Is the image on the screen harder hitting than the words on the page?

I’m interested in hearing of other writers’ experiences. I also wonder what readers think. Does the video move you to read DAMAGED GOODS? How much is too much? How little is too little? All to be considered when the next book moves from my imagination to the page to the video screen.

About the author:
Gerry Boyle is the author of ten mystery novels, including DAMAGED GOODS and eight other Jack McMorrow mysteries. He launched a second series in 2009 featuring boat bum Brandon Blake in PORT CITY SHAKEDOWN. A former journalist, Boyle lives in a village by a lake in central Maine.


Marta Stephens said...

Gerry, yes, there's a great deal more to think about when doing a book trailer than people might think. You've made some excellent points. Thanks much for sharing!

s.w. vaughn said...

From New York = crazy. Yay!

Good on you for getting some production help! I have woods behind my house, so I've done some filming there. It's actually kind of fun making trailers. :-)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

10 books! Wow, took me a second to move past that and onto the article. Which was excellent, BTW. Bravo to you for inspiring so many. Your book trailer experience is scary, and frankly, I'm not sure I'm brave enough or ready for that. I also understand the necessity. Thanks for sharing, Gerry.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Gerry, thanks for the reminder. I need to think about trailers for my new books. Yikes! Best of luck with your current release and thanks for coming by to guest blog with us.