Sunday 4 May 2008

Book Trailers: Putting the Multi into Multimedia

In another life I wanted to become a film-maker.

But then I sat in on a film-makers' convention in Manila (ages ago) and noticed that you had to wear a lot of make up and dress like an ice cream dessert.

So I became a writer.

Comes the internet, digital cameras, YouTube and the advent of book trailers and I decided I'd still love to have a go at film.

I mean, you only have to watch a few videos on YouTube to realise that the bar can't be that high. I took the advice of Edgar Wright, director of Hot Fuzz:
People always ask me how to become a director, and I always reply: Get camera. Start shooting. it's not great English but it's good advice. No matter what your background or experience, just get out there.
The Guardian Guide to Making Video (Jan 2008)
I went through my list of writerly friends, looking for gullible, willing and attractive talent to exploit and decided Elizabeth (whose sex-drugs-and-AIDS book The Wisdom of Whores is coming out next week! Buy it! You know you need to!) would be an ideal victim er, subject. She is pictured above preparing to throw a spear.

My equipment was rather thrown together - but hey, Edgar Wright, also says:
Don't let a low budget stop you. Having no money means you have no real limits. Just go for it. No excuses.
So what equipment does one need to create a book trailer?
1. Camcorder - my old hi-8 camcorder was last used filming my daughter falling out of her cot (she's nine now). The battery no longer charges so we had to keep it plugged into the wall. No problem.

2. Tripod - I had my late father-in-law's old tripod but it didn't have the right connection to my camcorder. So I decided to handcarry the camcorder. I brought up three kids, surely that means I've got steady hands.

3. Light - we had no lights but hey, there was a lot of sunshine around.

4. Sound - thankfully my old hi-8 camcorder had a socket for plugging in a microphone. And I had only recently blagged a proper microphone from a BBC friend (I was thinking of experimenting with podcasting) . In fact the microphone was the last piece of BBC equipment out of a news hotspot during one of the Beeb's quick escape routines - but that's another story ...

5. Red lipstick - presentation is key.
So Elizabeth came with a rather bedraggled sheet of paper listing the points she had to make. Lipstick was duly applied, camera plugged in. We could only shoot a certain distance from the open door because the power cable was rather short. No problem, no problem.

We shot a few lines and it was good. Then it began to rain. So we moved inside. Setting up inside involved moving all the furniture away from the door (we needed the natural light from the doorway).

We needed Elizabeth to sit because if she stood, the background would include some unattractive grey window frames. Also without the chair, the camcorder's power cable unhelpfully kept making cameo appearances.

Because we had no tripod, I had to stand rather painfully with bended knees. At one point the knees gave way - you will notice in the intro that in one shot the picture appears to turn over. That wasn't intentional fancy schmancy video work. That was me falling over. Having physio now.

Elizabeth had to hold the microphone, a rather tumescent presence in our video which happened to be about s-e-x. Without the mic you could hear the pitter-patter of the rain, the occasional rumble of thunder, and the neighbour's stereo blaring from an open window.

We tried to recruit some small people from the next room to act as microphone stands but they demanded compensation and Equity membership. So keeping faith with the traditions of indie cinema, we coped.

Here's the finished product -

The video was edited using Roxio Easy Media Creator - which pretty much does everything from capturing and editing music to cutting videos. I suppose next time I experiment with book trailers, it would be more appropriate for this blog if I sought a subject who's actually writing a book for children.

And in the spirit of committed geekery, I've started up my own channel on YouTube:
Now all I need is a beret. Oh and dark glasses.


  1. So when are you off to Cannes?


  2. oooh. yes ... what a great idea. but first i have to win the cooperation of the microphone stands.

  3. I LOVE this idea and did indeed waste quite a bit of my post-uni days trying to break into film-making. Well done!

  4. Oh well done, you! I was a scriptwriter and video director in a former life and I know well that hankering to be a film maker - I just want to know this - where on earth do you find the time?!

  5. it's easy to find time when you don't have time. it took two hours to shoot and three and a bit hours to edit. it took a long time to pipe it up to youtube though.

  6. >I LOVE this idea and did indeed waste quite a bit of my post-uni days trying to break into film-making

    addy, you should start another kind of blog so that you could tell us about it. would love to know what you got up to.

    nicky, i'm not surprised you were in film-making. i should have been able to guess from the chicken feathers.

  7. Bloody marvellous and I've been educated as well!
    You are now my 2nd Youtube subscription. I normally only tune in to the Vlogbros.
    Keep it up. Spielberg started with a small 8mm and I've heard he did quite well.


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