Book Trailers: What and Why

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In 2015, a lot of publishers (and self-publishers) put together book trailers to promote their upcoming and new novels. Here’s mine if you haven’t come across it already:

It makes a lot of sense to create a trailer. You get a social media component to the create work that works like a calling card – easy communication of what the book is about, what the cover looks like, maybe even an excerpt from the book. Bloggers love it. They’re great for pre-sales. And they can be works of art. Here’s my favourite one:

I’m not sure what kind of budget the New Zealand Book Council offered to make this happen, but this doesn’t happen for free. Gee’s novel was first published in 1992, so this is more a work of art than a pre-launch publicity trailer. Still, a great investment, since the film has well over a million hits. I wonder how this translates into sales of the book?

Here’s a tremendous trailer for one of my favourite funny people, Aziz Ansari:

Not that they’re marketing to my generation (or even gender), but here’s celebrity Bella Thorne with a trailer for her new novel:

When I was doing research on book trailers, I noticed that none of them actually brought the book to life, and I think I know why. If you dramatize scenes from the book, you might be infringing on someone’s interest in dramatizing your work down the road. So instead, you act out a synopsis of the book, or you create content that is engaging but not the book, or you just read the book with some flashy effects.

It’s all because of that reticence to adapt the novel.

So I decided to do just that. I had very little money but I did have some friends, and the material in No Escape From Greatness lent itself well to some adaptation. I focused on the screenplay portions of the book, which are written by the main character. I thought “what if Gabriel could actually put these scenes on their feet?” Suddenly the trailer, and the three short films I’ll be releasing in 2016, were like scenes-within-scenes, or what I call “video excerpts” of the book.

I hope it works. But I also think I managed to avoid making a boring trailer. I also don’t think I cheapened the look of the book itself.

What do you think? I’d love to see your favourites (and the ones that are laughably not-so-good). I’m going to give you one, and I mean no offense to the hardworking people behind it. I am definitely not making judgments on the quality of the book itself, just the trailer. But if you like reading, this book trailer is for you!!

Hit me up with comments, either here or on Facebook! (be respectful)

 

The Teaser Trailer: Behind The Scenes

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So I did something kind of… unusual for a Canadian literary press novel. Once I signed the contract for No Escape From Greatness, I decided to produce and co-direct some “video excerpts” of the book. I also ended up doing the post-production, but that wasn’t entirely by choice :)

It made sense, at least to me. Without spoiling the fun, I can tell you that there are bits of screenplay that help to tell the story. What better way to help people get to know what’s in the book that actually putting some scenes on their feet?

I have a little bit of directing training, most recently a workshop with John Paizs, but no real experience. I also knew I wanted to make something of quality. Quality costs me. I decided to invest my entire initial advance into the production budget. Even that wasn’t quite enough.

My first stop was to visit with my friend, director Roger Boyer, who agreed to help me out in exchange for me writing him a feature script. I’m working on it, Roger! Thanks for running the floor and using your connections to put together an amazing, talented and hard-working crew.

Next up, I got permission from ACTRA (hat-tip to Rob Macklin) that allowed me to bring in union actors for an independent production at an affordable price. NB: it wasn’t free!

I’m going to give a giant shout-out to the cast and crew at the end of this post.

After some prep meetings and a lot of locations work, we ended up having a 13-hour shooting day, much of it taking place at Cherry Creek Café in Portage Place on a Sunday. We shot three scenes, each of which will be about three minutes in length when all is said and done. From those scenes, I was able to put together a teaser trailer, and HERE IT IS!

It would be great if you could watch, share and like this thing. A lot of people worked hard on it, and it’s only 97 seconds of your time.

Post-production ended up being a lengthy labour of love for me. I’m addicted to learning things and there can be no doubt I went down an Adobe rabbit hole in post. Mixing and re-engineering sound, watching first cuts that Roger had put together and then trying to build off it – all of it was great. If I had endless scads of budget, maybe I would have paid someone to do it, and then I would never have had all of that fun!

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Roger led a crew of almost-volunteers who definitely threw their backs into it and put up with some difficult conditions (like a fountain that went off every 10 minutes and destroyed sound recordings like a 10-second-long bomb going off). Despite all that, the product speaks for itself. Great job, guys! Luther Alexander was our Director of Photography and Eric Neufeld did sound. We also had three hard-working production assistants, Nicole, Adeline and Kirk. Thank you!

And now, the cast. I was really honoured to have Ross McMillan agree to be Gabriel. Ross is who I always envisioned as Gabriel, back when I was dreaming up Greatness as a TV series, and his performance is the backbone of this great little video. Ross is one of those few people who can read an obituary and make it sound hilarious. Fantastic to work with, too!

Aaron Merke and Lauren Cochrane (aka Bucko) brought amazing insights into their roles, as Gabe’s nephew Zac and Luanne’s lawyer. As I was re-writing the novel, I couldn’t help but bring Aaron and Lauren’s performances into the characters they were playing. Thanks for that!

Shannon Jacques played Luanne, Gabriel’s complicated, heartbroken and powerful ex-wife, and Shannon played Luanne with great aplomb. Whenever I work with Shannon, be it on the set of Less Than Kind, or when I was an extra on The Pinkertons, or on the day we shot No Escape From Greatness, she has always been a comforting, steadying influence. It’s always great to work with people who add these things to a production. So an extra special thank-you for that!

Aaron Hughes doesn’t get enough screen time in the trailer as the bartender, but we’ll see him in the upcoming short film. Aaron was helpful and professional, waiting for hours to get to his scene, and then delivered a dry joke as well as the dry gin when it was go-time. I was happy to give him a role that didn’t involve a holster or sheriff’s badge (or demon makeup!).

Kevin, Jay-Y, and Clayton did yeoman’s work as our background in the café.

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Revealed! À la Peanut Butter Sandwichès!

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Here it is! The official cover reveal for No Escape From Greatness!

Thanks to the amazing Jamis Paulson at Turnstone Press for his great design work and vision.

The book will launch in March 2016 and we have lots of cool markety things planned, not the least of which is a series of dramatized book excerpts featuring some of my friends!

I’m really excited to get to next year. I want you to come to my book events-slash-readings-slash-launches and be entertained. Be happy you hung out for an hour or two. Happy enough that buying the book seems like fair cop for the entertainment. Maybe even worth giving it a read.

Okay actually I want you to read the hell out of the book talk about it and make that connection with me, but that’s the whole reason why I’m doing this in the first place. You should know that. I’m not an egotistical guy. Really I’m not. What?!

Well peeps? What do you think about this cover? I’ll tell you what I think after I hear what you think.

 

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Book it! March 2016!

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My novel, No Escape From Greatness, will be available in March 2016 from Turnstone Press at a fine bookseller near you.

The official launch will take place March 24 at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, so save the date! I’ve got some trailers in the hopper as well, featuring some amazing Winnipeg talent. Coming soon.

Obviously I will get annoyingly repetitive about this in the weeks and months ahead.

In other news, I still plan to do some things that scare me in the very near future. Stay tuned on all fronts.

CHICKEN

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CHICKEN CHICKEN

So I went to the store this morning, tired of all the restaurant food and with autumn in my bones. I bought a couple of roasting chickens and some rosemary and headed home.  The heat’s not on yet in the apartment so it was the perfect time to set the oven and let it warm up the place. It was also a great way to stay busy as the afternoon loomed.

I made this.

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Roast chicken with garlic and rosemary, coated with housemade chili-rosemary oil and seasoned to perfection.

I tried not to think about what I was planning to do this afternoon.

Instead, I did some laundry, discovered I had left a bunch of clothes in a drawer in my hotel last week, and made this:

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Chili-rosemary-garlic chicken stock. Ready for souping.

Instead of getting myself together and heading out to the thing I was planning to do today, I went to BMC with the writer Jeffrey Solmundson and ate this:

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Chicken tinga tacos with homemade tortillas and pico.

Which is all quite fitting, really, because instead of going to the Common Crow Improv Drop-In do to improv for the first time ever, I was this:

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The Takeaways (that’s a wrap on Totally Television)

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I’m only beginning to fathom what I am taking away from this past week. I’m just going to list it:

  • a better concept
  • a better script
  • a better pitch
  • a stronger team
  • a day of heaven, breaking the story of the pilot and riffing with Jeff Biederman
  • a second day of thinking and talking and working like a TV writer with Biederman, which I think is the thing I ought to be doing with my life
  • a rudimentary understanding of how to win 30 percent of the time at Soul Calibur 4
  • probably a little less humble (some of you will be wondering if that is even possible)
  • lots of meetings when the time is right
  • a few connections rekindled, a lot more made
  • way better understanding of the business and how I fit into it
  • a belief that I fit into it.

We all worked our asses of this week. I am super glad my colleagues are who they are, and I wish them all the best as their careers blossom and alight in all kinds of great directions! You’ll be hearing from them soon!

In the meantime, go watch Eadweard when it comes to your town! 

Do the thing that scares you most (Totally Television Day 5)

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That means a few things for me. Before the end of the year, it’ll mean doing a standup comedy act somewhere anonymous and dropping in on some improv. And, you know, launch a book with a full multi-media presentation that includes reading and entertaining a crowd for maybe 45 minutes.

But this week, it means pitching to Canadian tv industry executives and professionals. It means making a 30-second pitch, a 5-minute pitch, a 20-minute pitch. It means hearing yourself brag over and over until you do it right!

Going into the home stretch of Totally Television, we have spent a lot of time working on those pitches with the help of the amazing Morwyn Brebner. We also got to speak with development execs from all of the broadcasters, VPs from Temple Street, the CEO of Shaftesbury, and Glenn Cockburn of Meridian Agents. Kind of a big day!

Back to the lab to work on the pitches for our final day tomorrow!

All about the biz – Totally Television Day 4

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Today, among all the many things we got to do,  we had a little chat with to one of Canadian TV’s most influential people.

You know. No big deal. Just Tassie Cameron.

TASSIE FRICKIN CAMERON. This program is amazing!

The Rookie Blue/Flashpoint showrunner (and daughter of On The Take author Stevie Cameron, who knew?) spent some time with us today, and I really loved the intimate conversation we as a group got to have. Tassie has a way of putting you at ease, even when you’re pitching her your project.

It occurred to me that, even though I’m nowhere near as accomplished as she is, and likely never will be, our views on story and the emotional truth that you need to find within each story to make it authentic are basically identical. Maybe that’s why I’m a fan of her writing. Because it’s true, even in a cop show. Authentically human.

I was also really heartened by her approach to working with writers to develop new voices and help noobs move ahead in their burgeoning careers.

It was also super amazing to hear from Ilana Miller from the Hollyer Agency (who reps a friend of mine!), talking digital with Marcia Douglas and Chris Harris (whose Emmy-winning Secret Location did a virtual reality feature at ComicCon for Sleepy Hollow), and watching my partner David scribble notes intently as Frank Manzo from National Bank explained TV financing.

Another great one! And great collaborations on story notes by all the teams, so many thanks to all!

A Case Of The Tuesdays – Totally Television Day 3

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We have lost track of all time and have no idea what day of the week it is. I have had to ask three people whether or not today is Tuesday.

It’s going good. That’s a good sign. It’s a little bit like Stockholm Syndrome, I think. You’ve been kidnapped by your show and your captors (and classmates) are beginning to feel like old friends you’ve lived with your entire life.

Of course, Stockholm Syndrome is only bad if you’re not the victim. So it’s generally a happy feeling.

After more valuable and productive time with our story editor, Jeff Biederman, we have a solid new pilot with a focus cast of characters and promising sample episodes. We’re honing our pitch tonight. And we got to spend some time with entertainment lawyer Gigi Morin to make sure we are practicing CYA!

One last link – people have asked about the show we’re developing. I’ll tell you that it’s based on this National Post article, and the “oh shit” look the parents offered the photographer. That’s what Split Level is about. :)