Saturday, June 6, 2009

Creating a Video Trailer

Video book trailers have become so popular that it seems as if just about every recent release has come equipped with one. Authors and, in a few cases, publishers are racing to get one up on YouTube and other sites by the book’s pub date. There’s a lot of variation in quality, I’ve noticed, with some that look pretty amateurish and some that could qualify as professional movie trailer productions.

Even though I’ve been, as usual, so covered up it’s ridiculous, the temptation to get a trailer into the running finally ended up being too hard to resist. Admittedly I’m late jumping into the game since Wind of the Spirit released in March, but better late than never, right? And I’d done one for One Holy Night back in November, in the process learning a lot about using Windows Movie Maker, so I was up to the challenge. I don’t have PhotoShop, so I can’t create some of the nifty effects I’ve seen in other videos. But the OHN trailer got really good feedback, and I figured that, now that I had some experience under my belt, I could make this one even better. (To take a look at the result, click on the link at right, or scroll down to the bottom of the page where the video is posted.)

The most important thing I learned from my previous experience was that if you don’t start with a great script, you’re going to end up with a lackluster trailer. The script is a road map or bible for the production. It tells the story in as few words and images as possible (speed is of the essence in our attention-deficient culture) and also tells you what images you’re going to need. So I decided to resurrect some advertising copy I’d adapted from the book’s back cover copy and see what I could do. Here’s what I began with:

“Elizabeth Howard’s assignment to gain crucial intelligence for General Washington leads her into the very maw of war at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, where disaster forebodes an end to the American rebellion. Yet all the while her heart is fixed on Jonathan Carleton, whose whereabouts remain unknown more than a year after he disappeared into the wilderness. Carleton, now the Shawnee war chief White Eagle, is caught in a bitter war of his own. As unseen forces gather to destroy him, he leads the fight against white settlers encroaching on Shawnee lands—while battling the longing for Elizabeth that will not give him peace. As the patriot cause falters, can her love bridge the miles that separate them—and the savage bonds that threaten to tear him forever from her arms?”

That was a promising start, but I knew a bit of tightening up was in order. Join me again tomorrow for a rundown on how I developed this into a focused, compelling script.

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