Monday, 14 December 2009

Trailer Trash - Elen Caldecott

Anyone with a Facebook account will know how clip-happy we have become. If it’s cats hitting gates, or angry chipmunks, or boys doing Star Wars, soon enough the clip will be twice around the world, forwarded and linked to thousands of times.

Publishers and authors have tried for a long time now to make use of this phenomenon with book trailers. There are expensive-looking ones, presumably funded by publishing companies:

and simple, lo-fi ones made by fans:

There is, of course, a whole spectrum in between.
I’ve become interested in the phenomenon of book trailers recently, mostly because I’ve been spending time with lots of short film makers (at a festival called Encounters) and the idea of doing something collaborative in another art form appeals to me. I like the idea that I could write a script and other people would get involved and make it happen (something our Sally knows all about, in case you missed her recent post). Not that I’ve come even close to doing anything about it yet.

One thing I have noticed is that most of the book trailers die a quick death. Why? I think it’s because their function is at odds with the way people actually work. What I mean is, they are produced to advertise books. But, people don’t want book adverts. They want to be entertained. Of course, they don’t mind being sold a product if they’re being entertained at the same time, but no-one is going to link to or forward a straight advert.

So what makes a good book trailer?
Well, from my limited research so far, they either have to be really clever, or really dumb. Here are a couple that have gone viral; you can decide for yourself which is which:

So can I write a script that’s really clever or really dumb and get people to want to film in it or act in it? I have no idea, but I am very tempted to give it a go.
And, for those who haven’t had quite enough cats hitting gates in their lives, here’s one for you:
Elen's Facebook Page


Charlie Butler said...

"You mean... I'm not really Victorian?" *facepalm*

Sorry, that bit of dialogue just cracked me up!

Charlie Butler said...

Love the post title, by the way.

Anne said...

I think there's another reason for making a film for utube. It's not just about promoting the book but promoting the writer. I get emails from teens who read my books and I always send them the link to my utube film of THE DEAD BOOK. It's a kind of 'extra' like in the DVD package you buy of a show your like. If I love something, like THE WIRE say, then i love to see the people who made it talking about it. It's just more of your window dressing.

Elen Caldecott said...

Thanks, Charlie!

And that's a good point, Anne, I hadn't thought of that.

Ms. Yingling said...

We can't pull up any of the book trailers at our school because they are blocked, which is disappointing!

michelle lovric said...

Brilliant post, Elen. It's particularly good timing after Sarah's yesterday. The whole trailer phenomenon seems to be another stinging curve in the vicious circle - the wildly expensive trailers begin to look like rewards for the writers who are already wildly successful. You and I both saw Malorie Blackman's and Charlie Higson's trailers at the Bath Festival. The effect, to me, was that the amazing trailers somehow gold-plated the already glittering reputations of the writers. The children watched, open-mouthed. As did the adults, though possibly for different reasons. And it was interesting that the trailers were usually shown before the writers began to speak.

Trailer-envy seems destined to become a heavy corner of the author's low self-esteem baggage. What to do? You're brave to tackle it head-on, Elen and Anne and Fiona, instead of whimpering in a corner. All the luck in the world! Hope you go viral! Hope Swine Flu is less contagious than your trailers! Keep us posted.

Elen Caldecott said...

Hi Michelle,
I had been thinking of using the Noughts and Crosses trailer, but I couldn't find it anywhere! What I did find was fan-made films of the book using free animation software, which I thought was very interesting!
I hadn't really thought of trailers as a reward from publishers. I am just quite into the idea of doing something creative, with a GROUP of people, rather than by myself, which is the norm. I just met lots of interesting short filmmakers and got fired up with enthusiasm. Plenty of them make films on an absolute shoestring! It maybe even makes them more inventive.

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

Ellen together with Sarah Molloy you've started a whole fresh swathe of things for me to feel guilty about. How many book trailers have I done? A big round 0! Yet in my heart I'm a frustrated film-maker. I love going to 'shorts' screenings and animation film festivals and did an animation course once but it's all 'one day' stuff. Now you've reminded me again what fun it would be. Why don't you run an SAS Book Trailer day/days where we all get to play a bit?

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

oops! sorry about the spelling mistake with your name Elen!

Elen Caldecott said...

Dianne - it wasn't the mispelled name that almost made my wine come out of my nose!! It was the idea that I know anything like enough about the subject to run a day on it!
If (and maybe when) I do do it, I will be going to the film makers I've met very much as a noobie with my knowledge-cap in hand!

fionadunbar said...

Good post Elen, and couldn't agree more that the power of the viral video cannot be underestimated. But I don't think this should be seen as something to feel guilty about;people like Charlie Higson (wa-a-ay too long, that video, by the way) get production teams; the rest of us don't, and it's OK just to sit in front of the camera and talk, like John Green does (eg ) as long as you can be entertaining. Not something that comes naturally to all of us of course, but let's face it, we get plenty of practice if we do school visits. If anything is going to hone your public speaking skills, that will! (my own video, if you haven't seen it, can be found here: ).