Making a book trailer part 1: Defining parameters

Making a trailer is a multi-part process and I thought it might be interesting if I described what went into making the Shades of Milk and Honey trailer.

Stage One: Defining the parameters

Budget: Before anything else happened, Rob and I sat down to talk about how much we could afford to spend. Money, sadly, defines pretty much everything that follows. In our case, we wanted to keep the budget under $500, which is unreasonably small for a commercially produced trailer but about as much as we thought we could throw into the pot.  For a trailer with commercially produced new footage, you can expect to spend a minimum of $1000 per minute.  In our case we had several things going for us, mostly that we work in film and theater so had a number of favors we could call in. Most of the budget would go to materials and hiring the talent.

Venue/Audience: These often linked, but not always. In our case, knowing that we wanted this trailer to be online does affect several things. It means that we know it will be mostly viewed very small. We know that it will be watched by people who are in the midst of doing other things.

Length: The next question was defining the length. Both of us thought that shorter was probably better and were leaning to something in the two minute range. Any shorter and it would be hard to have content. Longer and people would click away.

Style: Only now do we start talking about what it looks like. (You’ll note that we still aren’t discussing content.)  We sat down and tossed around several ideas. Since I’m a professional puppeteer, it made sense to take advantage of that. Among other things, visually this would make the trailer stand out from other ones.

But what style of puppetry. I narrowed it down to period appropriate puppetry styles which meant either hand puppets, shadow puppets, marionettes or  possibly toy theater, though stretching the definition of “period.”

Marionettes I discarded immediately because they are too expensive to build. Hand puppets have a Punch and Judy connotation which is wrong for the feel of Shades of Milk and Honey. Toy Theater has a similar look to animation but without the fluidity.

Shadow theater… There were two main reasons we settled on shadow theater. One: I actually have a shadow play in the novel. Two: At this point in England, silhouettes were very popular and they were called “shades.”  It seemed too perfect to resist

We did update to a modern form of shadow theater, called shadow mask, because it allowed us to have a stylized form with the fluidity of actors.

The stark black and white also meant that we could make the glamour look really spectacular. We asked our friend Remo Bacall, the BAFTA award winning special effects supervisor from Lazytown, if he would be willing to create the glamour fx.  He was, which gave us the ability to add fully rendered color to our shadows scenes.

Content: Only now do we start talking about content.  The reason we wait so late for this is that content is frequently dictated by what you can afford and what looks good in the style you are using.  I should clarify that “content” is not the same as subject matter. The subject matter is the novel. The content is what we use to talk about the subject mater. Make sense?

In the next post, I’ll talk about how we defined the content.

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