“On Book Trailers” by William Dickerson – Guest Blogger

Book Trailers are an intriguing phenomenon: a merger of old world and new world, retro and modern, luddition and the proactive embrace of technology that advances every day, every hour, every second.

The most obvious thing that is intriguing, even bizarre, about a book trailer is the fact that it is a piece of filmed entertainment that is made to promote something that is not filmed entertainment; something that, in many ways, is the antithesis of filmed entertainment. An actual movie trailer is a montage of “moments” from the film used as an advertisement for that film. Conversely, a book trailer is created from nothing but the imagination of the person creating it; in most cases, a vision that arises from his/her interpretation of the book.

I’ve written & directed a few book trailers over the years, one of which was the successful preview for “The Four Fingers of Death” by Rick Moody.

One can argue that our attention spans have devolved to welcoming information in 2 to 3 minute spans via a small, square “pop-up” box on our computer screens. It seems as though the publishing world has embraced this mode of info-dispensary as a viable approach to advertising their product. This, of course, may be viewed as ironic in light of the assumption that attention spans this short would be capable of digesting an actual novel. But viral videos are exactly that: viral; and once the viewer is infected, the viewer spreads it to countless others with one click of a mouse. This is the way information is disseminated, no matter what the product, no matter how hilarious the idea of a book trailer seems.

The whole notion of a book cannot shake the stigma of “old-fashioned.” This is a good thing, in my opinion, but the packaging of a book, no matter how retro its paperback version may seem, must be firmly rooted in the multimedia world of Internet. After all, how do you buy your book? Do you still go to a bookstore? As part of a the recent promotional campaign for a book, I was hired to create an entire series of blog entries (both written and video entries) by a fictional character who was investigating a type of fictional paranormal species (as if there is a nonfictional kind) in an effort to put as much “real” information out there in cyberspace so that: 1. readers/viewers who are interested in supernatural phenomenon might stumble upon this blog and become interested in the fictional species that is highlighted, which in turn might direct them to the book-for-sale that features that species; 2. readers of the book itself may do their own investigations online and discover some of this “real” information to substantiate their own personal beliefs in this new species of creatures.

Needless to say, the marketing runs deep these days; and that is simply because it has to. The Internet is as vast and wild, seemingly, as the universe itself.

So, I figured I’m a writer, and have the filmic resources at my disposal (and lord knows the time) filmmakers in Los Angeles often find ourselves with a surplus of time at our fingertips) I might as well hop on the bandwagon and shoot some stuff, too, to promote my book.

I’ve shot three trailers for “No Alternative” (I guess you could say they’re trailers). “Book Trailers” are a funny thing, and by funny I mean just plain odd. For instance: if “The Four Fingers of Death” ever gets made into a movie, I wonder if the director of the adaptation will look back upon this book trailer for inspiration — perhaps he might use it to guide his/her casting decisions for the film — perhaps he might cast the actors from it?

These are valid questions; however, all of this is unlikely.

This is just to say, I didn’t bother casting any actors, rewriting and otherwise reinterpreting the story of “No Alternative” to facilitate the making of a trailer. I just highlighted elements that were distinctly “90’s,” the era in which “No Alternative” takes place, and poked a bit of fun at them (or relished in their nostalgia, however you want to look at it):

I also shot a rap video for a song that is featured in the novel, and subsequently covered by Los Angeles based cyberpunk group ORDER44 and produced by Peter Katis, producer of bands like The National and Interpol:

I also edited some home-movie footage of the “Kurt Cobain Bridge” in Aberdeen, Washington, as another promo (or “trailer”) for the book:

I think they are all interesting, amusing, and maybe…thought-provoking? They certainly cover various different bases, and you want to appeal to as many potential reader demographics as possible. I certainly had fun making them; and besides, if I started shooting scenes from the book…well, I should probably keep shooting them and make the whole darned movie!


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