Thursday, July 13, 2017

Behind the STARSWEPT book trailer

Whether book trailers do any good with regard to sales and marketing is perpetually up for debate. A few things are known for certain though: 1) They can't hurt 2) They're hella fun.

Big publishers sometimes produce life-action, cinematic trailers for their marquis titles. Those of us who don't have such resources and whose budget is determined not by a million-dollar marketing team, but by one's savings account and willingness to subsist on ramen, must find other solutions.

In my case, I decided to go abstract for the STARSWEPT book trailer. I didn't have the means to stage elaborate reenactments of the book's scenes... especially since it's space-age sci-fi. Besides, this ain't a movie. Showing things literally wouldn't do any good... it'd be a trailer for a film that would never be released. And it would limit readers' imaginations, since they'd be forced to picture the trailer's depiction of scenes instead of imagining them.

I wasn't aiming to illustrate scenes, but rather to capture the tone of the book... a mix of galaxy-spanning sci-fi, classical arts, and fairytale romance. Since the story takes place at a futuristic performing arts school, where students compete to gain alien patrons who sponsor their careers on a utopian planet, I knew from the get-go that my trailer would feature a combination of performing arts and space images. And while combing my book for ideas, I came across this bit:



It was then that I realized that I accidentally (I mean, intentionally after much pondering and a visitation from my muse :-P) illustrated this very concept with my book cover. On it, Iris is literally floating in a nebula... a star being created from colorful dust.


Symbolism completely on purpose. Not at all because I just thought it was pretty. I am an ARTISTE ;-)

As long as I had this concept going for me, I decided to expand upon it for the book trailer. I combed stock footage websites for videos that captured the tone I was going for... the grace and romance of performing arts and the beauty and futurism of nebulas. Then I faded the footage into each other to create the feel of performing artists appearing out of clouds of stardust. In addition, I tried to find footage depicting stage lights and bright stars, so I could blend them and have stage lights turn into stars... and fledgling suns turn into spotlights. After all, a big solo is a day in the sun.

The hardest part was finding the right soundtrack. I tinkered with the idea of composing something myself, but concluded that I just didn't have the right resources (my small collection of instruments and synths has served me well, but sadly, I can't turn myself into a full classical orchestra). So it was back to the stock libraries I went.

I knew right away that I wanted something orchestral, something classical-sounding without being actual classical music (though I did briefly consider using Mozart... problem was, it made the trailer seem like it was for a historical drama or that it was being played ironically). A lot of the stock music I found was epic, pounding trailer music, which was awesome, but totally wrong for my dreamy sci-fi romance... my fairytale in space. I filtered the results for slower pieces... I wanted something graceful and haunting.

Then, I found a choral and orchestral piece that gave me chills when I listened to it. Bingo: I had my song. As a bonus, the words the choir was singing (though hard to make out if you're not listening for them) matched perfectly; they sing "Come back to me" over and over, which is a common thought for my star-crossed lovers (who are separated by actual stars). 

After I had my pieces, it was time to put it all together. I opened with a shot of the camera approaching Earth... something that illustrates the arrival of the telepathic aliens that kick off the premise. Then, I added my performing arts school/nebula... performers appearing from stardust and stars turning to stage lights. I ended with a shot of a spaceship flying into the distance to illustrate the aliens taking the artists away... and Iris's eventual journey across the universe. Below is the final result, and I must say, I'm proud of it!





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