Tuesday, September 2, 2014



You've no doubt heard of Tarantino's next project, The Hateful Eight. There's been a lot of talk about the leaking of the script last year and Tarantino's tirade over that. Not sure whom among the actors leaked the script, but it's rumored to be either ... Read all about it here: http://screenrant.com/quentin-tarantino-shelves-hateful-eight-after-script-leak/

As a huge Tarantino fan, I'd love to see this movie but as it stands, right now, he might just publish the screenplay and not make the movie as planned this coming winter. At any rate, my focus here is the trailer itself. Another leak, QT is most likely pissed about, but hey, it's out. If anything, I think all the publicity is a good thing for buzzing this film, but let's get into deconstructing this trailer.
Quentin Tarantino - He's pissed!
It is said that Tarantino films are the most studied movies in film schools and universities, and for good reason. Tarantino breaks many rules and gets away with it in high style. If nothing else, Tarantino films are a great study in film making, and his movie trailers are certainly a great study in making book teasers.

As I've said before, there's not much difference between a movie trailer and a book trailer. They both aim to get viewers or readers interested and engaged in the movie or book, sometimes both. It's just that simple. The mechanics are the same, the marketing is virtually the same, and the main difference is that most book trailers use photo stills to tell the story, the sales pitch, that is, unless you go for one of those expensive cinematic book trailers, that look and sound like movie trailers. Not bad, but they also make you want to see the movie of the book, (if there is one) and not read the book itself. Not exactly the desired effect.

Let's never forget, it's a sales pitch, nonetheless. How we finesse that pitch, how we present it, is the secret to any successful trailer. And what you leave out of it, as you'll see in this Hateful Eight Trailer, is more important than what you put in.

Check out this pirated trailer to see if you can figure out what the story is about. This appears to be an early version of the teaser for the film. Notice how this trailer is all about the genre and offers little details about the story. A great teaser!


Another Movie Trailer for The H8ful Eight

This teaser includes the actors and gives a deeper look into the story, but again, it mostly relies on genre, Westerns, in this case, to impart a feeling, or set the tone. So, if you're a western fan, you're all-in either way. No details necessary. You watch because of the genre and the story is incidental. In this case, you also watch because of the writer/director. It's Quentin Tarantino, enough said. You know you're in for a wild ride.

Okay, but your book is not the next QT offering. Boo-hoo, cry me a river, I know the feeling. You're not alone. Forget about it, put away your hankie, pull up your big-boy pants (or big girl panties) and get over it already. The good news is, you don't have to be Tarantino for readers to enjoy your next book. Right. That's what they all say.

But that doesn't mean your book trailers can't be Tarantinoesque. Mind you, you don't really want to go for the full cinematic look for reasons already mentioned. You can do a nice job with some footage and animated stills and still convey a great feeling for the story, leaving readers with a craving for your book, and not a movie that probably doesn't, or will ever exist.

Below is a good example of what I mean by using a combination of footage and animated stills. And when I say animated stills, it means still photos that you can add motion to, as in panning, easing in or out, blurring or focusing, and so on. These are standard effects you can apply with WMM, Vegas Movie Studio, iMovie, or the video production editor of your choice.

This is my most recent book trailer for the Shadows in the Fog book by Greg Messel. He writes Detective Noir crime novels. One of the techniques I use in this trailer is to open with short footage. Slowly revealing the story world. Focusing on the genre. That's important because you don't want to rush into a story no one has ever heard of. You want to take your time an acclimate the viewer to their new surroundings, if you will. Set the stage (establish the genre) and let it all sink in slowly and work your way into the story. This also builds tension as you ratchet up the pace and quicken the shots as you go along.

 Now, you must realize that you have about 90 seconds to work with. So you can only take so much time to introduce the story world. About 5 seconds is enough time to anchor the viewers and acclimate them to this new world. Think of it this way, it's more about pace than length. Ease into it and reveal the story problem, the all-important conflict that opens the story, slowly, without lingering. If there's anything worse than rushing through an introduction, it's holding a shot for too long.

At any rate, that's where your hook comes in. How are you going to engage your audience? What device are you going to use? Remember, that whatever you say or do, it must be intrinsic to the storyline. Your opening hook must be an integral part of your plot, a small part that you reveal upfront, but not entirely. This is where a sense of mystery takes hold and doesn't let go.

Here's where you get to ask the million dollar question and leave it hanging, unanswered until the end of the story. (How cruel can you be?) Without this device, you may as well pack it in. If you don't build curiosity from page one, your story is doomed to fail. It's just that simple.

And I'm referring to debut authors in particular. Authors who can sell books on the strength of their name alone can open their story however they want. New authors don't have that luxury. They have to engage their readers right away and hold their interest until the very end. The writing standards are quite different.

That being said, I don't believe in weak openings, regardless of an author's clout in the industry. Or weak ending for that matter. (See my rant about Stephen King's, Joyland.) Like most readers, I want a good hook that keeps me in suspense, right from the start and holds my interest right to the bitter end. Have you ever picked up a book and started reading and been distracted for whatever reason, and then you've been compelled to pick up the book again and continue searching for something in the story?

Maybe you've tried to quit a movie but were compelled to come back time and again to revisit the story for unknown reasons. That's a good hook at work. It's the story question posed at the beginning of the opening scene or chapter. Now you need closure, and the only way to get it, is to finish seeing the movie or finish reading the book.

Story hooks in movies and in book trailers work the same way. Once you engage your audience, it's difficult for them to let go. They feel compelled to finish watching or reading. And that's what you want, isn't it? Of course you do. That's what we all want as writers. We want to pique our audience's curiosity. We want to tease them and leave them in suspense. That's the name of the game.

That's how we get readers to click for more answers and ultimately have no choice except to buy your book. These techniques are not new, but they are essential if you want to succeed as a writer. That's why I always say, that if your opening is weak, your marketing will be dubious at best.

And speaking of that, in my next Post, I'll show you a trick many screenwriters use to pitch their scripts to Hollywood. What does that have to do with book trailers? Everything! Hey, it's all marketing. It all ties together in many different ways, but the goal is always the same.

How do we sell the story?

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