This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Friday, August 24, 2012

I Oughta Be in Pictures

            As I was getting close to having my mystery novel The McHenry Inheritance ready for publication, I came across an article in The New York Times saying that one of the marketing things authors are supposed to do these days is make a video trailer for their book.
            My immediate response to that wasn’t exactly upbeat. In fact it was more along the lines of, “Great. Another expense and another hassle.”
            Fate works in mysterious ways, however. Several days after reading that article, I came out of Office Max and ran into Chip Scheuer. Chip worked at the newspaper as a photographer when I was the editor, then went on to work several years as a video cameraman for the news department of one of the local TV stations.
            He’d just moved back to the area from San Francisco and said he was looking for work shooting still photos or video. In particular, he talked up video, and how important it is for people and organizations in an increasingly visual and digital age. The chance encounter turned out to be the prod I needed.

Working With a Professional

So I sat down at the computer and wrote the script in about half an hour, then gave Chip a call and met him for coffee. He was excited about the script, quoted me a fair price, and suggested the highly effective opening sequence. I won’t describe it; you can see for yourself.
A couple of weeks later, we set aside a morning and shot the trailer. In a perfect world, I would have taken a cast of dozens up to the High Sierra, recreated the militia encampment from the book, and made a real James Cameron production out of it. Instead, Chip and I met for breakfast, drove half an hour into the mountains nearby and shot the necessary footage at a park by a local stream.
(An interesting sidelight is that the stream was closed to fishing at the time, so in all the shots where the angler is casting, it was an empty fly line, with no leader or fly attached — just in case a game warden showed up.)
Chip has always been one of those people who loves his work, and his upbeat attitude is infectious. It took us four hours to get enough footage for a two-minute video, but the time went by quickly and pleasantly.

The Things an Actor Does

I do quite a bit of public speaking, so I felt comfortable delivering my lines, but the circumstances weren’t always easy. In one instance, Chip wanted to photograph me with the stream in the background, but to get the light and background he needed, I had to kneel in the water, getting my legs and feet wet while I said my routine. For some reason, I had more muffed takes in that section than in the others.
As we were doing it, I had a sense that it was going to turn out well, but when Chip sent the edited version to me 24 hours later, I was really impressed. Chip’s friend, Rigo Torkos, did a masterful job of editing, and the whole thing looked really slick. It’s getting a lot of use on my web site and social media, and as far as I’m concerned has been a hugely effective marketing tool.
When friends see the video, the word most of them use to describe it is “professional.” I have to smile. That’s what it should be when professionals do it, and in this case I certainly got more than my money’s worth.