Friday, 21 October 2016

StarMark: the film!

One thing I really wanted to produce to help market StarMark was a book trailer.

Through a marketing company, I was put in touch with Just Anim8, a small animation company based at Loughborough University. We got together to discuss possibilities and I'm delighted to say that I now have a book trailer - essence of StarMark, animated!

It hasn't been an easy process - both I and the team at Just Anim8 have learned a lot over the last few months. . (You can create trailers yourself, of course, but I'm not tec-savvy enough to manage that. You should have seen me trying to upload the video link to youtube...)

But, if anyone out there is hoping to produce a book trailer using professional film-makers, here's my top tips for a smoother process.

1. Agree a contract. (Ours was verbal, and both parties agreed it probably should have been written to avoid some of the problems we encountered later.)

Ensure from the outset you know exactly what you are agreeing to in the process, especially with respect to the number of revisions you are getting for your money. Part of the delay and increased cost of the trailer was due to my misunderstanding how many times I could ask for changes to the storyboard once animating had begun. I'm sure every time I said "Can we just...?" the team's collective heart must've sunk, but eventually we both bought into an idea and it all came together pretty quickly from then on. But that leads nicely onto...

2. Do your homework! 

Research other book trailers. Get a feel for a style or approach you like and keep the idea simple if you can - you're not aiming for Gone With the Wind. Think about the sort of images and colours and even soundtrack you think might work with the atmosphere of your book. Remember that you are distilling the essence of your story into possibly two or three minutes, and it's no good having a dark, gothic approach if your book is a light romance! Try to have an idea of what you are trying to get across to the potential reader - consider it a visual book blurb, if you will; punchy, to the point, and with enough of a hook to make people want to buy the book and read it.

If the filming/animation team are happy to read your book, let them; it also gives them a better understanding of what they are going to be representing visually. I only passed the book on to the creative team towards the end of the process - they said it would have been more useful earlier on.

3. Try to lay as much definite groundwork as you can before the animation or filming stage.

Talk it through with the creative team as much as you need to and don't be afraid to ask questions - though hopefully, if you've done your homework, you should both have a good idea of what you're aiming for as an end result. In my case, I had a definite idea but I don't think I explained it well enough up front, which takes me back to the fundamental 'do your homework'...

4. Make sure you understand what the creative team are sending you when the first few clips/scenes come through.

I didn't - I thought what I was being sent were stills, when in fact they were movie clips and I made judgements based on static pictures rather than moving ones. This resulted in the team continuing so far down the animation path, it became costly to rectify when I realised later that I didn't actually like the moving images when they came pieced together in larger chunks...and we ended up cutting a lot of the original storyboard in an attempt to simplify the film.

5. Give the project enough time if you want to meet a deadline.

My original deadline slipped...and slipped...and slipped. It was mainly my own fault because of the changes I kept requesting, but the team also admitted that book trailers were a new area for them which probably made the process a little slower this first time.

6. Be prepared for working with other creative types!

I am a creative person in all sorts of ways - I often have a really good visual idea of the end result I want to achieve, whether I'm sewing, painting or flower arranging. The problem is, if you gave any group of creative types the same project, they would all approach it differently...just think of how different some of the NIBS writing has been, even though it's all generated from the same prompts.

This is where you have to be prepared either to do enough work to be able to explain EXACTLY what you want up front, OR be prepared to compromise and maybe even hand over the project to the person you're employing to do the job. I hadn't realised how much control I wanted to keep over this project, and I can accept that this made it hard for Just Anim8, who are possibly more used to having clients who give them a less specific brief. Nothing wrong with a specific brief - but you need to have (yep, going to say it again!) done your homework first if you need that level of control for your own satisfaction.

Ultimately, the animated trailer cost me a lot more financially than I wanted it to, but the end result is very pleasing to me. I chose animation over video because I know some readers prefer not to have a visual image of the characters in a book forced upon them - they want to 'see' the characters in their heads, the way they choose. That was one of the reasons for choosing Just Anim8 in the end, because their style is bold and not finely detailed; I could show a man who might be Lord Terenz, but he'd be vague enough no to upset those who prefer to imagine characters for themselves. I loved the colour palette chosen for the film as well as the mix of pictures and words. My favourite bit is when the StarMark turns to gold; I nearly cried when I saw that for the first time...

I'd be interested to know what you think, too, especially as I am hoping to work with Just Anim8 next year, when I sort out a second book trailer for Kingstone.

Mind you, you can bet your bottom dollar I'll have done my homework for that one.


  1. What enormous fun that sounds! Worth writing a book, just to have a go.
    Looks fab, Squidge!

    1. You'll have to have a go when your book's published, Whisks!
      Glad you like it.

  2. Fantastic, Katherine. Well, you are certainly breaking new ground here! Love the way you are standing four-square behind your creation. You, and it, deserve all the success you can imagine :-) Stevie xx

    1. Thanks, Stevie - I hope it rustles up a bit more interest...

  3. This is really good, it grabs the attention. Good luck with your book.


  4. Absolutely amazing. Opens up a new world. I'm gobsmacked. Well you are at the cutting-edge, Squidge, and I wish you every success, as it's assured, IMO. I really cannot get over it, what wonderful creations. Stephenterry

    1. Thanks, Stephen! Just Anim8 have done a really good job, haven't they?