In the past few months Paul Murphy has been kindly forwarding me his book trailers. I visited his website, www.booktease.com.au, and was impressed by the range and quality of his work in this emerging field. In our visually aligned and keyboard-bound culture, book trailers will increasingly play an important role in drawing readers to the written word. I asked Murphy a few questions about his work…
Book trailers are exploding on the web, but you’ve been dong them since before the days of YouTube! Can you walk us through your journey in becoming a bit of a book trailer specialist?
Actually, they weren’t even called book trailers when I started producing them. It was about eight years ago, I was working in the marketing department of a large Australian publisher, and one of my responsibilities was designing ‘book videos’.
It was a pretty doomed project. Like you said, no YouTube or Facebook back then – in fact viewing video on the web was still very unreliable – so we had to convince bookstores to play them on these large, old-style TVs (of course now every bookstore has a flatscreen TV in their front window). Even so, I thought it was a very quick and effective way to market a book, and saw real potential in the form.
Eventually, I left the publishing industry to work as a video editor and motion graphics designer. A few years on, I received a call from an old publishing colleague. Apparently ‘book trailers’ were an online phenomenon now. She asked me if I would consider designing a few, and I jumped at the opportunity.
That’s great. And can you run us through some of the trailers you’ve now done and the people you’ve worked with?
The first trailer that received a lot of attention was the one for Gone by Mo Hayder. The publisher had simply said, ‘Make it scary’. I had a think about what I had seen online that had really terrified me, and decided to film the opening of the novel through grainy security camera footage.
Another trailer that’s been popular is The Very Bad Book by Andy Griffiths. I remember trying to come up with the idea for that one, thinking, ‘How do I make it funny?’ That’s when I realised – don’t – it’s much funnier if you make it serious. So I made it like a trailer for an action blockbuster.
I try to work with the author wherever possible. Tara Moss was a pleasure on the trailer for The Blood Countess. We share a love of classic gothic movies, and discussed the look and fashions in our trailer at length.
Van Badham was very particular about the models we cast for the Burnt Snow trailer, especially the character of Brody (one of her comments was: ‘If the model looks like he would ACTUALLY WEAR a beige leather jacket with a cream turtleneck he is THE WRONG GUY’). She really pushed me to create something that I think is genuinely anti-Twilight.
One day a courier dropped off some footage for the trailer to Lost On Earth by Steve Crombie [see below]. At least, I thought he was the courier – he was dressed in bike gear, but very chatty. We were talking for about 10 minutes, and I was thinking, ‘Don’t you have other packages to deliver?’ Then he started asking me about how I was going to edit the trailer. I was just about to tell him it was none of his business when I realised I was actually talking to the author Steve. He’s an incredibly nice guy, and the footage from his trip is amazing.
Is it the publisher who hires you? Or do authors seek you out on their own, too, now that you’re freelancing?
Authors have hired me in the past, but more often the work comes from publishers, since they have marketing budgets. Sometimes after I have produced a trailer for a publisher, the author will come back and hire me to develop it further, particularly for overseas releases where the cover art or the title has changed.
Is there a dream author or book you’d love to do a trailer for?
One of my favourite writers is Jon Ronson, who wrote The Men Who Stare At Goats, and I would jump at the chance to produce something for him. I think it would be a lot of fun to come up with visuals for his quirky style of writing.
Jon, if you’re reading this, please please please contact me – there’s a free trailer in it for you!
Besides book trailers, you do other freelance gigs – what’s an average day like for you?
I’m yet to experience an average day as a freelancer – every day is something different. I’ve heard other freelancers say the same thing, but it’s particular in my case, because I work across almost every aspect of production – producing, writing, directing, motion graphics, sound design, etc.
Today I am in my edit suite working on a World War II documentary. Tomorrow, I’ll be preparing a pitch for an upcoming campaign. By the end of the week, I’ll be on location filming a live event. I really thrive on being able to change roles throughout the week – it makes work much more exciting and dynamic for me.
Can I ask what you’re working on now?
With Christmas less than a month away, I’ve finished all the book trailers for the year. Even so, I just started working on a new one that’s coming out early next year. I can’t say too much at this stage, but it’s for a post-apocalyptic teen novel. I just finished reading the manuscript and it’s amazing.
Other than that, I have a few other projects on the boil. There’s the documentary I mentioned, which should be finished by mid-next year. I’m also in pre-production on a music video. I haven’t taken any holidays for a while though – maybe that should be my next project.