Monday, December 17, 2012

An unexpected trailer

GalleyCat reports that select theaters played the book trailer for The Wheel of Time before screenings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. This is a great idea, since movie theaters already run ads for cars, soft drinks, and all sorts of other products. Not to mention that Robert Jordan's epic fantasy series will appeal to many Tolkien fans. What baffles me is the nature of the trailer.

Picture this. You have theaters packed with moviegoers, each of whom has a stadium seat view of your trailer. This is the film's first weekend, so you've got the attention of the most avid fans. The Hobbit may be The Phantom Menace to the original trilogy, but who cares, these people want more medieval magic! And, by golly, you've got fourteen* books for them.

So you show them... all fourteen books. Including pans of COVER ART. With epic music in the background.

While it says something about a person's attention span and love of narrative that he/she will wait in line to be one of the first people to see the first of three three-hour movies (which are themselves prequels to three other three-plus-hour movies) that doesn't make a list of fourteen books inherently enticing. You want to focus the comparison between the books and the movies on the thrills and adventures, not the amount of time it will take a person to get through them.

If you're going to spend the cash to put a book trailer in front of a major holiday film, why not make it an interesting trailer? This feels like a print ad in motion. It doesn't make good use of the big screen, unless of course you consider fitting half of the book covers in the series on-screen at one time a good use.

Some book trailers feel like previews of low-budget movies that will never be made. But there are plenty of ways to make good use of the limited medium.

  • Embrace the camp and do something tongue-in-cheek. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters
  • Leave the soap opera actors out of it and communicate the feel of the book through moody art and music. A Monster Calls
  • Many people buy books based on a recommendation, so let the author tell the story of how she found her story. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Let a quirky or unusual narrator tell the story... especially if this is one of the book's selling points. The child narrator's straightforward description here is chilling. Room
  • There's always the Denis Leary Ford commercial. Make words do interesting things while the narrator says them. You Are Not So Smart
  • Do something unexpected. WTF! How Did You Get This Number

*Excluding the prequel, of course.

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