A Fan-Filmed Book Trailer: An Experience in Collaboration

by William Wellman / Dec 07, 2012 / 0 comments

A Fan-Filmed Book Trailer: An Experience in Collaboration

Peter Pan in Scarlet was written a couple years back by Geraldine McCaughrean. It was the first officially recognized sequel to the original Peter Pan story. It was an outstandingly good book, telling the tale of how the grown-up Lost Boys, plagued by dreams, return to Neverland where they find that something has gone terribly wrong there. In honor of this book, I decided to create a trailer for it.

A fan-filmed trailer is where someone creates a trailer for a book, as if it was going to be made into a movie. It’s usually an amateur, low-budget production, and it’s different from a fan-made trailer, which usually refers to a trailer for a book which has been spliced out of segments from other pre-existing movies.

There was only one problem.

I’d never once recorded a living, breathing human being on a camera before.
Film experience, sure. I’d done puppets and stop-motion animation for ages. But people? I’d always been kind of scared of doing a live project, actually. So in working to create a trailer with my siblings and friends, I was going to have to get past that. And it wasn’t easy.

It took about a week to film in all, five hours to assemble, and two more weeks for procrastination. During this time, I learned a couple of things about having live actors perform; valuable experience which I’ll keep in mind during my further pursuits.

Number one: Kids are goofy.

There’s really no denying it. Getting a child to stand in front of a camera without a good deal of silliness, goofing off, and distraction is hard. In fact, it’s impossible, so trying to get them to sit still is not a good idea. Instead, try to make it fun for them. Involve them. Ask them how they think a line should be delivered, or what sort of angle would work best. Sometimes, they can have flashes of inspiration that you never would have thought of, that work quite well. Instead of trying to crush their fun into a compact cube, allow them enough freedom in between shots so that when the lights are set and the camera’s in ‘record’ mode, they’ll behave well just because they think it’s fun for them to do so.

Number two: Keep the camera rolling.

I mean it. Keep that camera on. Don’t stop after every take. Just keep going. Sometimes, the perfect line comes when you least expect it, and if the camera was off when it happened, you’ll be sorry indeed. Also, when actors repeat the same line several times over, they tend to get better and better at it, and they develop a feel for the way it should sound. When you stop them after every single take, it messes up their focus, and makes it harder for their line to gradually evolve.

Number three: A good polish.

There are a lot of tricks to make your low-budget, amateur film project look fancy. I demonstrate some of these in my trailer for Peter Pan in Scarlet. One of them is color. Use the brightness and contrast to give your film a good, vivid look. Or a dreary one; whatever fits the mood. Also use other color modifiers to your advantage, although these vary depending on the editing program which you use. Another thing is blur.

The huge, number-one reason that professional film looks so good is the depth of field. That’s when only one thing is in focus. When you look at film, the actors are in clear focus, and the background is blurry. For the green-screen shots in the trailer, I tried to recreate the effect by using a tool called ‘Gaussian Blur’. It allowed me to blur a layer, such as an actor or a background, and create a more professional look. But if you’re not using green screen, you can create a similar effect by using the zoom on your camera to zoom in, and then stepping farther away.


Anyway, I wish you the best of luck in your filming exploits. I hope these tips will help you some if you’re filming with kids, or doing any kind of low-budget filming. Until next time, get out there and keep filming!

For more tips on making low-budget film look good, I heartily recommend this website: indie-film-making.com/making-video-look-like-film/





William Wellman is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program