You may think it wouldn’t take long to produce a two-minute, live action video book trailer, but you’d be wrong. I, myself, was amazed, even though I’d been through this before—back in 2009.
First, there’s the need to realize a “trailer” is basically an advertisement for the book, squeezed into two minutes or less. It’s impossible to include everything you want prospective readers to know, so it’s essential to choose a short, triggering scene that can be shown visually while drawing the audience into the story and leaving them wanting to read the entire book. That Smudge of Smoke proved doubly difficult because the book includes two different timeframes, two very different settings, and two different point-of-view characters, brought together by a rather unusual narrator, a diary. And when you don’t have access to an authentic Chesapeake Bay steamboat (the historical setting), you have to improvise.
My incredibly talented daughter-in-law, Mica Hemingway, took control of the project—first by writing the script and second by pulling together an impressive crew which included Caleb Jones, filmmaker/director/editor, Mark Nelson, sound, child actors Piper Hemingway (my 13-year-old granddaughter) and Jude Jones, and actress Leigh Jameson for the voiceover of the diary narrator. Oh, and behind the scenes, Nya Jones, who put together the storyboard—a tool that sketches out the scenes in a video you are about to make.
My job was to find the location for filming. We were incredibly lucky to be able to rent our former logcabin home, Misty Hill Lodge (the actual setting for the 2015 portion of the story), which is now an Airbnb. Although the décor is very different from our style, the original doors salvaged from the steamboat City of Atlanta are still in place, as were, of course, the rock cliffs at the top of the property.
Once we had the script, but before we started filming, it was essential to have the storyboard, showing the sequence of each scene. You can see here the wonderful job Nya did picturing each of these visual scenes, which helped tremendously with the set-up for filming.
The day of filming began at 8:00 AM and ended at 8:00 PM. Jude was available for filming his scenes in the morning, but because of school, Piper wasn’t available for her scenes until late afternoon. Luckily, they had no scenes together, so the timing worked out. And fortunately the weather cooperated for the outdoor action scenes of Garrett (played by Jude) running through the woods and up to the rock cliffs.
I lost count of how many takes were done until each scene was complete with the correct sound, lighting, and acting. (Note the use of chopped onions to induce some tears.)
Once Piper arrived, Mica had to transform her from a modern, long-haired 13-year-old with braces to a 1929 girl with bobbed hair and a 1920s wardrobe.
Again, I lost track of all the takes, trying to get the lighting, the angles, and the sound just right. Mica had worked in advance to have one shiny new green diary for Piper to write in and another “aged” diary, complete with smeared, tear-stained lines for Garrett to discover and read 86 years later.
There were a few quick runs to the store for picture frames and the printing of an old family portrait, as well as to pick up food. My daughter, Katie Fletcher, and my friend, Karen Peacock, were drafted into last minute fancy footwork for the Charleston scene (legs and feet only).
Finally, after the long day of filming, numerous rounds of editing began, adding music, voiceover, and the sound of a steamboat whistle until, at long last, Mica and Caleb sent the final draft to me for my approval. I am in awe of all the talent and hours of work that went into the making of the video and so appreciative of the final product.
Click here to go to the homepage of this site to watch the video trailer. I hope it makes you want to pick up a copy of That Smudge of Smoke and read the entire story!
And don’t forget to leave a comment in order to add your name to a drawing for a free autographed copy of That Smudge of Smoke. I will draw the name on Wednesday evening of this week (October 4th).