Movie Trailer for a Novel?

I didn’t intend to make a film about, or for, or promoting, my novel, A Footnote to Plato, which has yet to be published. My original plan was simply to clean up some raw vacation footage from my trip to Greece in 2014, but when I came across the photos I used for descriptions in my novel—the apartment’s rooftop terrace, the balloons, the alleys, the graffiti of the penis-nosed guy—I found I just couldn’t resist the temptation to fool around with them on iMovie. (That’s what I’ve been up lately. You can see the evidence on my new YouTube channel.)

Some background: The film is based on a poem “written by” a character, Zeb, a bright, seemingly happy-go-lucky math student who nevertheless sells drugs to pay his own way through college as he struggles to find his path in life. One day he sits in on a Plato class and finds an unlikely mentor in philosophy professor, Dr. Fischelson, who secures a grant for Zeb to travel with him and a small group of students to Greece to film a YouTube lecture series on Plato. Zeb’s poem in this film reflects his experience in seeing the Parthenon for the first time—an opportunity he never even dreamed would come his way—and it comes from a place of newfound appreciation for ancient thought, particularly Plato’s ideas.

Be sure to turn on the sound—there’s a bizarre Greek chorus-style narration which I hope you’ll find amusing. In normal, non-pandemic circumstances, I probably would’ve asked friends to chip in their voices on the narration, but at any rate I managed to find a goofy little work-around that I’m pleased with.

Have you ever heard of a novel trailer? If so, where? Any ideas about what could such a thing be used for?

22 thoughts on “Movie Trailer for a Novel?

  1. I can see you’ve been busy growing your editor chops — good job!!

    I did wonder what the Great Pyramid was doing in a Greek thing, and I’m not sure I got much from the video about what the book is or why I should read it. The video was interesting and kept my attention, but what’s your message?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do love messing about with the editing. It’s tedious, but for some reason it’s a kind of tedious that doesn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because you get to see the results immediately.

      The Great Pyramid. I’m glad you brought that up…I can see why it’s not apparent what that has to do with anything. Basically I picked the pyramids because they’re something tourists flock to see, and also because they reflect the triangle theme in the novel, a theme which is attached mainly to that particular character. Dr. Fischelson gives Zeb a book on Euclid, and later on you see Zeb using the Pythagorean theorem to convince a drug dealer to meet him at a different location than they originally agreed on. Later in the book there’s a scene in which a YouTube video the group has just filmed is playing the background, and in it, triangles are used as an example in their discussion of the theory of forms. Specifically, they’re arguing about the paradoxical relationship between visible triangles (for example, a drawing of one) and the invisible idea of “triangle”. That’s why you see the poem in the form of a triangle at the end, which is supposed to evoke the idea of “a perfect triangle” even though it is clearly far from a perfect triangle—it’s the paradox they argue about in the YouTube video: How can a visible thing represent something that’s invisible?

      As for the video, I agree, it doesn’t tell you much about the novel. I guess I was thinking about the last movie trailers I saw (admittedly, a long time ago, probably before Netflix) which don’t tell you much about the movie, but give you a snippet of the mood and style. But I see your point. An even longer time ago, movie trailers used to tell you what the movie was about.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “…Zeb using the Pythagorean theorem to convince a drug dealer to meet him at a different location…”

        Well that sounds very interesting!

        You mention a “perfect triangle” — an equilateral triangle? Or do you have a deeper meaning than that?

        As an aside, this might be getting way too deep in the mathematical weeds, but I don’t have a strong mental connection between triangle (a 2D shape) and pyramid (a 3D solid). I certainly see what you’re going for — pyramids usually have four triangular faces plus the square base — but I don’t think of triangles wrt pyramids. That may just be due to an excess of math and geometry on my part, though.

        “…I was thinking about the last movie trailers I saw (admittedly, a long time ago,…”

        Sure, I remember trailers like that. Now it’s mostly car, perfume, or jeans, commercials that are all mood and it’s not always clear what the commercial is even about until the very end.

        Hollywood has learned that audiences prefer to know as much as possible about a movie before they see it, so most movie trailers today come off like mini versions of the movie. Sometimes, after seeing several trailers, to me it feels like there isn’t much point in seeing the movie, so I tend to avoid them and reviews until after I see it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • By “perfect triangle” I mean the invisible, mathematical kind, the idea of a triangle, one that’s made up of “breadth-less lengths”. In the novel, two students argue about mathematical Platonism (an argument which, hopefully, I’ve put well enough in the background to not bore people to death—not that you would be bored, of course, but most would be pulling their hair out, and I can’t blame them.)

          I see what you mean about 2D vs. 3D, and that’s kind of the point; the pyramid on the screen is 2D, and I tried to leverage that 2D-ness to make it look like a triangle. I don’t know if you noticed this, but there’s also a somewhat triangular sidewalk, when viewed from a certain perspective. It should be clear that the sidewalk is anything but a perfect triangle—I tried to use perspective to emphasize that it’s flawed. In the poem there’s a line about the Parthenon’s golden ratios. Well, first of all, it’s not really clear the Parthenon was constructed with golden ratios in mind, as there’s debate surrounding that theory, but at any rate, for my purposes it doesn’t really matter. I have an image of what appears to be the golden rectangle placed over the Parthenon. The truth is, the image I used isn’t even a really good representation of the golden rectangle because I had to stretch the image to make it fit over my photo. Even if it were a good representation, it wouldn’t be a precise measurement of the Parthenon itself, but only a measurement of the Parthenon when photographed from a certain angle. (By the way, the golden ratio is another thing the Parthenon and the Great Pyramids might have in common). SO, long story short, what I’m trying to do is echo the paradox of illustrating ideas using imperfect images. In other words, the “perfect triangle that’s been here all along” is not visible, which I hoped to make clear by using obviously imperfect real life triangles.

          BTW, there’s also debate surrounding the divided line in the Republic as to whether it ought to be thought of as a golden section. Mathematical puzzles are stashed throughout Plato’s writing, and given his likely association with the Pythagoreans who viewed these things as religious secrets—sacred knowledge was not to be thrown before swine—there’s a lot of mysterious mathematical stuff to geek out on for those who are so inclined. I am not, but my character would be…and yes, that puts me in an awkward position. I have done a lot of research into the mathematics of the divided line, but everyone’s got their own theory and it’s hard to make sense of it all.

          With all this explaining I’m doing, I’m starting to see that my little video project would be pretty much useless as a trailer. Maybe I ought to call it “supplemental material”.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ah, I see what you mean by “perfect triangle” now. And you’re right, I do like me some mathematical Platonism. 🙂

            Since there are an infinite number of such triangles, you also have a connection to infinity.

            Since you’re using the Pythagorean theorem, another kind of perfect triangle is one with sides of 3, 4, and 5, which is the triangle typically used to illustrate the theorem. I think I heard that the ancient Egyptians knew it gave them an easy way to create a right-angle when laying out a field or pyramid base (or even just a house), but IIRC they never generalized it to the theorem.

            I did notice your triangular sidewalk and use of the Golden Ratio. I didn’t realize there was controversy about the Parthenon regarding the latter, though. (The stretching doesn’t matter so long as it was proportional.)

            The viewing angle definitely does matter! I was going to say something about that wrt to pyramids looking like triangles. One has to view the face straight on for the 3D-ness to vanish, but then they do indeed look like triangles. Perspective is important!

            You could call your video a visual jazz tone poem inspired by the novel! 😉


  2. I’ve heard of novel trailers before, and seen a few examples, ranging from simple slideshows to elaborate productions with actors and special effects. But I’ve never seen one for a book I was interested in, so not sure how prevalent or effective they are. They might be for certain types of books.

    Although the idea of attracting readers with a video seems strange to me.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I remember seeing one in an Amazon entry for a book. It was an independent publisher but the trailer was showing drawings of various scenes from the book with a narrator giving an overview. I’ve seen a couple on the Youtube channels of authors. One was the author just reading a section of their book, like the types of presentations done at bookstores. The other was a lavish production like they were advertising for a movie with actors, sets, the works.

        Unfortunately these were all a while back and I have no memory of book names or URLs. I also saw the idea discussed in a guide somewhere on self publishing although I skimmed past that section. The times I’ve seen the trailers, they’ve always been for the book itself. But I could see where the lavish ones might be done with the idea of catching a movie producer’s attention.

        Just googled “novel trailer” and got some interesting hits on top examples. One is Neil deGrasse Tyson as a talking head presumably discussing topics in one of his books.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You know, I never did Google “novel trailer”, but I did Google something else—I can’t remember what—a little while back and came up with irrelevant stuff. Now I see it’s a whole thing. I had no idea. Crazy.

          I see the one for Neil deGrasse Tyson too. That makes sense to me. It seems more likely people would recognize his face than his name. I can see why he might be able to tap into a wider audience with a book trailer.

          One thing I don’t think I would appreciate would be seeing actors playing characters in a novel. You want to be able to imagine the characters, but seeing a video of them would disrupt that possibility.

          Anyway, I’m starting to see that whatever it is that I made isn’t really a novel trailer. Apparently those are supposed to illustrate the hook. As for my little movie, I don’t know what to call it, but oh well, it was fun making it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • “You want to be able to imagine the characters, but seeing a video of them would disrupt that possibility.”

            One of my biggest objections to film versions of beloved books. They collapse the wave-function of my imagination.

            Liked by 1 person

          • I know what you mean about seeing actors. It seems like a risk. I think that’s why most fiction doesn’t show the characters on the cover, or if they do, not with a clear view of their faces. Romances and fantasy seem like notable exceptions though, and it seems like a lot of the trailers out there are for those kinds of books.

            Hey, if you had fun making the video, that’s what counts!

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Nannus is right, the video is brilliant; you must use it to help promote the novel, Tina. I think you’ve got the pacing, the soundtrack and imagery just right. What a great idea! How close are you to a final draft? Are you going to allow pesky editors near it? I do hope not.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Hariod! You’re so encouraging. I’m currently on the final draft, but I’m dreading getting to the end. I suppose that’s because I don’t know what to do with it once it’s written…and don’t enjoy thinking about that part.

      By the way, I’m thinking about writing a post on the book you recommended, A Fortnight in September. I’m still in awe of it. Amazing novel, and I can’t thank you enough for that recommendation. I’ll go on and on about it in a post, I’m sure. I’d do it now but I’m typing on my phone.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I understand that trepidation, Tina. I lived with a professional artist (a painter) for many years, and she abhorred all the tedium of marketing as most artists generally do, so I discovered. From my own very limited experience of writing, then for me there also comes a point — quite soon after completion of the work — that I lose complete interest in the thing, and can scarcely summon the will to read a single paragraph. I wrote a trilogy of novellas in recent years and they’re languishing on a USB dongle . . . I put a huge amount of work into them, tons of energy and concentration. That said, I kind of regard that work as part of my learning curve, and what I’ve moved onto seems fairly clearly to be a natural progression up that (mountainous) curve. Your story is going to be one for an agent to work on your behalf, I feel, as I can sense it has international potential and needs appropriate publishing support by professionals. Gird yourself for the book tour. And don’t sell those film rights too cheaply!

        So glad you enjoyed that somehwat odd(?) novel I mentioned. I recall warning you that ‘nothing happens’ in it. The title says pretty much everything. Beautifully observed, all the same, and he captures a certain buttoned-up Englishness, echoes of which still persist, I feel — far less so for women, perhaps (and hopefully). The story of how he came to write it and have it published by Gollancz I found interesting. The scene at the end of the pier I found particularly well-crafted, darkly sinister without really saying much at all. Very clever. No need to paint legs on a snake, as they say out East (do ‘they’?). Or here in England: No need to boil your cabbage twice.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Haha…film rights…you crack me up! I’m not sure it has the wide appeal you think it does, but I’m glad you think it does. I don’t know what route I’ll take with it, or whether I’ll get an agent and go the traditional route. This is part of what I’m avoiding thinking about.

          I also have what I call a “practice” novel, which I abandoned when I got the idea for the one I’m currently working on. I was basically trying to do a contemporary version of Madame Bovary with an unsympathetic protagonist (unsympathetic in my opinion, though not in everyone’s, apparently.)

          I know what you mean about losing interest. I feel that way about Part I, chapter one especially, but at the midway point the plot gets so damned convoluted that I’ve sort of forgotten what I’ve written.

          As for Fortnight, I’m so grateful for having read the novel. I’m really amazed that he pulled it off, a story about a happy family on vacation? Seriously? On the face of it, it sounds so boring I can’t believe anyone would ever give it a chance for publication. But the writing really sucks you in all the same, doesn’t it? After I give it another read, I’ll see if I can figure out why and how.

          That scene at the pier, do you mean the one where the family for a moment thinks they’ve lost the mother to the sea?

          Liked by 2 people

          • The scene at the end of the pier was when the daughter had sex with the touring actor. I thought it was terrifically menacing, as the older man preys on the innocent virgin girl. It’s written with no mention of sex, only of her starry-eyed assumptions about their relationship, his gentle ‘words of comfort’. It gave me a chill, how sinister it was, although that may in part have been a projection of my own. It’s the sort of (written) scene that can be passed over as nothing much at all, yet also invites the reader to divine (infer) intentions. This is the thing, isn’t it: well-written books can always reward a second reading. I know lots of people read McEwan’s On Chesil Beach without ever inferring that the female protagonist was — when a young girl — repeatedly abused by her father on their many sailing trips to France. For me, that’s absolutely central to the problem on her wedding night. McEwan wrote it deliberately obliquely allowing readers to divine or not. I do hope I’ve not steered your second reading of TFIS; I mean only your interpretation of that pier scene. Other interpretations are of course possible: perhaps her self-deception was the only way she could make this daunting right of passage into womanhood; in other words, it was she that was in control? Still, that wouldn’t negate my own interpretation as regards his preying on her apparent naivete.

            Liked by 2 people

            • I see what you mean. In fact, I think there was a paragraph saying something about her life ending and beginning again. (I can’t remember the wording…but there was something there marking the significance of the scene.) I wasn’t sure what happened there, exactly, and I think the only thing keeping me from assuming they’d had sex on the pier was the time in which the book was written and the fact that they’re out on a pier in public (albeit, somewhat hidden). But the writing itself did, I believe, point to your interpretation. I got a sense that she was somewhat naive, not exactly in control, but not as naive as she thought she was. She knew what she was getting into. You get very little reaction from her—no drama—when the two part ways, presumably forever, but you also know she’s a sensible girl and saw it coming all along, almost from the moment she decided to befriend the more experienced girl on the beach. And I agree that the actor was preying on her naivete—that’s shown in the immediate way he choses Mary over her friend, Billie, which seems strange since Mary has barely spoken.

              One of my favorite moments is when Mr. and Mrs. Stevens fret over getting their fortunes from the Zoltar-type vending machine (“automatic machine”). That was so brilliant. And I love the whole business with the ginger beer and Dick’s joke of marking his mother’s bottle of port to make it last, which she secretly thinks is a good idea. I can absolutely relate to her when she thinks that the best part of the vacation is sitting alone after dinner with her carefully portioned glass of port, no chores to do, just taking in her “delicious hour of idleness”…while everyone else feels guilty for leaving her alone. Perfect.

              And then the big to-do when Mr. and Mrs. Stevens learn they get an extra day. The checklists. The letters. The petty little worries over the milkman and the canary’s birdseed. It hardly seems worth all the work, just for an extra day—those details were so spot on, and you never hear about them in fiction! I, for one, was a very grateful reader.

              Liked by 2 people

              • So glad you enjoyed it, Tina. Whilst I hadn’t felt I’d ‘thrust it’ on you (rather, merely mentioned it in passing), after you said you might read it I was fearful you might find it a dreadful bore. Ear-tickle for Geordie from England.

                Liked by 1 person

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