Yesterday, I did something totally nuts. I spent the afternoon directing a photo shoot for a book trailer. Why is this so crazy? Well, in part because my agent hasn’t sold my manuscript yet, so technically there is no book. But when local photographer, Tera Girardin (owner of Tera Photography) told me she’d love to do something creative together, and I said, “Maybe we could work on my book trailer!” she replied, “Let’s do it!”
It feels a little like getting dressed before stepping into the shower…I mean, who makes a trailer for their book before anyone’s agreed to publish it? But my agent said, “Go for it!” And if she has faith that she can sell my manuscript, I’m going to trust her because she’s kind of totally awesome.
Since my book is set in the fall and dead leaves and skeletal trees are an important aspect of my story, this is the perfect time of year to get our photos. So I contacted a couple of my neighbors and asked a strange question, “Would you mind if your teenage daughter posed as a dead girl in my book trailer?” I got one enthusiastic yes and another yes that sounded a bit more like “Oh, Jessica, you’re such a freak, but why not!” (to be clear, my neighbor didn’t actually use those words, but my intuition tells me she might have been thinking them).
Tera and I met last week after she’d had a chance to read my manuscript and discussed what we thought would be the key elements to include in the book trailer. We jotted down some notes as we formulated a plan and set this past Sunday as the date for our photo shoot. I’m not ashamed to admit that I did my anti-rain dance every day leading up to Sunday because we live in Minnesota, and seriously, folks, we saw a few snowflakes last weekend, so there’s no guarantee that we could reschedule. Luckily my dancing paid off (which is usually the case because flailing your arms about and shaking your booty can solve most problems – or at the very least you feel better about your problems when you’re done).
After dropping my daughter, Ella, at her Nutcracker rehearsal, I rushed to my neighbor’s house where Lauren (the sweet girl who runs through my backyard on warm summer evenings playing “Hunger Games” with the neighborhood crew) was waiting in a gown I had found at the local Goodwill. She sat at her kitchen table while I created bruises on her neck and arms with makeup (I knew all those years selling cosmetics at the department store while I was in college would come in handy one day). I felt a little weird when I placed my hands around her neck to make sure I got the bruises properly placed where someone’s fingers would likely apply the most pressure if they were choking the life out of someone. By the time I was finished with her, she looked…well…like a dead girl who had put up a good fight. My other teen model, Nicole (who happens to be one of my monkeys’ favorite babysitters), had it pretty easy. She got to wear regular clothes and didn’t have to look beat up at all.
Once everyone was properly dressed and made-up, we loaded into my vehicle and headed out to a local park. The good news was, the weather was great (maybe even a little too sun-shiny for our gloomy pictures). The bad news was, everyone and their dog (literally) was at the park for an afternoon stroll. We got more than a few strange glances as I covered poor Lauren in mud, buried her in leaves and had Logan pose as a ghost standing behind Nicole.
But the kids had fun, and didn’t mind at all being a bit of a spectacle at the park. And if anyone stared at them too long, Lauren (covered in her faux bruises, dressed in a torn and muddied nightgown, her hair ratted with twigs and leaves) just gave them the “death stare” until they looked away. I thought that was a genius technique and I intend to use it the next time someone gawks at me as my children scream and cry in the check-out line at Target – not that such things ever happen (umm…yeah, they totally do).
We got some awesomely creepy shots at the park. Muddy hands reaching for help. Our ghost girl beckoning from among the trees. Our main character being followed by a pack of dead children through the woods (I can’t wait to see how the magic of editing will make those kiddos look like little ghosties). Then we loaded up again and head to a cemetery.
The cemetery shots were extra fun because we met a pack of family and friends who, when I called and said, “Wanna be a dead person in my book trailer?” they didn’t say no. Their only instruction was to wear something they thought they could be buried in. Sorry folks, if you’re my friend you should know that you could get one of these strange phone calls at anytime so brace yourself for it, just in case.
Our final stop was at the neighboring school where we got a couple more shots of our teen protagonist and her love interest (whose shoulders were played by my husband who was a good sport and agreed to wear a letter jacket while pretending to be 16).
The photo shoot couldn’t have gone more smoothly. Tera’s ideas were brilliant! All the family, friends and neighbors who came out to play a role were incredibly good sports! Now, I just have to try not to worry about what a total goober I’ll feel like if my agent is unable to find a home for my manuscript. Making a trailer for a book that doesn’t exist yet is kind of goofy, but making a trailer for a book that NEVER gets published would be beyond dorky! Whether or not I fall into the goofy or beyond dorky category, everyone involved agreed, yesterday was a whole lot of fun! And when we have the trailer put together, regardless of the status of my manuscript, I pinky-promise to show it to you! 🙂
FYI, if you need a good photographer, I highly recommend, Tera! She totally rocks!