Quick recap: In Part I of this series, I posted ten tips for making a book trailer that avoids the suck. Part II is an interview with artist Kari Lennartson about narrative art techniques and her creative process. And in this final installment on book trailers, I speak with Timothy David Orme, the award-winning filmmaker who worked on the trailer for Backwards.
And if you haven’t seen the book trailer for Backwards it takes less than two minutes, and it has music from my favorite band, Cloud Cult, art from Kari Lennartson, and video production from Tim Orme. Click here. It’s pretty.
Video Production and Animation Techniques
Before we get to the interview with Tim, a few things about him. Tim is an amazing filmmaker and poet. Some of his shorts, like this one, have won awards at several film festivals. He’s also done stop-action animated music videos like this one, and wryly funny short films like this one on “Selling the Void.” To see more of his work, or to contact Tim about working on a book trailer, please visit his website: www.timothydavidorme.com.
Interview with Timothy David Orme on film making, playing well with others, video production, and animatics:
Tim: I think I’m attracted to making films for many of the same reasons I was initially attracted to writing poetry. One of the largest reasons is something you hint at in the question itself, the ways in which sound + image, when done effectively, creates a work that is larger, more dynamic and complex than the sum of its parts. Of course, poetry and film go about creating their works in different ways, but really the process of creating meaning is actually largely the same, in my eyes. And really, as much as poetry has to offer, at this point in my creative life I find the ways in which film can explore those borders/boundaries larger, more expansive, and thus more interesting to my work. However, as soon as I say that I must admit that I couldn’t think that way without having devoted so much of my life to poetry, and that everything I do on the screen is both influenced and frequently includes the (written) word. It’s a balance I’m always working through and one I hope to continue exploring/exploiting in different ways throughout my artistic career.
Tim: This project was very similar to the work I used to do for television (I worked making commercials and public service announcements for nearly three years), and the technique is mostly what the motion animation field refer to as 2.5D animation–or, moving 2 dimensional objects around in a 3 dimensional field. I never had the hardware or the budget to pursue full 3D projects (though I would have loved to), so I spent a lot of time teaching myself After Effects, Photoshop, &c., and making work such as this. I didn’t do the drawings for this project, so instead my job was to find a way to make them as vibrant as possible, as emotive as a drawing might be. To do that, I did a lot of compositing, adding textures, various levels of depth (clouds, smoke, particles, etc.), and then moved a camera through these newly created environments. It’s a time-consuming process, and one that always seems to require one more step to make it look good. I really enjoy it though.
Tim: I love collaborating (I do with most of my projects), but it’s incredibly difficult, and often frustrating. I think one of the challenges is that frustration, and how one deals with it. I suppose knowing it’s there helps, but I think there’s a part of me that’s always surprised. It may also be worthwhile for me to speak directly to where that frustration comes from, the best I can, and I think as much as it’s manifested in communication, it’s actually rooted in something larger than that–and that is perception and process. I may have a great meeting with another artist and we may both leave with a complete sense of where the project is going. However, making art (making anything) is not a linear path, it’s one of dilatory discoveries. I think that’s what’s the most fun. The problem is when those discoveries (as beautiful and worthwhile as they may be on their own) move entirely off the path of a given project. So I think the real challenge is trying to find a path that’s wide enough for everyone involved in a project to create in, and to create in with some actual room for discovery. It’s really difficult, and feels impossible sometimes, but I think it’s worth making the effort in that way, so that everyone can really contribute the project.
Me: What are the steps you suggest taking for creating a short book trailer like this? (Start with a timeline, start with music, start with images, etc…). What can you tell us about your creative process and how you organize and shape ideas?
Tim: Part of my answer for this question will inevitably bleed into my answer for the next question, but the real important step is getting to know the source text and having a sense of how to convey what parts of that you’e trying to convey. In this project, I worked directly with the author (who obviously knew the text), so that part was really quite easy for me. From there, I’m a huge proponent of animatics. An animatic is a kind of moving, working storyboard, and from there you can really watch whatever it is you’re working on start to finish with all of the timing and music in place (they can really be as intricate as you want) before starting too much of the production. I make animatics for most of my projects, and I really feel this is a great way to see what you’re up to, as well as to show someone else and get feedback before you get too far into the art direction, design, or animation (the really time-consuming things). In many ways, I think it’s one of the most creatively draining aspects of the project (and some may even think it’s figuring out too much), but I’m always amazed at the ways in which things can and do still morph a little after the animatic’s complete. From there it’s all about execution and being open to the right kinds of adjustments.
Tim: I think the most important thing is always to know what message you’re trying to convey–and with a trailer the goal is always to leave the viewer with not only anticipation, but a real desire to interact with the entirety of what they’ve only been given a part of. So, the goal is to give the book (or movie) experience to the viewer, but only not entirely. To somehow introduce the characters and the plot and some scenic elements, without giving everything away. In some sense, making a trailer turns everything into a mystery of details–how will this all work itself out? I imagine it’d be easier to make a two minute film all on its own, but making a trailer involves using the framework of a pre-existing text. This is the greatest difficulty in making a trailer, but also the answer to every question I might have while making the trailer: Should it be fast or slow? What color should it be? What font should it have? Etc. The answers are all in whatever the original text might want. So get to know that inside and out, then go from there adhering to it every step of the way.
Me: Thanks, Tim! May the animatics be with you.
Backwards is now available. Yesterday is a new day…