There’s always been something a bit off about Perry Palomino. Though she’s been dealing with a quarter-life crisis and post-college syndrome like any other twenty-something, she’s still not what you would call “ordinary.” For one thing, there’s her past which she likes to pretend never happened, and then there’s the fact that she sees ghosts. Luckily for her, that all comes in handy when she stumbles across Dex Foray, an eccentric producer for an upcoming webcast on ghost hunters. Even though the show’s budget is non-existent and Dex himself is a maddening enigma, Perry is instantly drawn into a world that both threatens her life and seduces her with a sense of importance. Her uncle’s haunted lighthouse provides the perfect catalyst and backdrop for a mystery that unravels the threads of Perry’s fragile sanity and causes her to fall for a man, who, like the most dangerous of ghosts, may not be all that he seems.
When I found out that I needed a book trailer to go with my debut novel Darkhouse, my first thought was “What the hell is a book trailer?” Then I read into it more, searched the internet for examples and discovered that almost every book these days needs a book trailer. I mean, it makes sense. It’s another way to engage people into your story, another way of reaching the masses.
My second thought was, “This should be fun – right?” After all, I had gone to numerous film schools in the past, studying everything from screenwriting (my main focus) to make-up artistry to production management to producing. I could put together a short film, and I had a range of creative types to film it here in beautiful Vancouver, BC. Besides, my novel centers around a girl – Perry Palomino – who gets quasi-famous because of her own videos she puts on YouTube. There had to be some art imitating life parallels there.
So I started thinking about what to do for Darkhouse. Lighthouse? Check. Stormy weather? Check. Someone to play Creepy Clown Lady? Check (my mom). Then I started thinking about what to do for the sequel, Red Fox, which I knew would be published shortly after. While Darkhouse is set in Oregon and Vancouver would make a fitting substitute, Red Fox is set in New Mexico. There was no way Vancouver could substitute for the Southwest. I mean, The X-Files tried to do that once and they ended up spray-painting an entire quarry red. I didn’t have that budget. In fact, I didn’t have any budget.
But I am crafty and I think outside the box. I knew I would be going to see the Big Four (that’s Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax and Megadeth) in Palm Springs in April, so I brought a black wig and “Perry clothes” with me. Then I convinced my filmmaker friend Mollie to come out from Los Angeles to shoot the whole thing. I drew up the storyboard on the drive from Las Vegas to Palm Springs (we road tripped down). We filmed everything in three or four hours on a very windy day in the desert. I had to be Perry after all, but we only shot me from behind and the side. My boyfriend had to be Dex. Same deal. We got lost in the desolate, creepy town of Desert Hot Springs. Afterward, we celebrated the quick film shoot, and getting out of Desert Hot Springs alive, with beers.
If you’re confused, I don’t blame you. I was too because we had to shoot Red Fox before we shot Darkhouse. Talk about out of sequence, but that’s the “film business” for you.
So back to Vancouver. Back to Darkhouse. My friend and fellow actress Talar came on board as Perry which I thought was a good match since they are both sort of goofy and awkward (sorry Tal, you know you are). And she’s a great performer. I had the perfect Dex lined up in my musician friend Jesse, but his own life got in the way and he had to bail at the last minute, so I brought in his brother Andrew. Who is actually a very talented comedian, but not really very “Dexy.” But, you know, he was kind enough to do it and we rolled with the punches. Oh and Mollie came up to shoot the trailer again, as well.
We shot Darkhouse in two days. In retrospect, I should have written a script but we were literally shooting the same week I was prepping Darkhouse for publication, so I honestly ran out of time. I was marking up the book proofs while we were filming! But we did the best with zero budget, limited locations and availability. My actors were very brave. On Day One we shot at night and at an actual lighthouse, which included a 15 minute trek in a dark forest to abandoned army barracks. Day Two we took the crew on the family boat to get some shots of the lighthouse from the water. We picked the choppiest day to this. Everyone (except my father, the captain, and I) was sick. Andrew was literally puking overboard. Poor guy.
But we got it done, and thanks to Mollie’s merciless editing skills and the music of Faith No More’s Bill Gould, who generously granted me permission to use his Talking Book music, the Darkhouse trailer was born. To a horrible reception. See, I’ve got a “hater” or two out there who had fun giving the trailer 72 dislikes within 20 hours and leaving comments that called me a whore (you know, the usual). That combined with actual people on YouTube who just poo-poo everything (or just don’t understand what a book trailer is), and the ratings weren’t very good. I did get over 700 views in 24 hours though which was pretty awesome and kind of made up for everything.
For the Red Fox trailer, we learned a few things. Mainly to take away the vindictive comments, disable the likes/dislikes and let the trailer just be what it is: A minor part of the promotional wagon. Does having a fantastic book trailer help your book? I definitely think it can. I’ve seen some gorgeous ones out there. Does having a so-so book trailer hurt your book? Definitely not. I’ve seen a ton of traffic come into my blog from Youtube.
The point is, with all the fuss made into making a book trailer, the most important thing is to have a really good book to sell. That said, I’m really looking forward to filming Book #3, Dead Sky Morning, and there will be a budget and a script this time. Only problem is, none of my crew will come and film at the actual haunted island that the book is set in. Scaredy cats.
Melissa Rheinlander is a Momma to a beautiful, spunky, fun loving little girl. Lover of family, friends, books, Mexican Martinis, sometimes Bloody Marys or Margaritas, & Wine. Melissa has worked in publishing for years, helping International Best-selling authors. She is the owner of MSRheinlander Consulting as well as Biblio Babes.