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I am a restless writer of fiction, film, and music. I scripted such films as 9 and ½ Weeks, Sommersby, Impromptu (personal favorite), What Lies Beneath, and All I Wanna Do which I also directed. Both my documentaries, Marjoe and Thoth, won Academy Awards. Formerly a recording artist, I continue to write music, posting songs on my website. I live in New York with my husband James Lapine. My second novel, the paranormal thriller Jane Was Here, was published in 2011. My latest film, Learning to Drive, starring Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley, came out in August 2015, now available on VOD, DVD, and streaming media. This blog is a paranormal memoir-in-progress, whenever I have spare time. It's a chronicle of my encounters with ghosts, family phantoms, and other forms of spirit.

Friday, October 7, 2011


These days publishers are so impoverished that not only do they expect all but the most prominent writers to pay for their own editor and publicist, to blog and flog their book on the internet, but also to provide their own promo videos for YouTube. Consequently agencies and marketing companies spring up overnight, offering their services to indie authors, to edit, package, publicize – on the author’s dime, of course. Extra services include producing promo videos for a fee. One company is even offering to have some out-of-work screenwriter adapt your book into a screenplay, leaving you with the problem of getting an unsolicited script to film producers.

Authors traditionally live hand to mouth. Published writers hence become those who can afford it. It’s almost a reflection of the rich-to-poor gap that afflicts our country. But back to my subject: how can you produce an affordable video to promote your book? You’ve already written the script (see previous post), which cost nothing. Where do you go from here, if your script is more ambitious than titles on a black screen?

Here’s what I did. As it happened, I’d been commuting to Boston each week to teach advanced screenwriting for a few semesters at Emerson College. I got acquainted with the producing, acting, directing and cinematography faculty. When the time came to make my video, I called the cinematography teacher Harlan Bosmajian for a favor, asking him to shoot the promo. He in turn asked some of his students to fill the other camera crew positions. I called the producing teacher and asked her to recommend a talented student. I went with one of the volunteers, Julie Hook, a junior, who put together casting sessions (using student and local actors), location manager, production designer, sound recordist and editor, all from the student body. (I’ve directed 3 films before, so I didn’t need a director.) The equipment came from the school’s stock.

Everyone was happy to work for free, because being part of a commercial production would look great on their “reel.” Their abilities were still in the formative stage, and mistakes on set were made, but YouTube promos are not expected to be slick. I had to rent the van, pay the location fee, and provide pizza for the crew and talent. Thus the video would have only cost a few hundred dollars if I hadn’t insisted on paying everyone a nominal amount each.

My point is, if you live anywhere near a school with a film production program, and you’re willing to take a chance on young developing talent, you can make an affordable video. Putting up a notice on the bulletin boards or online is sufficient to attract able and eager people who want to put their education into practice. And they often have an astounding command of the technology and software. Particularly my 20-year-old editor, Alfonso Carrion, was amazing at rendering the graphics and the animation I needed for the second half of my trailer.

There are books that deal with all the other options, in greater detail, for making book trailers. This was my experience, and I’m very proud of the result. See for yourself:

There was no room for a credits crawl at the end, so I’m printing their names here, with fervent thanks for their contribution.

Producer – Julie Hook
Director of Photography – Harlan Bosmajian
Sound Recordist – Molly Young
Alfonso Carrion - Editor
Electric – Matt Figler
Assistant Camera – Lowell Meyer
Grip – Dan Finlayson
Production Design – Devynne Lauchner
Role of Jane played by – Eliza Earle
Role of Brett played by – Nat Sylva