Today I have author Nathan Wrann here to discribe the making of the book trailer for Dark Matter Heart. I want to send out a HUGE thank you to Nathan for taking time out of his busy day to stop by the blog and for donating an e-copy of his novel.
Haven’t heard of Dark Matter Heart? Be sure to check out my review here.
Trapped Between Two Worlds
In February I, with a handful of people, spent two days shooting a book trailer for my first novel, “Dark Matter Heart.” I was reluctant to go back into film production, but I found that maybe I missed it more than I thought.
First a brief history. Before I wrote my first novel I was an independent filmmaker. I had been writing scripts for about a decade prior to taking the plunge in 2005. With a $5,000 investment of my own money and a handful of volunteers, I made my first feature film: a brutal camping, slasher ultra-low budget horror flick titled“Hunting Season”. After a brief period of self-distribution “Hunting Season” was picked up by Gravitas for streaming and VOD distribution. In 2007 I followed that up with a strange, surreal, mind-trip of a revenge film called “Burning Inside”. In 2009 my second film was distributed by Channel Midnight Releasing and ultimately gained more critical acclaim than actual copies sold. Following this, I attempted to raise money for a short-film adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”. It didn’t take long to see the writing on the wall. Independent film financing and distribution were in shambles. Something had changed between the early 2000’s and the end of the decade. Maybe people didn’t discover independent films the way they used to. Or maybe there are too many films being made. Or maybe there is no truly effective means of self-distribution (no video stores, Netflix doesn’t pay, barriers to VOD). Regardless, it didn’t seem responsible for me to continue spending tens of thousands of dollars on independent film production, only to be unable to find an audience. I figured it was the perfect time to go on hiatus for a few years until the indie film market worked itself out.
Writing costs nothing. There is no coordinating, no scheduling, no traveling, no equipment, no cast, no crew and no collaborating. No collaborating. That’s actually the hard part of writing. That’s also the part of filmmaking I didn’t think I would miss. One of the greatest challenges (for me) of filmmaking is working with other people to attain my vision. As I sat down to write my first novel (or even short stories) I thought that I would now be free from having to collaborate with someone else (cast, crew, etc). Free from having to explain my vision over and over again until they did, what I originally wanted them to do. Every word I write in my novel would be all mine. Every word was mine. Turns out that’s the hard part. I was responsible for every description, every facial twitch, every setting. I couldn’t defer to someone else or cut corners in the writing and capture it in production.
In a script I could write a setting as “a beautiful field.” Then I find a field that somewhat matches what I see in my head, set the camera up and, boom, within seconds “a beautiful field” is conveyed to the audience. Yes, a picture is worth 1,000 (or more) words. Which means that now I had to find 1,000 words to describe that field. The same is true of every movement, every bit of speech, every hair out of place. Suddenly, where I previously could let an actor bring a character to life on film, I now had to bring them to life on the page. Maybe collaborating wasn’t so bad.
Since embarking on this novel-writing adventure, I’ve written and published two and a half books. In February my wife, convinced me to shoot a “book trailer” for my first book,“Dark Matter Heart”. I was excited to have a book trailer but reluctant for all of those production reasons above. I had become comfortable in my solitude. I like when it’s just me and my laptop typing away creating characters and worlds. Now I would have to work with schedules, and casting and actors and a cinematographer and locations, and meals, and costumes, and props. But I relented.
First we contacted Bart Mastronardi, a talented filmmaker, a friend, and an exceptional cinematographer. We told him what we wanted to do and he was on-board immediately. Since we would be shooting in New York City, and that’s his stomping grounds, I relied heavily on him for locations and casting.“Collaborating” had instantly reared its head, but this time, with my reluctance for the project, I embraced it.
The day before traveling to Queens, NY to shoot the trailer I was a bundle of nerves. I felt completely unprepared for the shoot. With only a brief sketch of scenes that I felt were crucial to convey in the trailer, and no overall “vision” of the project I knew that success would come through improvisation and off-the-cuff shooting. I’m a planner. I prefer to plan all of my shots, know exactly what I need and work toward getting it. Improvising and winging it are not my favorite ways to work. In addition to being out of my element, I was out of practice having been tucked away for a few years in my solitude.
Once everyone arrived on set I was still freaking out internally. I met all the actors they got in their costumes and we went to the first location to shoot the first shot: the main character, Cor Griffin, sitting at a piano in a classroom when Caitlyn Dupris catches him playing a song. The set, of course, wasn’t exactly how I had pictured it in my head, or even how I had written it in the book. The piano was stuffed in a back stairwell, rather than a classroom, but that’s the way of independent filming, you shoot with what you have, not what you want. The knots in my stomach were tying tighter and tighter as the actors were getting in place and Bart was setting up the camera and lights. It all looked to be set, Bart’s lighting and framing had made lemonade out of the location’s lemons, and I called “Action!”
Immediately my nerves calmed as Will Seefried transformed into Cor before my very eyes. His fingers played across the piano keys and then he paused, looked over to Haley Turner, beautifully portraying Caitlyn, and gave a bit of a hesitant crooked smile. It was perfect. And that’s when I knew I was trapped between two worlds.
I love writing. I love telling stories and creating characters and giving them challenges that they may, or may not overcome. I love being able to write when I want, where I want without relying on dozens of other people just to get my work to an audience. I love that I can write and publish at least 2 books and a handful of short stories per year (recently on twitter I noticed many independent filmmakers were still talking about the movies they were working on two years ago. In that time I’ve already published 3 novels and 3 short stories) But…
I love filmmaking. I love the collaboration that comes when someone, who knows the material and their character, makes suggestions or does something that is perfectly fitting that I would have never seen (both Will and Haley, in an ultimate display of professionalism had purchased Dark Matter Heart and read it before showing up for their auditions. Knowing their characters inside and out added immensely to the project.). I love it when a great cinematographer has a feeling for how the scene should be and how the lighting will make the picture tell 10,000 words instead of 1,000.
As soon as I called “Cut!” on that first shot the filmmaking bug had infected me. I wanted to take the next week off of work and just turn Dark Matter Heart into a bigger project right there. I wanted to make it into a movie or a TV show or something. With the talent we had gathered it seemed like a book trailer wasn’t enough to contain it. But alas, the two days passed quickly, we had fun, captured far more than the necessary shots and went our separate ways.
Since then I’ve returned to my solitary creative existence, writing the third book in the Dark Matter Heart Trilogy. I’ve also spent the last few weeks editing the trailer. Video editing is another solitary endeavor, just me in front of the computer putting it together, each 2-second clip at a time. The difference though, is that those individual pieces, each shard of the mosaic, was made possible only through the collective efforts of a handful of incredibly talented, hard-working collaborators. And every 2-second clip makes me want to work with them again to create something bigger. Maybe this summer? Who knows? All I know is that my filmmaking hiatus may not last as long as I thought.
Nathan Wrann is an author, publisher and filmmaker living in Connecticut with a Chihuahua, a cat and a wife. “Dark Matter Heart” and “From Out Of Chaos”, the first two books in The Dark Matter Heart trilogy are now available at www.daltongangpress.com. The trailer for “Dark Matter Heart” will be out in the beginning of April and Book 3 of the Dark Matter Heart trilogy is set to come out by summer. He also sometimes writes under the pen name “Nicholas Faraday”
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