What Makes a Good Book Trailer?

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We're big believers in the virtues of creating book trailers, and it seems that teachers and librarians across the country are beginning to seize on the idea too. This year, we received a large number of high-quality entries to our book trailer competition for the Scottish Children's Book Awards, and have been delivering workshops around the country to help practitioners get to grips with the pedagogy.

To accurately capture a book's character, setting and atmosphere, pupils must have a solid critical understanding of the book in the first place, so their reading skills are put to the test.

Creating a book trailer is a challenging task for any pupil. To accurately capture a book's character, setting and atmosphere, pupils must have a solid critical understanding of the book in the first place, so their reading skills are put to the test. However, it's as much a writing task as it is a reading one, with lots of decisions to be made about structure and a strong requirement to 'show, not tell' the viewer what's going on. We wanted to invite you to have a look at a book trailer we received from Katie Hancock and Gemma Hills of The Mary Erskine School, and have a think about how you might assess and give feedback on the task. The book they chose was Danny Weston's The Piper, the recent recipient of a Scottish Children's Book Award in the Older Readers category. Have a look at the trailer, which we absolutely love, below:

 

So now you've watched the trailer, here are a few key areas to think about for assessment:

Structure

Are events in the trailer structured in an effective way? Does the trailer feel well paced? Does the length feel appropriate? Does it begin and end effectively?

Content

Have the pupils given a sufficient impression of setting and character? Have they revealed an appropriate amount of plot details (enough to interest the viewer without revealing unnecessary amounts of detail about the book)?

Film languages

How effectively have the pupils used sound, effects, editing and text to create an appropriate atmosphere?

Obviously there's much more you can discuss in terms of pupils' creative decision making, especially in this case. We asked Katie and Gemma to answer a few questions about the trailer below:

 

Why did you choose The Piper?

We chose The Piper by Danny Weston because firstly it was within our age category. Therefore, we thought we would have a good insight into what the target audience would enjoy. After reading the blurb of the book, we were also drawn in by the creepy tone. This helped us decide on it as we could see its creative potential.

Length is important: you want to grab and intrigue the people watching without giving away too much of the plot.

 

When you first sat down to chat about making your trailer, what kind of things did you talk about? Did you have a strong idea in your mind what you wanted?

After reading the book, we both had a clear vision of the direction in which we wanted to take our trailer. 

Firstly, we brainstormed and then combined both of our ideas. We picked out the key scenes we wanted to focus on. However, we were careful to make sure that we didn't give away too much of the plot, so that the person watching would be intrigued to read the book.

 

Talk us through what happened from there. How did you plan your trailer?

First of all, we planned out the order of the scenes we were going to film and noted down the props, setting and sound effects we wanted to use. We also figured out the timings to ensure it wasn't too short or too long. Length is important as you want to grab and intrigue the people watching; however, if it is too long it can start to get boring and give away too much of the plot. Next, we filmed the scenes we had planned and added in a few extra ones to help give background and make the trailer flow better. After we had all the clips we edited them together using iMovie.

Quick cuts at the beginning give the trailer a dramatic tone and hints as to what the book is about

 

Finally, can you tell us about some of the specific creative decisions you’ve made and why you made them? 

We used the shots of Daisy dancing and then vanishing to help provoke mystery. This helps to leave the person watching wondering where she was going and then where she disappeared to. The idea behind this was also to help illustrate the period of time and this was hinted at as Daisy was further in the distance each time. 

We decided to use the quick cuts at the beginning to give the trailer a dramatic tone but also give the person watching a hint as to what the book was about within a short snippet. The speed also helped to build suspense and grab people's attention, which is essential at the beginning of a trailer.

We've got comprehensive resources to help you introduce book trailers into the classroom! Our resources include assessment tools and printable worksheets to help you plan a unit of work.