Behind the Scenes: Book Trailer Production for Cracker Jacks for Misfits

Someone once told me that as a writer you have to be okay with being lonely. They said this as a kind of warning, like “You know you’re going to be lonely, right?”

I love to be alone. In fact, when Chris is away for work or on set a lot, he tends to return to a rather isolated and weird version of Christine. I get lost in routine, doing the same thing everyday, interacting humans only when necessary. When I’m on my own, I spend most evenings pacing the apartment, talking to June (who is a dog) about whatever problem I’m trying to solve in a story, while eating hummus on crackers and chickpeas out of the can. Heaven.

So yes, working and being alone suits me. I tend to think of loneliness as more of a baseline state of being, rather than a feeling to drown out with noise. Not being lonely is more like icing on the cake. Delicious but decorative.

I’m very much used to working alone. Yes, workshop has been crucial for my growth and I could never do the work of an editor (praise be the objective eye), but at the end of the day, when I get my notes and feedback in, I have to do the job of fixing a thing and making it work. I get to make the big decisions and the little ones too. And this is something a writer has to do on their own. No one can hold your hand and tell you you’re making the right call. You have to figure it out for yourself.

A sneak peek of Jake things.

A sneak peek of Jake things.

When I decided one aspect of the publicity I’d undertake for Cracker Jacks for Misfits would be a series of short book trailers, I knew I’d need to find someone to hold my hand through the process. I’m not a filmmaker, I don’t know the first thing about gear or organizing a shot list or and I’m not a visual storyteller. Lonely writer, remember? But I’m drawn to the small, isolated, and often overlooked interactions and moments in our lives, and I think the book dwells on the highly physical. A book trailer always felt like the right way to promote this particular collection of stories.

Chris is a filmmaker. We started meeting, formally meeting, back in November to hammer out a plan for a book trailer, which quickly became, under Chris’ vision, a series of four book trailers, each one focusing on one of the main characters and sections of the book. We pulled sections from the book for each character and Chris started building scripts around them.

For the first time, I had to trust someone else to tell the story of my characters. Chris is one of the few people who has read an early draft of the manuscript and has seen the evolution of the book, so it felt like a natural fit. He knows the people of CJ4M well because he knows me well and has watched me move through the experience of telling their stories.

I put the entire project in his hands. We continued to meet, while he developed a shooting schedule, secured gear (thank you Luke!), and scripted elements that connected with my words, with my intentions, fully.

The messy business of collaboration.

The messy business of collaboration.

We shot the majority of the trailers over one weekend. It was nonstop, grueling work, mostly for me, with my soft writer’s hands and 9pm bedtime. I should say, I made an exception and pushed bedtime to midnight for the sake of the project.

From watching the footage, Chris did some truly beautiful things under a serious time crunch and with a shoestring budget. And at the end of it all, when we were exhausted and all used up, the result, and talking about the result with Chris felt more substantial than decorative icing. I feel like we’re going to do some good storytelling together. It turns out, collaboration isn’t so bad after all.

We also shot an interview where I talk about CJ4M! This was all Chris’ idea, and he thought having me talk about the book on camera might help with promotion in general. It’s nice to be able to offer people a sample of you talking about a thing when you’re begging for airtime to, well, talk about that thing.

I owe extra thanks to our friends Luke, Aoife, and Ruby for their help.

More content to come. The next step for our video project is to work with my sister Amanada on creating some abstract piano texture for sound design. What else is Family Day weekend for?

Until next time.