“We can do better than poorly produced B- and C-level movie-esque trailers,” ad-man-turned-novelist James P. Othmer argued during a discussion last night on Twitter. Because of budget limitations, he continued, the “conventional” plot summary book trailer “looks cheap” when compared to movie trailers; a provocation, on the other hand, “sheds light on a truth [or] issue.” What Othmer calls a ‘provocation,’ we might also call an ‘engagement,’ and it’s that slight shift in vocabulary that helped us recognize how Othmer’s theory held up for trailers promoting fiction as well as nonfiction.
We’ve seen a lot of book trailers over the years, and our favorites, from Eddie Campbell‘s The Black Diamond Detective Agency to Seth Greenland‘s Shining City, from Steven Pressfield‘s Killing Rommel to Kathe Koja‘s Under the Poppy, do more than just tell you what the book is about—they engage the viewer while telling a story, and not necessarily the one that’s recounted between the covers of the book. Production values are nice, but if you have enough creativity and imagination, you can hook a potential reader by telling a story with nothing more than stick figure drawings.
Back to nonfiction, though: David Pogue‘s The World According to Twitter doesn’t really tell a story, because it’s just a compilation of tweets from Pogue’s fans in response to his daily questions, and telling that backstory isn’t terribly fascinating, no matter how likable Pogue’s personality may be. (Just watch the first minute of the film and see if you don’t agree.) Where the trailer picks up is the moment Pogue creates a new story about the lengths he and his publisher, Black Dog and Leventhal, are willing to go to in order to promote the book. After that, we might have quibbled about the execution of this scene or that, but we were willing to stick around to see where the premise was headed.
That’s our take, anyway. Watch the film and tell us: What did you think?