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Thought Catalog Author Marty Maguire Talks About Making ‘American Psychonaut’ Book Trailer

Author Marty Maguire teamed up with filmmaker Mike Costanza to create a book trailer using home movies in order to promote his new memoir short story American Psychonaut that comes from Thought Catalog Books today. We’ve embedded the video above for you to check out.

We caught up with Maguire to discuss how he went about making the trailer.

GC: Why did you decide to create a video to promote your book?
MM: We actually considered crafting the original raw footage into a simple “public service announcement”-type video, unconnected to any commercial endeavor.  Fortunately, I came to my senses and decided to relate it to my writing work so there would be some sort of modest tangential revenue stream associated with it.  But in all seriousness, I first and foremost do hope it has a positive or even inspirational impact on viewers, whether or not they are converted into customers of the eBook.

The trailer sprouted from my home video footage of me as an 8-year-old “gayby” getting dressed in drag by Mom for Halloween in 1994.  The 8mm camcorder tape had been sitting in a box in the garage for almost 20 years.  I felt it was something that could gain traction on the web, especially with LGBT outlets, as it is a positive and entertaining representation of a parent embracing and engaging a nascent LGBT child’s transgender curiosities at a time when it was not as common to do so.  It also has an inimitable, authentic, “pre-YouTube”, un-staged quality that I love.

When I decided to pursue publishing my short memoir story eBook American Psychonaut with Thought Catalog, I thought the footage was something I could parlay into a trailer because I remembered how much friends and relatives were tickled by it when my family used to show it to them.  They would say, “You should submit this to ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’!” but we were much to lazy to do something like that.  In essence, Bob Saget’s loss is my gain.

If I did not have that home footage to anchor the trailer, I am not certain if I would have pursued a video trailer right off the bat.  But maybe I would have, as my personality suits utilizing multiple mediums for creative expression.  And I do think a video trailer would be especially useful for someone like me who is making their publishing debut.

GC: How did you go about creating it?
MM: I put the word out on the web, specifically on a filmmaker collective’s website, that I was looking for a film person to tinker with my footage.  The raw footage is great, but it doesn’t really have that “punchline” moment that seems to be a necessity for anything to go viral, as people like to have that big, swift payoff when it comes to content.  But I was confident that there would be an audience for the footage if it was repurposed into a more meaningful story with a narrative arc and some suspense.

So I would privately share the raw footage with each candidate who reached out to me, but a majority of the them weren’t very enthusiastic about the project but rather simply just looking for any project to get their hands on.  Then I hit the lottery.  Mike Costanza, the creator of a gay soap opera Dante’s Cove and a participant in the official competition at the Cannes Film Festival, encountered the project and saw a lot of potential in it.  It was one of those connections where our first phone conversation turned out to be a 2-hour brainstorming session.

First, of course, I converted the 8mm tape to digital.  Then, I wrote a quick script for the narration and had my homegirl in audio engineering school hook me up with a studio session to record it.  Mike and I worked together remotely.  I spent many nights watching files transfer via WeTransfer.com, which is so the new watching paint dry.  Mike worked his magic and added some bells and whistles and I couldn’t be happier with the final product.  I would have been content if the final cut was a fraction as poignant as some of his other work, like Mama Said, but I think he really hit a home run for me as well.   It was as if he read my mind and physically extracted my vision for the video and put it onto the screen.  Of course he also exercised his own creative license and inserted some of his own ideas into the video, which is exactly what I wanted—I wanted to be surprised a little.

GC: What advice would you give to other writers who are thinking of doing a book trailer?
MM: Don’t even dream about licensing music.  It’s too expensive, especially if you’re promoting something.  And the deals come with all sorts of limitations—i.e. you can only run the video for X amount of months, you must use song Y in its entirety, you can’t use the song for the closing credits (unless you want to pay Z dollars extra), you can only make the video available to the three other apartments on your floor freeloading off the same neighbor’s unprotected wireless router network (kidding), etc.

And all the music you want to license will either be too popular or not popular enough, as in either the publishing rights are owned by a major company that charges a high fee, or the artist has no manager at the moment and no clue who currently holds owns the rights as the previous small publishing house went bankrupt.  Stick to royalty-free music and even then make sure it’s OK to use it for promotional and not just recreational purposes. Have patience and sift through the music that’s out there and you will eventually find quality stuff.  I am satisfied with the music I chose from Kevin MacLeod’s collection, especially the bittersweet track that perfectly captures the mood of the narration in the closing voice over segment of my video.

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