The Trials and Tribulations of Making a Book Trailer

Creating a book trailer was harder than I thought it would be.  It took us three tries! For the first one, Gordon and I went over to the Cates Park beach in North Vancouver—where the opening scene of At the World’s Edge takes place. It was a lovely West Coast afternoon; we got background sounds of water lapping at the shore, squirrels chattering in the trees, and a lovely long lonely wail from the train that skirts the south shore of Burrard Inlet.  I read from the book, which usually goes over quite well, when I do so in person…but on the video?  For some reason, it missed…

So back to the story board.  We decided to do something quite different.  We’d shoot in Chinatown in an alley that Curt had photographed.  This wouldn’t be West Coast idyllic but gritty and edgy—maybe more fitting for the book. So on a Saturday in December, we parked on  Chinatown’s main drag and walked over to the particular alley, off Gore Avenue, that interested us.  I stood in front of a smelly dirty yellow garbage bin that was covered in graffiti.  This time I didn’t read from the book. I spoke earnestly to the camera about Curt’s photography and how Chinatown was a favourite subject of his.  It was a disaster.  The seagulls were so raucous, they practically drowned me out. Cars kept driving up the alley and interrupting the shoot.  And people kept wandering through.  Sometimes they asked us what we were doing and what we thought of Vancouver.  I think they figured we were tourists on some kind of grunge tour. And so we explained that we weren’t tourists, we lived here, and we showed them Curt’s picture of the alley in 1972. They looked bewildered, they were probably wondering on what planet we made any sense.  It was all very distracting.

We returned home and I sent off some emails to people who know more about this than I do. I mulled over their replies and then I got another idea. We didn’t have to shoot any film at all. We could use stills and create movement a la Ken Burns—pan across the stills—zoom in on the aspects that were most intriguing.  I spent a morning in the City Archives looking for pictures of the 1400-block West Pender where Curt lived with his good friend, Fred Douglas. There weren’t many pictures of that section of Pender. Other parts of the street were much more popular subjects. But remarkably, there was a photo of the dilapidated building where Curt and Fred shared a rat-infected “pad.” It was perfect.  And from there the video grew.  We added a photo of Vancouver’s skyline in 1959, as seen from Stanley Park, and included some pictures from the book. We used Curt’s poems typed in courier on onion skin.  I love to see that now—the uneven analogue words.  And with a clever tool that Gordon found, we got Curt’s words to lift off the page.  I wrote to Gregg Simpson asking his advice about music. I knew he’d been a musician in the 60’s and I thought he’d have some good ideas.  He sent me a few pieces by the Al Neil trio—of which he had been a member. More serendipidy.  The music saturated the video with mood and then it was just a matter of a short narration.  Gordon mixed the whole thing, the music, the narration and the pictures, and managed in a quite wizardly fashion to save the parts and the combinations all in the appropriate places.  Here it is. Did it work? Well, you can be the judge of that!


  1. Congratulations on the book trailer, Claudia. I also enjoyed your description of its making.

    • Hi Naomi,
      Thanks! It was certainly a different discipline. I had so few words to work with–something that, as a writer, I’m not used to!

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