Being Kenneth Branagh: 11 Tips on Filming A Book Trailer (Part Three)

So, two weeks ago, I started this mini-series of a blogpost. Honestly, I thought I could encapsulate everything I wanted to say about this experience in about 1000 words, maybe 2000 if I was feeling eloquent.

Yeah…um…Part Four will drop next week and wrap everything up. I promise.

No. Seriously.

Stop laughing.

The thing is this blogpost is a lot like the book trailer itself (which, if you look up in the right-hand corner of the blog, you will see it there…). This is the biggest blogpost I think I’ve done since ending my two-year job hunt. This mini-series blogpost is epic…but so was the education I received on the set. There were a lot of lessons I walked away with this time, and already within the trailer’s first 24-hours on YouTube I have people asking me about what it takes to make something like it.

So, let’s continue with these 11 tips I’ve been sharing, starting off with one that I think is essential when marshaling your creative troops together to make magic happen…

Be patient and understanding with your talent. Cast and crew. Everyone involved with The Janus Affair book trailer were compensated with food, on location lodging, and gas money.

Note: I said compensated, not paid. There is a difference.


These incredible people were volunteering their time, talent, and effort to my book trailer. So when lines didn’t come out as fluently as I liked it, when I didn’t get that one scene I had hoped for, and when things on the set didn’t look exactly as I had initially pictured, did I complain?

I followed the teachings of St. Fu and made it work.

Up front, I gave everyone the schedule, but I watched everyone carefully. I didn’t want to push anybody too hard. I didn’t want my cinematographer to get punchy in the late remains of the day. In short, I was going to make the most of what my talent could deliver and make it work.

Above all, I wanted to make sure we had fun. And we did.

Okay. I did.

Make sure your cast and crew understand their responsibilities. Yes, especially if your talent isn’t being compensated for their abilities, you need to go easy on them and not make irrational demands on them. They are there because they want to be there.

This does not mean that you shouldn’t expect your talent to work hard.

When you’re filming a book trailer, your talent isn’t there to hang out, chat or tweet with friends in between takes, or gossip with friends on the set. There is time for that, but not when the director (you) are setting the scene or when the cameras are rolling. Even if there is no compensation to your talent, there is an expected level of basic professionalism. This professionalism extends to post-production: editing, mixing, and final processing. You need to make sure your deadlines are set (and realistic), there is flexibility in those demands, and that you are working with people who understand what it is you are working to create.

Why, yes, now that you mention it — this is very much like writing a book. How ‘bout that?

Trust your editor, especially if he or she has a track record. I have been editing video professionally for a long time, but I have edited corporate videos, live performances, promotional videos, and the odd musical montage here and there with a smattering of video podcasts. Linc, on the other hand, has done both short and feature (indie) films. Currently, Linc is working on a documentary about Vapers. So when I tried to do a simple fade from one vignette to another, and he (rather passionately) piped in “Oh hell no!” I listened.

Alright, maybe he didn’t put it that way, but he was insistent.

I did, though, back down and defer to Linc’s call on the transitions. Was it what I originally pictured? No. Neither were the title sequences. All this was Linc; or more to the point, this was all Linc’s experience stepping up to make this trailer the best trailer it could be. Those was actually his words: “I want this trailer to be the best it could be.”

Linc offered the same expertise when it came to our opening credit sequence. My initial idea was credits against basic black with a simple but elegant fade in. Linc, however, took me through his own collection of animated templates, and we found one that was slightly reminiscent of National Treasure. While the Nicolas Cage treasure hunt adventure isn’t steampunk (well, okay, those glasses of Ben Franklin were skirting the edges of it), the look of the template really fit our book trailer. This would not have come about had it not been for Linc offering me an option.

This goes back to something Branagh once revealed as the secret of directing a film: “Surround yourself with a crew more talented than you are, and they will help you make a great film.”

So in many respects, I allowed Linc through this project to educate me and show me alternatives to what I have originally envisioned.


Never forget: It’s YOUR trailer. Linc bestowed upon me the three rules in being a director, and they are…

  1. Listen to your editor. Your editor knows best.
  2. Don’t forget — it’s your project. You have the final say.
  3. Please refer to Rule #1 when in doubt.

While there are a lot of conditions you have to juggle in putting this project together, the last word in the project falls on you, the producer and director. It’s your book trailer, and you possess the power of veto. If you don’t like an effect, you can ask for a change. If you don’t like the way a scene is lit, you can ask for a change there as well. This project has your name associated with it and this is your vision. An editor might make an argument like “This is the way I envisioned this transition to be…” but you need to remember this project is not the editor’s vision but your vision.

As I mentioned earlier, it is very much like writing a book. This time, we’re telling a story through moving pictures.

And here we wrap for the night. The end tip is just that — one last thing to keep in mind when embarking on this creative journey, but like any good storyteller, I decided to leave you all for a cliffhanger. The last tip is probably the one you want to take to heart and make sure you follow without fail.

I’ve saved the best for last. We’ll talk then.


  1. When you’re working with creative people, give them room to be creative. But also know when it is time to reel them in.

    I’ve been enjoying this series so far, Tee. I doubt I’ll every try to do a book trailer myself, but it has been an interesting read.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *