Back before the release of So You Created a Wormhole, we whipped together a video promoting it. The two-day shoot was fast and a lot of fun, and it was largely possible at all because of the help of friends.
The primary thrust of the video, we decided early on, was that we didn’t want to do anything typical with our trailer, and thus we decided to create something that existed within the fiction of the work. So You Created a Wormhole isn’t technically a work of fiction, but it does exist within a fictional framework — the narration assumes some degree of internal fiction, and so we subsist with a sort of narrative, even if it’s not readily apparent.
So to get the effect of “a book trailer that’s not a book trailer,” we decided to make a bit of a propaganda commercial. We wanted a 1950s reel feel to it, most of which was accomplished in post-production.
We spent the majority of the time for the thing setting up. The clear warehouse-looking space was not clear; the science labs required some work to create (pulling away the curtain: those are portions of the same space). Location scouting took a while: when we went to Elysian Park here in Los Angeles to shoot the giant egg chase, for example, it took a fair portion the day to find some level, prehistoric-looking ground that wouldn’t result in a broken ankle as we hauled ass through it.
The majority of the shooting script existed ahead of time, although we called an audible on just about everything as we were actually doing it. Quite a bit we made up as we found locations — for example, we reworked the original idea for the “room and board” bit as we were shooting it in the crawl space under co-writer best friend Nick’s house.
The phone booth bit was shot in the dawn hours on location in Los Angeles. We had permission to use the phone booth — it exists at said location — but we needed clear out more or less as quickly as possible. The shot ended up being incredibly hard to make actually happen, though. The idea was that I, playing the viking, would be running into the frame for quite some time before Rhoades, playing the time scientist, would catch the shotgun and blast me. Unfortunately, the constraints of that shot meant that we couldn’t pan back far enough to reveal more of the scene without ruining the ambiance by including local businesses. So that was out.
I also was supposed to fall much more dramatically, but we couldn’t make that happen convincingly, either. We brought a mat, but it was way too loud when it scraped the pavement with me falling onto it. The whole viking attack ended up being one of the harder shots to manage, mostly because we had to shoot it so tight. The camera motion of staying with Rhoades as he strode forward required a lot of finesse, too — we didn’t have a rig, so it required our incredible camera man/editor/special effects wizard, Taylor, to sync his motions with Rhoades’s. We shot it many times.
Other portions were breezier. The coffee-spill gag we accomplished in a single shot, with special thanks to my fiancee Caitlin for her willingness to get drenched with the stuff. That was real coffee mixed with water for the color; we rehearsed it some to make sure it would work before trying the shot, because costume constraints meant we could only soak that intern shirt once.
The bit with the frozen intern was accomplished relatively quickly at an actual ice…uh…factory? owned by Rhoades’s family. There were some huge slabs there that Rhoades was able to drag into place. We shot Amanda as she was scrabbling on her clipboard, then the block with Ron beside it from the other direction. Getting Ron into the ice was a simple bit of transparency and imagery work.
All the costumes were created with iron-ons. There are hospitals pretty close to my apartment and some medical clothing supply stores nearby as well, where lab coats and scrubs are sold. We grabbed the coats from there and ironed on QUAN+UM logos. It doesn’t play in the video, but all the interns are wearing red shirts with the word “INTERN” scrawled across the back. The props we collected from a day spent at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, except for the big egg and the viking ax, which we rented. The firearms are Airsoft guns.
The rest of the coolness was special effects, provided by the amazing Taylor Harrington of iam8bit, and sound effects from our awesome buds at Dooley Noted Audio (we also reworked all of Rhoades’s lines, re-recording them in Dooley Noted’s studio). All of it is incredible. The video also has its own theme music, composed by the incredible Mike Meehan.
And there was the phenomenal cast, who put up with it all: Rhoades Rader, Noah Lane, Nick Ahrens, Caitlin Foyt, Jon Gibson, Josh Kade (who also played PA for us a bit), Amanda White, Ron Pruitt and Erich Meyr. They were all volunteers, paid in lunch, coffee and humiliation.
I intend to discuss what might actually make a good book trailer in some other post — which isn’t to say that I think ours is or isn’t good, although I do love it (who knows if it’s actually effective, however). I’ve played it for people before, but the first time it was actually shown in a public way, at a public event, was at Stan Lee’s Comikaze last weekend. People in the audience laughed, so that was a big win.
If you have a burning desire to become a QUAN+UM intern, can join up at thetimetravelguide.com.