With all the ill health, tragedies, and general unpleasantness of 2020, I didn’t have the energy to make the Big Splash with my book release that I’d hoped to make. There was no launch party, not even a virtual one. Currently there are no book signings planned. When I finally had a release date and a pre-order link, all I did to launch it was post a picture to my Instagram and a picture to my Facebook.
But I was so amazed and blessed by all the ways people stepped up and supported me; they shared pre-order links, and commented their congrats, and seemed happy and willing to help promote my new book.
That very day I got a text from my friend Chris Miller, offering to make me a book trailer. (Chris is married to my cousin/BFF Stephy, and is a very creative person. We’ve collaborated on projects before, most notably the Christmas play last year.)
Chris came over the next morning and we sat on the porch and discussed themes and camera angles. He wanted to go for a golden hour autumn look, so the plan was to shoot an interview the next day, and then get together on Saturday to film some b-roll footage.
Unfortunately the next day was foggy. Not the golden sunlight look we were going for. That’s fine, we’ll just cram it all into the Saturday photo shoot. That will work, right?
Saturday morning found me frantically washing the bird poop off my car and the mud off my red rubber boots, and cramming all my stray car junk (including a beard and cane from that previously mentioned Christmas play) into some brightly-colored suitcases I found in the attic. Chris showed up around 11 am with everything…camera, microphones, lighting, a script-ish thing (shot list? I forget the official name), etc. He had this whole vision for the video. It was so much fun.
First there were shots of me walking out the door with my luggage, which was harder than you’d think because they were heavy with all the junk from my car. Also, I was trying to juggle a suitcase, a duffle bag, a mug of tea, and my red rubber boots. I was supposed to heave an excited sigh at the top of the steps, which sounds easy enough, but just try it once. Try heaving an exciting sigh that doesn’t sound silly. Are you trying it right now? It sounds silly, doesn’t it?
Yeah. We decided I should take a sip of tea instead.
Then there were shots of me packing up my car, which was when I noticed that I’d done a pretty bad job of washing it. Oops. But Chris said no one would notice, and truly, when I watched the video, I didn’t.
After that it was the drone shots, first of me driving down our road, and then of me crossing the Harrisburg bridge.
By this time it was long past lunch, and when we stopped to pick Stephy up I begged her for some snacks. Ha. She obligingly fixed me some sausage and crackers, and we were off, this time with Stephy in tow to hold the clipboard and cross off the shots as we did them. We were headed to Finley Wildlife Refuge to get some hiking shots.
Well, before that there was this treacherous GoPro shot. It was suctioned to the outside of my driver’s-side window, and Chris wanted me to roll down my window while driving. This was all well and good except I wasn’t supposed to look at the camera. I was terrified of rolling it down too far, so that the GoPro would become un-suctioned, snap off my window, and go bouncing and rolling down the road.
But everything was fine, and the GoPro stayed firmly in place, even though I did roll it down a little too far once.
At Finley, a few casual wildlife-refuge-goers watched us with increasing interest. After we’d filmed for a bit, they approached us. “Can we ask what you’re doing?”
“I wrote a book called The Highway and Me and My Earl Grey Tea, about a trip I took around the USA living in a different Mennonite community every month,” I said. “It’s coming out on November 16, and Chris here is filming a book trailer for me.”
The older of the two pulled out his phone. “What was the name of it again?” he asked.
I told him, and he tapped it in. Either that or he was just pretending to, so as not to be awkward. I don’t really know. In either case, he then asked, “will it be on Kindle? I kind-of like just reading books on my phone.”
I told him that for now it’s not, but in the future, who knows? I guess I’ll ask you readers…do you have interest in a Kindle version of my book?
Anyway, after that it was a lot of hiking shots. These were mostly fairly straightforward, although there was one where he balanced precariously on a sign, held the camera out over the path, and filmed me as I walked underneath it.
Through all of this, Stephy was there with the clip board. “Does this remind you of all the times I used to coerce you into making weird little films with me?” I asked her.
She laughed. “Kinda, yeah.”
It was getting late, and we still needed to film the interview. “What do you think?” Chris asked. “Should we film here in the woods, or on your front porch? Which would fit the vibe of your book better?”
“I don’t know,” I said. Then, for some reason I started describing the photoshoot Janane had taken for my book cover and promotional photos. She’d done some photos of me in nature, some with my car, some in the city, and some in a coffee shop. “That’s it!” said Chris. “We need a coffee shop. Should we drive into Junction City and film at Starbucks?”
“I feel like we don’t have the time,” I said. “What if we stopped somewhere in Monroe?” Monroe was the next town we’d pass through on our way home.
“Yes, let’s do that,” said Chris, making a snappy decision. We went to our cars and drove out of there, me following Chris, Stephy in Chris’ passenger seat googling for coffee shops in Monroe.
I guess there are no coffee shops in Monroe, though, because all we really found was the library.
It would have given a similar vibe, I think. After all, I did just as much writing in libraries on this trip as I did in coffee shops. Maybe more. But as Chris set up his multiple cameras, fancy lights, and three types of microphones, the sun slowly slid behind the Coast Range. I shivered in the cold October twilight.
The interview went fairly well. I enjoy talking to a camera, and Chris had emailed me, several days previously, with the questions that he wanted me to answer. The only problem was that Chris kept asking me new questions, or questions worded slightly differently.
“So, why should people read your book?”
“Um…because…I think they’ll like it? This wasn’t on your list of questions!”
“No, you asked…” I flipped through my notebook. “You asked what I hoped people would get from this book.”
“Oh, well what do you hope people will get from this book?”
“I hope reading this book will inspire people to try new things, to reach out to strangers, to reach out to their family, and overall, to pursue what really matters in life,” I said. But see, I couldn’t have thought of those things on the fly. Goodness.
By the time we wrapped up it was really quite dark. “If the lack of lighting becomes an issue with this footage, would you have time to re-shoot next week?” Chris asked.
“Sure,” I said. Privately I also wanted more practice on what I was going to say.
We shot the interview again on Monday, at Max Porter’s in Junction City. Well, we were planning to shoot at Max Porter’s, but then a couple sat down in our shot and we moved to the outdoor seating area of the bar next door. “No one will know,” said Chris. “I’ll blur out the words on the door.”
Chris had arrived at Max Porter’s, hurried and dusty from a different video shoot at my Uncle’s pellet mill. “The lighting is just right!” he’d exclaimed, and he’d pulled out one camera and one microphone. No tripods, no extra lighting, and no cables needed. He wasn’t going to let the sun disappear before he got his shot.
This time it was such a simple, smooth process. I’d taken notes on the previous interview and just written down everything I wanted to say. So Chris didn’t ask questions at all, just turned on the camera and sat there while I rattled off my entire monologue several times.
And that was it! By Wednesday he had the first draft to me, and after I made some suggestions, he sent the second draft to me on Friday. Or was it Thursday? It was super fast. I had to watch it quickly, before I went out of service, because I spent last weekend in the Colorado mountains.
Anyway. Please, if you want a promotional video for your business, check out Chris’ company, Brantbury Studio. It was a fun, collaborative experience with great results.
And of course, if you want to pre-order my book, you can do so here.
Find Me On
Patreon: patreon.com/emilysmucker (This is where I post bonus blog posts, about more personal/controversial subjects, for a subscription fee of $1 a month [or more if you’re feeling generous]. I try to post twice a month. My latest two posts were titled Thank You, and Chapter 1 of The Highway and Me and My Earl Grey Tea. I’m currently working on a post about the election.)