Promotional trailer: Book of Constants

After months of delays large and small, we present the Book of Constants promotional trailer:

The purchasing link is here. Read the short story excerpt here.

About the process

We dusted off our copies of Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12 (video editing) and Audacity (free sound editing and recording). We wanted to maintain an ethic similar to that of our trailer for The Music and the Spires, respecting that TMATS is an anthology of short stories and Book of Constants is a novella. To this end, we perused archive.org again for video footage, limiting the material to one primary clip (the street scene in turn-of-century Palestine) and two secondary clips (the first a railroad documentary from Thomas Edison’s stock, and the second, a scene from The Golem, which, at an initial glimpse, resembles two men disposing of a corpse; remember that BOC is at its core a murder mystery).

For sheer beauty and impact, we opted for the grizzly bear shots and a delectable composition by Francesca Mountfort. The name of the track is Nana, which she recorded under her Nervous Doll Dancing alias. She adapted it from Manuel De Falla’s suite for piano and cello; find a more literal interpretation of the piece here. As an editorial aside, the original is pretty enough, but Mountfort’s version is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard.

But in practical terms the trailer was becoming a little too luxurious. The novella follows an unwitting rookie detective on his first murder investigation, which from the beginning is sloppy, chaotic and conflicted in interest. The police scanner footage helped dial the gorgeousness back a little, and personal tragedy on behalf of the film editor/sound engineer suspended the project for months. I feared that the project’s momentum was lost but indeed the opposite was true. We resumed in early 2014 and–after a few mock-ups–finished the editing in a single take.

I always cringe at title cards in the first trailer, but the team insisted on some kind of literal connection back to the book. After some fairly lively negotiation, we agreed that I would narrate the story’s opening sentences. I am not an actor by any means, nor do any of us own the proper equipment. This way my wife would give me voice-acting prompts and I would hurry to the bedroom to record on my iPhone (I would have choked if I had tried to narrate while anyone else listened). Outtakes of these DIY sessions pick up the sound of me scratching at my clothes, bouncing my knee, cursing like a thug and falling prey to all manner of facial tics. At last, we settled on a take that didn’t sound like a vocoder.

In an unexpected 4-1 defeat, I lost the sound engineering vote. “Nana” truly became a background score, with the static, clamor, confusion and emergency protocol of police scanner recordings mixed in loudly and prominently. Moreover, the new audio track was 2:06 in length, while the video feed was 1:54. We had twelve extra seconds of sound, and were forced to add two more, wholly unnecessary title cards. I kept any subsequent remarks to myself.

Here it is: B-list acting, tragic animal husbandry and all. In spite of the setbacks I love this film. We hope you enjoy.

–C.E. Alexander
March 8, 2014

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“That’s horrible”

This is another clip that frequently comes up while browsing old black-and-white footage. A Scottish inventor and Edison protégé attempted film-sound synchronization using live wax cylinder audio capture alongside 35mm video. Over the next twelve decades the project suffered its share of clerical errors, aging, oblivion and restoration. But here we are, 118 years later, and the work has become a kind of spectral supermodel, known by a single name: Dickson.

All this is to say that Zidi trailer #2 is one post closer to completion. If you haven’t seen its predecessor yet, you can find it here. Featuring the astonishing–and previously unreleased– track “Ledabella” by William Ryan Fritch, the film represents Alexander’s The music and the spires. And months upon months of Exedrin.

(Capsule review by Alex’s eight-year-old son.)

“Trapeze Disrobing Act,” by Thomas Edison

We’re hard at work on Alexander’s next book trailer (after months of hand-wringing, we finally released our promotional film for The music and the spires last week). The forthcoming trailer will promote three short stories, published individually on Kindle: Book of Constants, Bar Juchne and My Wounded Specular.

This brief Edison clip–depicting a lively, if nonscandalous trapeze tease–kept turning up in our search for footage. We took that as a sign.

Look for Book of Constants to publish on June 16, via Kindle Direct.