How to Shoot A Live-Action Book Trailer

Although fairly new to the publishing world, book trailers have blazed a trail full of new opportunities that connect viewers to books. If you are thinking about shooting a live-action book trailer, I’ve compiled a guide that should come in handy on your filmmaking journey.

Let’s start shooting!

Hold that thought. What about…



Adhering to the proper pre-production schedule before you start filming will be integral to producing a well-made short film. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Lock the Script

Nail down the final screenplay. Focus on writing compelling action sequences with your main characters to immediately give the audience an investment in the story. Don’t give away the farm but provide enough context to make your audience want to know more. Pose questions that can only be answered if they read the book. Review your favorite movie trailers and jot down what makes them so enticing.

If this is your first film, avoid visual effects. Visual effects will increase your workload exponentially (unless you know someone or have a large budget). Plus, if the visual effects are done poorly, your entire film will suffer.

Build Schedule

Have your producer nail down the production schedule. Pre-planning is the simplest way to help your production run smoothly. Keeping on track will ensure that you deliver your epic film to the world on time. For a schedule example, click here: Filming Schedule

Acquire Investors

Locating your budget will be next. If you are paying for the trailer yourself, keep the script simple. This is the key to creating an affordable and time-efficient movie short. If you want to increase the production value it will be crucial to find investors with the understanding that this is a trailer created to sell your novel. Film driven investors will need additional explanation and maybe more coaxing.

Hire Director

Picking the right director(s) is important because they will be the visionary who interprets your screenplay from text to visuals. This relationship is key to creating something special. When selecting director(s), research their previous work through IMDB, Youtube, Vimeo, or other websites. When you select your favorite candidates, have a chat, go over the script, and brainstorm ideas together for how you envision the production’s final cut.

Storyboard/Script Breakdown

You have your director(s) now, so you can do a script breakdown and work on storyboards. For a smaller film this may not be as crucial, but again, being prepared will ensure a smooth production. Here is an example by Pixel Valley Studio: How to Break down a Script. As you can see, you and the director(s) need to go through every scene in the trailer and document the cast, location, costume, props… every single thing needed for every single scene.

Hire Pre-Production/Production Crew

Depending on the complexity of your trailer, your crew will vary. On set you will need (at minimum): Director(s), Producer(s), Camera operator, Grip(s), Production Sound. (If you have a very complex trailer, hiring a Director of Photography, Set Designer, Prop Master, Costume Designer and a Hair & Make-up Artist will help your project stand out.)

Location Scouting

Again, depending on the complexity, your location scouting can vary. If you keep your trailer with as few locations as possible, this step won’t be a headache. If your script cuts from fifteen different locations that include outrageously ambitious sets… i.e., mountains, ocean, cliffs, football stadium, horse ranch, submarine… etc. location scouting will be difficult if not impossible. Keep it simple; keep it safe. 😉

Hire Cast/Rehearse

After you and the director(s) have locked the script, and have your breakdown of each scene, hire the appropriate cast. Go for professional. Take the time to host a casting call and hold proper auditions/interviews. Hiring the wrong actor for the role can instantly crush your trailer’s chances of success. During auditions, record the performances so that you, the director(s), and producer(s) can watch them back and make decisions at your leisure. After you find just the right people, rehearse as much as needed to prepare for the big shoot.

Rent Equipment

Filming in HD is practically a requirement today. Be sure the camera you are using has the capabilities for HD (and a great person that knows how to use it). There are plenty of pro-sumer cameras out there but this will all depend on your budget. Pick up something like a Red if you really want to step up the game.



Pre-production is done! Phew! Now we go on set:

Principle Photography

Shoot each scene from every angle—give plenty for the editor to work with.
Review Dailies
Film pick-up-shots (As needed)
Wrap Shoot


Post Production

After filming is wrapped, post production begins:

Hire Post Production & Visual Effects Crew (as needed)

For post-production you will need: Editor, Sound Mixer, Composer, and Colorist. If you have visual effects you will also need to add: Visual effects artists such as modelers, animators, lighters, compositors, etc.


Editing is extremely important to telling the right story. With proper editing, you can pinpoint the type of emotions you want your audience to feel. Take your time with editing—this will be an essential step to creating an epic final product.

Complete Visual Effects

If your trailer requires visual effects, this is when that magic begins. After the edit is complete, VFX artists can add backgrounds, animations, motion graphics, etc.

Compose Final Soundtrack

Just like editing, sound will invoke the heart of your story to the audience. Pick the right music. For ideas, start here: Incompetech. Ideally though, hire a composer to create an original score.

Sound Mixing

Your sound mixer will integrate all the editors’ cuts and music with transitional sounds. If you are filming a thriller, your sound mixer will insert a cacophony of sounds to jar the audience, if you’re filming a romance, your mixer should adjust accordingly. Sound is one of the most obvious “tells” of production value. It’s often underrated and tells the audience immediately what kind of budget you had.

Color Correct / Color Grading

Your colorist will take all the footage from your HD camera and bring out the colors. Having a good colorist will ensure your movie looks crisp and vibrant. And it will help sell the mood of the moment. Understanding how the brain interprets color, and which color evokes which emotion, is a very powerful filmmaking tool.

Deliver Final Edit

This is it! We’ve made it. For reference on a final edit, here is an example of the 55-second book trailer by directors, Eric Kieron Davis and Brian Horn. Live-Action Teaser Trailer | The Holder’s Dominion


Compare your trailer side-by-side with the live-action book trailer for The Holder’s Dominion. Once your film achieves a precision edit that entices audiences quickly, (usually one minute or less), you are ready to deliver the final cut. You’ve completed a work of art. You didn’t rush the production or cut corners, and the result is a professional masterpiece you can be proud of. Show it off to the world with the hopes that it generates interest for your upcoming novel. Congratulations!




9 thoughts on “How to Shoot A Live-Action Book Trailer

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