Selling Broken Monsters


Marcelle Mouton has worked with almost everybody in the industry, and she owned
her own editing company called Visual Assault, with which she had a successful run
editing commercials. “By the time I closed Visual Assault I had cut about 1 500
commercials so I needed a break, I needed something different,’ she says.

In November 2013 Mouton joined Johannesburg based Deepend Post, and was eager
to start working again and to try her hand at new projects. So when director Marc
Sidelsky approached Random House Publishers to shoot a trailer for the new Lauren
Beukes book Broken Promises, and asked Mouton to edit the trailer, she jumped at
the chance. A trailer as a means of marketing a book? A local first!

A trailer for a book?

How can a visual medium market a verbal one? The imagination is subjective, and
that’s the beauty of books; every reader conjures up their own imagery while
reading. Somehow the use of words to sell or promote visual content seems normal
but the reverse strikes one as strange.

The trailer features very few specific images that one could tie to a storyline: a
gory, bloody heart, a woman’s lips coated in gooey red lipstick, a dark and grimey
passage (to name a few). Through the music and grading, along with these specific
images, the viewer is given a taste of what to expect from the book, without being
shown too much.

The book synopsis served as the only brief Sidelsky received from the publishing
house: “The idea was never to slavishly recreate scenes or attempt a literal
adaptation of the book, but rather to create a compelling and visceral work that
embraces the tonality and the themes of the novel,’ says Sidelsky. “There is
imagery that is taken from the book but there is a great deal that isn’t. I wanted to
create something that would intrigue potential readers and prompt them to seek out
the book. The point was always to make something that would stimulate the
imagination – everyone sees characters differently, I never wanted to prescribe too
much,’ he explains.

Nightmarish and surreal

The trailer leaves one with the feeling of something nightmarish and surreal.
According to Sidelsky, this was what he had intended in his initial treatment, using
heavy contrast, single source lighting, and well thought out locations to achieve the
effect. “The novel is set in Detroit, known for its grime and broken industrial
landscape. Without viewers necessarily knowing this, I thought it was important. I
sought out locations with texture and atmosphere. I also shot footage in malls and
on the streets of Toronto to ensure cars were on the correct side of the street and
therefore felt authentically North American,’ he explains.

To capture the footage, Sidelsky used a Sony F55, a Phantom, a Canon 5D and an
iPhone. Along with the footage Sidelsky captured in Canada, shooting took place
everywhere from the office storage room, an alley in Braamfontein and even a
meat plant.

Mouton edited the footage using Final Cut Pro and Autodesk Smoke, and was given
significant creative freedom in post-production: the only brief she received from
Sidelsky was that the book was in the horror genre. “Marc and I have been working
together for a long time, and he is the kind of director that likes to let you
contribute your feel to the project instead of stipulating how or what you should do.
So he gave me a lot of creative freedom. I present an initial cut to him and then we
work on it together from there,’ she comments.

Giving books a chance

Sidelsky hopes that this way of marketing books can help publishers get the edge
when trying to create awareness for their new releases. “There are so many books
laid out in a store. I think this can help books cut through the clutter.’


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