Let me go ahead and acknowledge something. My debut novel comes out tomorrow and my head is just a tiny bit preoccupied with that. Juuuuuuust a little. Slightly distracted.
Which you may translate to mean: Completely overwhelmed.
Despite the fact that I plan to talk about other things, like puppets, food, science fiction, or other random things that interest me, you’re going to get the occasional post about what it’s like to have one’s first book come out. Scalzi and I talked about this before he left and he had the impression that debut-novelist jitters might be amusing to watch.
I can’t remember if he laughed after that, but it seems likely.
So rather than pretend, I’m just going to show you the thing that I’m totally obsessing over today, which is the book trailer. First I’ll let you know that this is a total DIY then I’ll explain a little bit about how we did it.
Okay. This is a style of puppetry called shadow mask. The style itself was invented by a fellow named Larry Reed at Shadowlight in San Fransisco. If you get a chance to see them perform go because they do some serious kick-ass stuff with it.
This is what one of the shadow masks looks like backstage. Basically, it’s two silhouettes, each at a forty-five degree angle to the performer’s head. What this allows the performer to do is to watch the screen while keeping the shadow face parallel to the screen.
The thing about shadow puppetry is that the actual puppet is the image on the screen. The object in your hand is what you use to manipulate the image on the screen. So in this case, the performer’s body was part of the puppet’s control. If that makes sense.
You can see what’s happening in this picture of Jason Stanley as the Gentleman. One of the unexpected things that happened with him is that his head is significantly larger than mine. I’d sized the heads to fit me and his chin, as you can see, came below the chin of the mask. Initially to hide that, I cut a piece of paper and taped it to him as a high Regency style color. He tied a sock around his neck as a cravat. Fortunately when we actually started shooting though, we realized that his coat collar would hide his chin.
The scenery was made of cut paper on an overhead projector. The projector provided our light source as well, because it’s nice and crsiply focused. When doing direct shadow puppetry — where the puppet touches the screen — you don’t need a focused light. With indirect, like these, you need a really crisp light or else the farther away from the screen the puppet is, the fuzzier the image becomes. Even with a focused light, the performers still needed to hug the screen as much as possible which you can see Sarah Frechette doing in this photo.
The screen itself is a roll of photographer’s backdrop paper.
I could actually blather about the puppetry in this for days. So if you have questions about how anything worked, let me know.
Meanwhile I will now return to the bout of nervous cleaning that is on my afternoon schedule. Hm… I wonder if Harriet needs to be vacuumed.