Jocko Benoit's Writing and Pop Culture Spot

Perspectives on the arts and popular culture from Jocko (Jacques) Benoit. Scattered thoughts on poetry, books, film, television, and other cultural intersections.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Benoit - the Web Contagion

Just a quick note to let you know that my two poetry teasers and my first ever poetry video are now posted on YouTube.

And my photographs now have a spot on Flickr.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Why I’ve Hitched A Ride On A Trailer

I was recently reading “The Words Are the Thing,” an article by Scott McDonald in Quill and Quire (October 2006) on the emerging entity known as the book trailer. A book trailer is a web-based short film designed to convey the essence of a book, and publishers are beginning to add these trailers to their websites as an additional means of promotion. McDonald’s objection to the book trailer is simple: movies and books are two entirely different mediums and film cannot capture the essence of the print. He goes on to argue that a good book trailer would rely on excerpts from the book rather than on images. Words, for him, have to come first.

He makes a good point. After surveying a handful of the book trailers available out there already, I have to say some of them are pretty distracting, while others are just plain cheesy. But this new trend is at least a little reminiscent of the emergence of the music video. Critics at the time noted that the videos often had very little to do with the songs and that the videos forced viewers to remember the songs in terms of their visual associations rather than the more personal associations from listeners’ everyday lives.

And while the music video as a form has, in my humble opinion, grown stale these days, there was a time when video was an art form all its own. So who knows what might become of the book trailer if it grows in popularity? Will it become an art onto itself? And will authors reject the extra publicity while they defend the purity of the literary form?

Me, I’ve decided to jump ahead a little bit and try to adapt the form for my own purposes. If a publisher can use a book trailer to promote their books, then why can’t a writer use a book trailer to promote their unpublished manuscripts? Given the difficulties of getting poetry published in this country, what could a little extra self-promotion hurt? I might offend purists’ sensibilities – that’s true. But maybe my highly un-stanzaic shorts (packaged on a slim DVD) might give an editor some idea about how a book of mine could be pitched to an ever-shrinking poetry audience and beyond that to an ever-growing non-poetry audience. It will also show said editor that I am willing to do what it takes to promote my work and won’t leave it all up to an understaffed and underpaid small Canadian publisher.

So I’ve posted my first very primitive book trailer - make that manuscript teaser - on my website and I plan to add more. (It’s only available in Quicktime so far, but I’ll be posting another version soon.) Maybe this move isn’t all that different from William Blake using his engravings in his books for his inspired multimedia of the divine. So my teasers will be like William Blake meets Martin Scorsese meets a McDonald’s ad.

I just hope my poems don’t start getting too Hollywood to recognize me on the street.