Behind the making of a book trailer

When we first met Mimi Helm she was a Curtin University student and one of a group of emerging filmmakers who had been tasked with making a book trailer for Fremantle Press as part of their coursework.

Her group’s trailer was a sophisticated and exciting mini film for The Amazing Spencer Gray by Deb Fitzpatrick. You would never have guessed that it was created by people just getting started in media arts. So when it was time to film a trailer for the sequel, it was only natural to go straight back to Mimi, now a graduate and a freelance writer, director and production designer. We asked Mimi to take us through the process of turning an Australian children’s novel into a book trailer.

This was the second book trailer we’ve made, the first being for Deb Fitzpatrick’s The Amazing Spencer Gray. The storylines are really different, so the main challenge was portraying the different plots but with the same adventurous atmosphere. In The Amazing Spencer Gray, Spencer deals with a plane crash, so we had to figure out how to make that realistic. The Spectacular Spencer Gray is about endangered marsupials so the subject matter was totally different, but both are awesome, action-packed stories and we wanted to reflect that in the trailer.

As director, my job was to envision and translate the imagery of the book to the screen. The process began with storyboarding out the trailer, and from there we focused on working on it from an editing and cinematography perspective before actually casting our actors and shooting.

We had a very talented cast of young actors, who were cast based on their overall fit for the characters. Lee Halley played Spencer, and Luke Koller and Jamie Hurley played Spencer’s best mates, Charlie and Leon, respectively. Jamie had actually met author Deb Fitzpatrick previously at one of her presentations, and I had directed Luke in a short film. All three cast members were fantastic to work with, professional and very talented.

The Spectacular Spencer Gray is set in the fictional town of Skippers Cove, which is a bit coastal but there’s also lots of surrounding bush, so we had to pick locations that could work for both. Versatility was key. Because we had lots of action sequences, we needed bigger spaces with room for movement. We had mainly our cinematographer Sam, our editor Julien and myself, and for some of the more complex night scenes we also had an assistant director and safety coordinator.


Safety for our actors was a priority. Coordinating the cycling shoot was a little logistically challenging – we had three young actors riding bikes around the street at night so safety was absolutely paramount.

Shooting our poacher scene in the bush was really fun, and overall the entire shoot went smoothly and everyone worked so hard to make it the best it could be. It was great getting to meet Poppy the potoroo – what a star.

Deb Fitzpatrick says Mimi’s talent and hard work have resulted in the best marketing tool she has for her book. ‘The benefits are numerous. It’s a wonderful teaching aid for me when I’m visiting schools and libraries because it’s the perfect way to start a conversation about the book. The good vibes the book trailer brings rub off on all of us and we usually have a ball after that!’ Fitzpatrick says the trailer generates in potential readers a lot of interest in the book. ‘Kids will often ask me to play it again. Sometimes they will break out into spontaneous applause, and almost always someone will say, wide-eyed, “Is this going to become a movie?” To which I reply, “I WISH!” before following up: “Is anyone’s parent a filmmaker? Give them my card!”’

We are very proud to introduce you to Mimi’s latest book trailer. Enjoy!

Mimi Helm is a writer, director and production designer based in Perth who works with Composite Media.

The Spectacular Spencer Gray by Deb Fitzpatrick is available in all good bookstores now.

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