A featured look at the making of the Towers of Midnight book trailer.

by Jason Denzel

Pitching the idea

About a month after I agreed to make this book trailer for Tor, I found myself on an airplane headed to Atlanta, Georgia for the second annual JordanCon convention. At JordanCon, I would have the opportunity to pitch the idea for a book trailer featuring Moiraine to both Harriet McDougal (Robert Jordan's wife and editor) and Brandon Sanderson. In order for this to go forward, I was obviously going to need their blessing. I also needed to know if Moiraine would definitely be returning or not!

I wanted my pitch to them to be as professional as possible. I had already created the storyboard images discussed earlier. Those were good, but I wanted to make an even deeper impression. So I decided to turn those storyboards into an animatic. An animatic is basically a video consisting of a sequence of storyboard images. In this case, I took my storyboards and edited them together. I recorded my wife reading the lines from the script Brad had made. I also found some music from a library of royalty-free music I had access to, and put it all together.

The initial result was pretty awkward, as you might imagine. But I cleaned up some of the shots, fixed some timing issues, and came up with a video I was pretty happy with.

While I was at JordanCon, I found some time to invite Harriet away for a few minutes so I could show her animatic. I had the video uploaded to my iPod, and I had borrowed a mini hand-held projector from a family member. This allowed me to play the video for her up on the wall in nice clear definition. I asked Harriet to wear some nice headphones I’d brought so she could hear the audio clearly. Some of you might think this whole pitch was a bit overkill... any maybe it was. But I looked at it this way: I was pitching an idea for a Wheel of Time video--featuring Moiraine-- to Robert Jordan's wife. If ever there was a time to make an impression on somebody, this was it.

Want to see the video animatic I pitched to her? ... Of course you do.

When it was all over, Harriet removed her headphones and smiled at me. For a dreadful moment I honestly thought she was going to say "I'm sorry, but Moiraine doesn't return!" But she didn't. She simply said, "It's wonderful."

And like that, the idea for the Towers of Midnight book trailer was officially approved.

My job wasn’t fully done though. I still had to get Brandon's seal of approval. I showed it to him later that same day. I had correctly guessed that his response would be "It's fine if Harriet likes it." But there was something else I wanted to get from him. I wanted to know how close to the book this scene would actually be. I asked him if Moiraine would return like this? Would she be able to channel, or had she been stilled? Would she still look the same? I was hoping for some nice, juicy answers. But I didn't get any of that. Instead, he told me this (paraphrased in my own words):

Brandon Sanderson: "I don't want people to think this is now Moiraine will necessarily return. Your idea is great from a promotional point of view, but it's not necessarily how things will play out in the book.

I think of this book trailer as being from Thom's imagination. This is what he hopes will happen. This is how he remembers Moiraine, and what he hopes to find by going to the Tower of Ghenji."

So there you have it folks. Sorry, but the book will not necessarily contain a scene where Moiraine literally charges out of the Tower of Ghenji. Nothing in this video is officially a spoiler, but please understand that I had to put spoiler warnings on the video itself because a lot of people don't want to know anything about an unpublished WoT book.

One more thing abut the animatic itself. Notice that the music is the same music we used in the final video. I'd originally planned to use it simply as a temporary track, but it worked nicely on its own and the pacing was exactly right. So from the very beginning to the final version, the music never changed, other than adjusting the volume levels and other minor “sweetening”.

I should also add that I used JordanCon as an opportunity to share the animatic with a few key individuals. I showed it to Maria and Alan from Team Jordan (although they wouldn't give me any extra info on Moiraine either). I showed it to Justin, the publicist from Tor Books. I showed it to Jennifer Liang, the convention chairperson and my partner in running Dragonmount. I forget what Jenn said, but she probably mocked me. She tends to do that. If she had said anything serious to me, I would have worried that she hated it.

I also showed it to somebody else, and that person turned around and introduced me to Moiraine. Keep reading....

<< Previous Page: Scripting & Storyboarding   |   Next Page: Meet Tess >>