Dan Smith talks to Bookbag about Paper Movies

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Dan Smith talks to Bookbag about Paper Movies

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Summary: Jill was mightily impressed by Dan Smith's debut novel for young people, My Friend the Enemy and loved Dan's YouTube videos about it. Here, he tells us about the making of...
Date: 19 June 2013

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External links: Author's website



A novel passes through many stages as it moves from the initial idea to the bound object you find on the shelf of a bookshop. It is written, read, edited, re-read, edited again, copy-edited, proof read, and while all of those stages can be done electronically, the last stage is usually printed on real, honest-to-goodness paper. These "page proofs" are a representation of how the pages will look when put together as a book, but are printed on A4 paper, and are the author's last chance to check the work. And once it has been read... well, it's a pile of paper.

With five novels to my name, I have a lot of those piles of paper and it needs to be put to good use. My children keep a stack of it in their "arty" drawer, for scrap, but there’s only so much the drawer will hold.

So why not make it come to life?

Well, quite by chance, I happened to see a stop-motion film which had been made by cutting into a book, and I was struck by how amazing it looked. All those printed words on pages that were coming to life.

"I can do that!" I thought.

As it turns out, it's a lot harder than it looks. My meagre efforts, at just over a minute long, are the culmination of a lot of patient work. Using a pile of page proofs and a scalpel, I spent hours making beds, curtains, lamps, and trees. Once that was done, I downloaded some software onto my iPhone, stuck it on a cheap tripod and spent more hours like so... take a photo, move it a bit, take a photo, move it a bit, take a photo... you get the idea.

Anyway, the little films turned out quite well. I don’t really think of them as book trailers. They’re just films I put together because I enjoyed making them and it was a lot of fun. If other people enjoy them, too, then that's even better.

And, if JJ Abrams decides that the next Star Wars film needs to be made with paper cut outs - he knows where to find me.

Bookbag note: you can see Dan's videos here.