Rugged Land Produces First Book Trailer

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Rugged Land Publisher Shawn Coyne wants people to pay attention to books the way they pay attention to music videos. That’s why Rugged Land, a book publishing and film company, created a 40-second commercial trailer for one of its debut novels, Henry’s List of Wrongs, by John Scott Shepherd. The promo is due for release on the Rugged Land Web site on April 16 to coincide with the book’s publication date.

"There’s so many amazing books in the world," Coyne told BTW. "To offer and open up the world to a lot of creative talent so they can get the message out -- that would be really fun. Film is a great medium for getting an emotional response from a viewer."

Henry’s List of Wrongs is the story of an overly ambitious man, Henry Chase, whose quest for the top has seen him ruin many lives. But one night, stricken by conscience, he creates a list of all the lives he’s damaged and sets about making it right for them and himself. The book trailer details none of that, however -- it depicts a normal working man, at home and going to work, who just can’t bring himself to put the book down.

In a press release, the company states that the short film, entitled Fixation, is the first book trailer ever produced in the book industry. Coyne likens the spot to the infamous Budweiser "Whazzup" commercials, and hopes that Fixation will create a similar kind of grassroots sensation.

The key to making that groundswell a possibility, Coyne noted, was to create a good film in its own right -- one that doesn’t attempt a hard sell on the consumer. "[We’re] not hitting them over the head with the title, over and over and over again," he explained. "We see John [Scott Shepherd] as the American Nick Hornby [author of High Fidelity], and we wanted to do something with a Hornby sensibility."

It was Shepherd, a Hollywood screenwriter, (Life or Something Like It and Joe Somebody) and a former Kansas City, Missouri, ad executive, who first thought up the idea of a "book trailer" to help promote his book. Considering that when Rugged Land formed one year ago, its goal as both a publishing and film company was to come up with innovative and fresh ideas, said Coyne, Shepherd’s vision for a trailer was a natural fit.

To create the book trailer, Coyne and Rugged Land principal and film producer Webster Stone enlisted a creative and production team lead by Guy Shelmerdine, an award-winning creative director. Shelmerdine wrote and directed Fixation. "We lured [Shelmerdine] by, first, just asking him his ideas [for a short film]," said Coyne. "We sent him the book and he loved it and wanted to make a short film about it." Four weeks ago, he continued, Shelmerdine’s creative team canvassed Maspeth, Queens, until they ended up booking the house used in the trailer. "It was real guerrilla film-making," Coyne noted.

Fixation will debut on Rugged Land’s Internet site, and also If the response is positive, Coyne said, then the company might put the film on TV as a commercial, and in theaters.

A successful promo would be good for bookselling, too, said Coyne. "Our bottom line is we believe books are very important," he said. "Newspapers are cutting back on book reviews, and I think the fact is that the media in general is not covering books in the way it should." He said the hope was that if the trailer "can create some excitement by having people watch the film, and say, ‘Hey, we should go check that book out!’" then interest in books will grow.

In the meantime, after the film’s mid-April debut, Rugged Land will provide Fixation to booksellers interested in offering the film as a value-add on their Web sites, said Coyne. "The technical elements [to putting the film on a Web site] are not difficult at all," he said. "For any independent booksellers who want to show the film, we’d be more than happy to provide them with the digital file that they can put on their Web sites."

In related news, Rugged Land announced that New Line Cinema has bought the rights to Henry’s List of Wrongs for $1 million, with plans to have Jim Carrey star and Stephen Herek direct. And Coyne announced that Rugged Land would produce another book trailer for its fall 2002 title The Silent Men, by Richard H. Dickinson, a military thriller. "That short film is going to be a lot different from Henry’s List of Wrongs," he said. "That is a very intense book." -- David Grogan