On Book Trailers, Tel Aviv, and My Friend Elsin

IMG_0416 While I was in Israel this fall, my friend Elsin Davidi and I started working on a book trailer for The Best Place on Earth. Book trailers have become more popular in recent years, probably due to our obsession with visual stimulation and our love of sharing kitten videos on social networks. Elsin and I watched many book trailers in preparation:  they varied in style, tone, length and quality. Some commercial works of fiction have book trailers that resemble Hollywood movie previews: short and sleek, always with a man’s voice ominously reading abstract phrases and words like REVENGE, LOVE and DEATH, as they flash in a large font on the screen. Then there are others, funny ones (like this one, for Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story), ones where the author speaks of their work (like this one for my friend Tanis Rideout’s Above All Things) and artsy, animated ones (like this one for Kathryn Regina’s poetry collection I Am in the Air Right Now). These were lovely, but not quite what we had envisioned, which was more of a teeny-tiny short film.

First we had to pick a quote. That wasn’t easy. It’s a book of short stories, after all, and I was worried that if I choose ONE quote from just ONE story, I was signalling to the reader that this story was the best, or that this story summed up the entire collection, and I didn’t want to interfere with the reader’s experience or impressions. But trying to tie up a few different quotes from a few different stories didn’t add up: the transitions felt jarring and lacked flow. It was clear that I needed to commit to one story, one voice, one quote. Finally, I picked a quote from the first story, Tikkun, which I found to be cinematic in nature. In this excerpt the main character, Lior, speaks nostalgically about Tel Aviv in the nineties. I lived in Tel Aviv back then (sharing an apartment with Elsin, in fact) and I loved the idea of creating a visual love song to my favourite city.

Elsin has been my best friend since our army days. We shared apartments twice in our lives: the first time was in the nineties, on Dizzengof Street; the second in 2003, when we lived in a one-bedroom in the trendy Florentine neighbourhood, amongst the tradesmen shops and the dim crowded bars. Elsin has been a video artist for years, and made, amongst other things, music videos for Ehud Banai (one of my favourite Israeli musicians). She can pretty much do anything; what we call in Hebrew a talent bomb (ah, Hebrew, why are so many of your expressions borrowed from warfare???) It seemed only fitting that we should be working on this project together.

Next we found a person to read the text (Elsin’s friend, Gil Datner), another person to do the sound (Omer Most), stole one of my composer brother’s (Eldad Tsabary) haunting pieces of music, and went on shooting. One day the three of us (Sean volunteered to be our driver) drove to the desert and the Dead Sea, stopped in the middle of the road to take long, panning shots of the landscape: breathtaking in its monochrome starkness. We bathed in the silky water of the dead sea and had lunch at a seaside restaurant. Another day we spent an afternoon in Tel Aviv’s vibrant Carmel Market and the artists’ fair in Nahalat Binymain, videotaping lovely people we encountered along the way. Then we sat for long hours at Elsin’s home office in the centre of Tel Aviv and put images to music and text while eating toast with Nutella andIMG_0308IMG_0309 BIMG_0311ambaIMG_0312 (an Israeli snack I’ve been obsessed with since childhood. My Canadian friends claim it resembles peanut butter cheesies. They carry it in Loblaws. I may have to go get some right now). Eventually I had to go back to Canada and Elsin continued on her own, doing what she does best, which is making video magic.

The final result should be out on Wednesday, February 6th . I love it and I’m so excited to share it with the world! Check here again to view it. In the meantime, here’s some photos from our adventures shooting the trailer.IMG_0419 IMG_0409