Young Video Editors Make the Book Trailer for ‘My Life in Dioramas’ – Tara Altebrando

|by:Tara Altebrando|

I have the good fortune of personally knowing this great guy (and professional wedding videographer), John Miller, who shot my DIY trailer for my YA novel Dreamland Social Club for me a bunch of years ago. I was really winging it that day—and had a month-old baby along with me; John brought so much to the table (or, er, bench on Coney Island) and was just amazing to work with.

Jocelyn, Julia, Venessa, Olivia, Jillian and author Tara Altebrando!


A few years passed and John told me that when his daughter’s girl scout troupe fell apart he swooped in and started teaching the girls involved (Hi Jocelyn, Julia, Venessa, Olivia and Jillian!) how to make movies instead. At the time they were 10 and 11 years old so they branded themselves Teeny Tiny Filmworks and made a few shorts about local personalities and business owners in their town of Northport, Long Island.

When John approached me about maybe being the subject of a film, I asked whether the girls would be interested, instead, in making a book trailer. I sent them all advance copies of The Battle of Darcy Lane—which was to be my debut middle-grade—and they loved it so we were in business!

For that trailer they did amazing storyboarding with me, then filming and editing on their own. Three of the girls played the starring roles and since they were shooting a trailer for a “summer book” in winter, they even put on shorts and tanks to shoot in freezing temps. If they were still girl scouts, surely there would be a badge for that! The resulting trailer is, I think, delightful.

When I finished writing my second middle-grade novel, My Life in Dioramas, I thought that dioramas would be a really fun visual element to feature in a trailer. It’s a story about a girl whose parents have to sell her childhood home so she starts making dioramas of her childhood memories there.

I reached out to John again, with this idea that we’d shoot dioramas, and the girls all read the book and we got to work again. The trick was to figure out how to tell a story through the dioramas. So we needed, well, dioramas!

I dropped a few hundred dollars at Michaels and we had a diorama making party out in John’s studio. He had this vision of a girl surrounded by her dioramas, shot from up high. So when it was time to shoot, he ended up calling in a friend who had a crane and who came and taught the girls how to use it. That’s why there’s so much fancy camera work.

diorama party
The young filmmakers hard at work!


I’m so impressed with the end result. We had planned a voiceover but when they were down to the final editing they girls decided they didn’t want one—because the song was working really well—and I think it was a smart decision. So we added the onscreen text to just hit some big story points.

The song, by the way, was written and recorded by my husband’s band, Dutch Kills, years ago…I wrote it into the book (the character’s father is a former rock band type) and Nick gave me permission to use it for the trailer so we didn’t have to pay for music like last time! Clever girl, I am! But not as clever as Teeny Tiny Filmworks. You can check out ALL of their films on their Facebook page.

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