That big summer blockbuster comes out and you love it so much you want to own the "Making of ..." or "The Art of ..." book to look through and enjoy all over again. But did you ever wonder what goes into putting one of these Making of books together. I spoke with author David S. Cohen at his Dark Delicacies signing for his large art book Pacific Rim: Man, Machines, and Monsters. He was able to offer a little insight into the fringe area of these very specialized books.
So the book actually came out just prior to the film's release?
When I landed the job, one of their biggest fears was that I would ruin the ending. I thought, "I know how to handle this so that it doesn't completely spoil the ending."
Are there things not in the book because Legendary didn't want them in there for reasons like the book coming out before the movie?
Apparently there is a trend now toward having the book day-and-date with the picture to avoid this problem.
That is rare because the book usually comes out about a month after the film's release.
The Rango book also came out before the movie. What I'm hearing is that there's a trend away from having the book before the movie precisely because you get into this problem of the book containing spoilers.
But it should come out simultaneous with the movie and usually it comes out after.
Simultaneous would be good.
Right, because when it comes out a month later all the momentum is gone.
I'll say this. The good news and bad news on this is the same. I know that the studio looks at this book as part of the marketing campaign for the movie. That is the lens through which they see it. The writer and publisher of the book do not look at the book through the same lens. So that does, occasionally, cause some conversations.
How long have you been writing the "Art of/Making of" type books?
Not very long. I've done two of them. But, my first book, Screamplays from Harper Collins, was a collection of the stories I've done for Script Magazine where I'd follow the development of the scripts of movies. And I work in the business. So I've been writing about how movies and TV shows are evolved and get made for years and years now.
Much to the chagrin of some authors who say they don't get made.
Well, the subtitle on Screamplays is "How 25 Scripts Made it to the Theater Near You for Better or Worse." You know it's not all hits. Sometimes there are great ideas that get mangled in development and sometimes there are terrible ideas that somehow blossom in development. But I have this background writing about that. I also cover production for Variety. I work in theater and I was a stagehand and did all kinds of stuff backstage, so I love this stuff.
It was a natural thing for me when Insight Editions called my book agent. The story that I was told was that they had been doing these books for years and they were generally written by publicists and they were fine. But that Insight wanted to upgrade the quality of the editorial, of the text. So they were looking for journalists to write these books. They came to me and it was a project that I was interested in. The first one was Rango.
It didn't succeed because it is too old for the kids. But it's a wonderful movie.
It is a wonderful movie. The movie did okay but it didn't do the business they hoped. But here's one of my thoughts: The problem was that they were marketing it to moms and they should have been marketing it to irresponsible dads. That's exactly right. "Take your kid but don't tell Mom"
So that book went well and then here's what happened. On the Pacific Rim book I got the call around this time of year last year or sometime in June. Then everything was set for me to do it in time for me to go to ComicCon in 2012 and that's why my prologue in the book is what happened at ComicCon. The funny thing was I got to meet Guillermo (del Toro - Pacific Rim director) there. He and I had spoken before over the phone but we never met in person. A very nice man. He said that he'd asked for me. I said, "Really? I didn't know that." He said, "Yeah. I love the Rango book."
How nice is that?
Yeah, it was great. Insight had to send in three names but I was one of the three and he picked me off the Rango book to do this book. Which was very flattering. So this thing can sort of snowball for an author, which is nice.
You never know what is going to lead to what.
This book, the Pacific Rim book, came out so gorgeous. I wish I could take credit for that but my role in how gorgeous it came out is pretty limited. What I have learned from doing these two books is that part of my job as the author is to meet with all the artists and look at all of their drawings and renderings, whether it is on a computer or on parchment or on vellum, whatever it's on, and be able to say to my editor "You're gonna want this image. This image is incredible and you're gonna want this in the book. This image goes with this part of the text" or "I'm talking about this here so ask for this," etc.
On Rango I did all of that. But it was at a time when Paramount was going through layoffs. So the people that we were working with at Paramount were suddenly, in the middle of the book, not working for Paramount anymore, and there was a big transition. Also Paramount had not developed the book with pictures. Another company had developed it separately and brought it to Paramount. So I had this very copious list of art that should go in the book and we'd put in these requests. Paramount was not able to deliver that art for whatever reason.
So you don't have an Art Director on the book? It's just you and your editor at Insight?
There is an art director on the book but you are still limited to what is made available to you.
In Part 2 we get to delve deeper into the massive undertaking these types of books are.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer, and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies “The Home of Horror” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com.