So the new pocket book is complete. I hit the save button for the final time a few days ago, and immediately launched into the next big step, the cover design.
In the past, I have designed all the covers myself, but this time, we decided to let the publishers in-house design team do it. Many months ago we had a long chat with them about the cover and I suggested we bring the bomb back for the pocketbook. Since the first edition in 1995, the bomb has been a recognisable icon that stood very much for what we thought the Guerilla Film Makers Handook represented.
And so when I saw the cover that the publishers had done, I was very happy.
But… I also had a nagging little voice. Was this the right image? After all, post 9/11, the bomb had been dropped from all the new books, and to resurrect it felt like welcoming an old friend home. But was it really the right choice for 2010?
I see this all the time with film makers – myself included. We fall in love with some artwork that we produce for our film. It may well be a wonderful design, but is it right for your movie? More importantly, is it right for the market? For the buyers? The poster really only serves one purpose, to get the potential customer to stop and look more closely. It’s a hook. Nothing more.
I wondered how people who did not know of the Guerilla Film Makers Handbook would ‘see’ the bomb cover (on a shelf in a bookstore, or on a link at Amazon). For a book, the cover serves only one purpose too, it says ‘pick me up…’ or ‘click on me and read the details and feedback’).
So I decided to design a new cover and went for the clapperboard image.
I put out a Tweet and a request on the Facebook page – what do you think of the two covers? And here’s what I got back… (you can read the facebook feedback on our Fanpage here).
About 30% favoured the bomb. About 70% favoured the new clapperboard.
The arguments for the bomb were…
1. It’s an established image, stay with it.
2. It’s anarchic, just like the book (actually the book is no longer that anarchic, just like Indie film is not really subversive anymore).
3. I just like the design, feels funky, fun and cheeky
The arguments against the bomb were…
1. It has nothing to do with film making
2. People who do not know the brand will not understand what it is
3. It is a violent image and ‘not cool’
The arguments for the clapperboard were
1. It’s very filmy, even from a distance
2. People who don’t know the brand will know that it is a film book
3. It’s a clear message
The arguments against the clapperboard were
1. It’s not the bomb, the guerrilla books are all about the bomb!
2. It’s a cliché
And so I had the unenviable position of making a choice. Which one?
Here’s what I realised after all the emails, tweets and Facebook feedback.
1. I checked out all our competitors books and realised that there is a lot lovely design work going on, but to my eye, not a lot of hard selling. Many book covers looked nice, but lacked bite.
2. The clapperboard is more than just a clapperboard to film makers. It represents that electrifying moment when you are waiting to call ‘Action!’ on your first shot. It represents the success of actually getting to set. I picked up this aspirational feel in the feedback over twitter, something I had never considered.
3. Sure it may look like cliché to some, but clichés do work (that is why they are clichés). Whether it’s a girl draped over a car, or a soap-powder box, clichés work. Remember, all the book cover needs to do is to get people to pick up the book. Ideally that cover would also be bold enough to be referred to in short hand (we had that with the past editions where people would call it the yellow book or the green book). We hope people will call I the ‘little red book with the clapperbaord’.
4. I figured anyone who knows the books will pick it up whether it has a bomb on it or not. So why risk alienating new readers?
5. We believe that this new ‘Pocketbook’ is much more of a ‘gift book’ for new and young film makers. Maybe purchased by parents for birthdays and Christmas. We didn’t want to scare those people away with the promise of bomb making skills!
6. Perhaps crucially, times have changed. For earlier editions, the bomb was right, it REALLY WAS an explosive idea to make a low budget film – and remember, myself and Gen had actually ended up in a jail cell for making the movies…! The bomb felt right. Now in 2010 everyone is making a film, everyone has a camera, there is nothing radical or subversive about being an indie film maker. The bomb is just harking back to a yesteryear of Guerilla Film Making. Time to remove the rose tinted glasses.
7. And finally, the old truth – relaunch and rebrand – changing the packaging is the oldest technique used to sell products from a recognised brand. We want to be all about 2010 and beyond and not about yesteryear.
And so we have gone with the clapperboard (and dropped the bullet holes – pic here is me at the Publishers on Friday). Is it the right choice? We will see. And it’s been a fight to make the choice too. A fight with my own inner demons (we are moving away from a proven formula that sold 100,000 books), a fight with my publishers and a fight with Gen and Zee in LA. We all love the bomb.
But collectively, we have come to an agreement that the clapper is aspirational and appropriate for emerging film makers in 2010.
So a big thanks to everyone who provided feedback so that we could make a better choice.
And don't forget to join our Facebook group if you want to come to our launch party!
Onwards and upwards!