Interview: Shayne Leighton on the Eternal Trailer and “The Incubus”

You’ve heard of rising stars?

Eighteen-year-old actress-director-writer Shayne Leighton is more like a rising constellation!

Today’s she’s back at Cynsations to discuss her latest book trailers and to tell us about her latest personal project, an upcoming film, “The Incubus.”

I had the pleasure of taking a sneak peek at her screenplay, and Shayne’s story is a fierce, fascinating mythology twist certain to seduce dark romance fans, both the hopeful and the horrified…

[See a previous Cynsations interview with Shayne]

Welcome back! Thank you for designing new book trailers for my novels Rain Is Not My Indian Name (HarperCollins, 2001) and Eternal (Candlewick, 2009)!

Let’s talk about Rain first. What were the challenges in creating that trailer?

The Rain is Not My Indian Name trailer actually was one of the easiest trailers that I have cut. Because the plot was bright (though bitter-sweet), there were not so many twists and turns to portray in this book preview, so in turn, the trailer was just nice and light and a lot of fun to make.

The music helps a lot too, and when the rhythm of what I am editing to is fairly simplistic, the cutting tends to go a lot smoother.

round 5

How did we approach the Eternal trailer–in terms of text, images, etc.?

Well, this trailer is a bit different than the other trailers I have cut for you, in that this book has yet to be released, and so it really has to do the job of capturing the audience even before they see it in the bookstore.

It is vital that the general story be told without giving away too many secrets. So you mailed me a copy of the ARC so I could familiarize myself with the mood and feel to better portray it on screen.

You also gave me a rough list of the textual aspects that you wanted to see in the trailer as well as the royalty-free piece of music, and I went from there.

We both found royalty-free stock images online that fit in with the characters and plot and even used some art elements from the book itself.

How did you try to relate the mood of the book to the trailer?

Eternal is very dark and even sexier, in my opinion, than Tantalize was. It seemed to have a more “grown up” feel overall and had many motifs to make you shiver as you read it.

So for these reasons, the trailer had to be just as titillating, if not more. In this trailer, you’ll see a lot of quick cuts, flashing colors and dark, symbolic images because that is kind of what spins through your head as you read this book. I actually even had to add an effect to the bass line in the music because the song was not dramatic enough to begin with!

[Note: Please do feel free to share the trailer with fellow readers. Facebook users can see a higher-resolution version of the trailer here.]

What technological skills/gains were applied to this trailer that weren’t available for the last two?

There are a lot of new things happening in this book trailer. I have an updated version of the program that I used and a better sense of a lot of technical things like picture resolution.

All in all, what an audience will see more vibrant colors, cooler transitions, and a better picture quality.

What do you hope prospective readers take away from it?

I hope they get excited by it. Dark, romantic thrillers are my favorite, so I just basically want prospective readers to feel enticed to go out and read this book.

When you last spoke to Cynsations readers in April 2008, you were excited about “Guardian of Eden.” What new do you have to tell us about that project?

We took the film to an international film festival and even walked away with an award! I was sixteen at the time, so that was really a cool thing, considering my experience at that time. I took a whole lot away from that project. I met and grew to love a lot of people that I will never forget, and I learned a lot.

What’s next up for you in terms of your film career?

I actually have a few exciting things going on. I was accepted into the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, School of Film and Television. There is also an online series being released on YouTube by Aberdeen Soldier Productions that is featuring me.

But the thing that I am most excited about is my plan for a new feature film and television pilot, “The Incubus.” I am collaborating with Marcie Gorman (previous owner of a successful Weight Watchers franchise in Florida) who has signed on to be my executive producer as well as many other exciting industry professionals.

I had the honor of reading your script “The Incubus,” and you do such a great job with the characters! Could you tell us a little more about it? Where will the project go from here?

I had a lot of fun writing it. The screenplay only took me about a month to write, because once I get an idea, I just sit down at my computer and the words are almost projectile from my brain to the screen. I have lovingly named this phenomenon, “word vomit.”

Basically it’s a cool story about a girl whose town gets haunted by these ghost-people, or “incubus,” and she had to try an exorcise these things before everyone in the town, including herself, has all of their energy sucked from them. It falls under the dark romance category.

We are starting production soon, but my plans for the project are to make it a television show on Showtime or HBO. So if we get a lot of people talking about it and wanting to see it, the chances of airing it would drastically increase! So please support us, and tell your friends.

As for now, I am trying to just stay optimistic and shoot for the stars.

What is the timeline for the film?

We start filming in late February and go all the way to the first week of April. I should have something close to final by the time summer rolls around, but the film-making industry is a bit hairy sometimes, so you never know.

What will be your role(s) in bringing it to life?

Much like my last film, I wear many hats. I wrote, am directing, and starring in this film again. And until we get a publicist signed on…I am doing most of the publicizing as well.

How did you approach the story?

I wanted to stick with what I’m good at, thrillers. But I also wanted to do something no one has touched upon. Movie theaters and bookstores today are filled to bursting with vampires, werewolves, and boogeymen. And I didn’t want to go there again, even though I love that kind of thing.

My English teacher, who is also very into mythology, had brought up the topic of succubi in class one day. They’re beautiful female spirits that come in the night and derive sexual energy from young men. It had intrigued me, because it sounded like such an interesting parallel to the common ghost or vampire, with a very dark twist.

Upon doing further research, I stumbled across the incubus, which is the male counterpart of the succubus. I was hooked, and my brain starting going a million miles a minute with ways of how to contort this creature into a really cool PG-13 rated story.

I made the title “Incubus” unisex to both genders and basically created my own creature, which is a human spirit that did not, for whatever reason, pass on from its physical body, and continues to walk the Earth, feeding on living human emotion and life energy since it lacks emotion of its own. It needs happiness, sadness, excitement, lust, anger, vengeance, and any other emotion just to survive. What an interesting parallel to the human condition.

What were the challenges?

We have yet to even step foot on set, but we have already overcome a few obstacles. One was finding a DP or director of photography to shoot the film. We found an amazing one, Rochelle Kadkhodear. On one of our audition days, we were even incidentally locked outside of our studio. We had to audition two actors in the studio parking lot before the locksmith even got to the building!

I was struck by your use of the past. Flashbacks can be tricky. What advice do you have for writers in integrating them?

Flashbacks can indeed by tricky, and I don’t enjoy when they are overused. Actually, I think that flashbacks are kind of a cheap way of giving information to an audience.

However, when crucial details of your character’s back-story needs to be laid out in order for your readers or audience to understand what is happening or will happen, use them with grace and caution. I like to make them fleeting and almost dream-like, as if the character was being haunted by their past…and not just as if I am shoving a chunk of back-story in your face with a corny montage.

What else is new in your life? How goes the planning for college? What are your goals on that front?

I have so many things in my life figured out…except for this topic. I have many career goals, but few higher-learning goals, which needs to change.

I am going to Chicago the last weekend of January to audition for performance schools like Julliard and Boston Conservatory. I’ll keep you posted on what happens next.

I’m still praying for someone to call me from LA and offer me a roll in their next major motion picture. Quincie in Tantalize the movie, perhaps?

As a YA reader, what were your favorite new books of 2008?

I really thoroughly enjoyed Cassandra Clare‘s City of Ashes (Margaret K. McElderry, 2008) and greatly look forward to City of Glass (Margaret K. McElderry, 2009).