Writing the Johnny Danger series has been one of the most enjoyable projects of my career. It has taken me from my hermit-like home studio in Auckland to being on television in Melbourne, to arriving on stage with a parachute in Los Angeles, and finally to visiting schools in Scotland dressed as James Bond, and carrying around a loaded banana phone on the streets of Sean Connery’s hometown, Edinburgh.
All of this started from my daughter helping me to film a funny video down at the beach which involved me pretending to be a secret agent lost at sea on a paddle board. I shot this video to promote Johnny Danger #1: DIY Spy as my character did numerous dangerous things (unlike me). More than a few people saw this video and it got me thinking that I should embrace multimedia as an integral part of how I operate as an author and how I present my books to the public.
My readers are surrounded by apps, video games and every other gadget imaginable, and I wanted my series to embrace these new technologies in both storylines and how I promoted the books.
In my latest Johnny Danger book, Lie Another Day, music plays a key role at the end of the story where opposing forces have a ludicrous hip-hop battle in the jungles of Brazil featuring the tunes/beats of Gangnam Style and Uptown Funk. I got the idea of doing a music video parody trailer after an audience member at a recent school visit asked me if I could sing to the crowd because I was wearing a tuxedo and holding a microphone.
My answer of course was no, but afterwards I thought why do adults shy away from having fun after they turn 30? Then it dawned on me, I'm going to have fun and emulate the ludicrous dance scene from my book in a video trailer.
My two teen children were willing accomplices and we shot the entire video in our living room against a 'green' curtain held up behind us by a bamboo stick and some fishing wire. (Steven Spielberg was unavailable to help out.)
My son who is a high school media student then took the footage and added special effects to it and changed the backgrounds. I took the idea of a grown up having too much fun a step further by having him super-impose me disco dancing on top of a nuclear submarine.
Using a green curtain or a green screen is much easier than people realise. We shot all the footage using a basic point and click camera resting on a level surface. We then watched a number of YouTube videos on how to edit the footage. After about our fourth attempt we managed to get our techniques right, and figure out the best way to shine lights on us to make the filming look better and more realistic.
View the Johnny Danger: Lie Another Day video here.
I hope readers enjoy watching my trailer, and hopefully it gives everybody a true indication of the spirit of the book I’ve written, and how much I love to embrace zany comedy.
I'm not sure what my next multimedia project will be, but I will keep a very open mind to any suggestions that come from audience members on my next school visit!
Peter Millett is a New Zealand children's author. His books include the Boy Zero Wannabe Hero series and The Anzac Puppy picture book. His latest book is Johnny Danger: Lie Another Day, the sequel to Johnny Danger: DIY Spy, both published by Penguin. Visit Peter Millett's website and Facebook page for more information about his books and writing projects. You can find links to all of Peter's YouTube videos at the Danger Films YouTube Channel.