A Ghost Story sees writer/director David Lowery returning to his indie-film roots after taking his turn at a big studio movie with last year’s Pete’s Dragon adaptation. The movie reunites him with the cast of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, both Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.
It’s a simple story: Affleck plays the ghost of a man who has recently passed away, returning to try to connect with his still-living wife (Mara) in their home. But, floating around like a cliched ghost in a white sheet, he finds he’s not in one time or place, instead floating throughout his own timeline as he’s forced to grapple with some of life’s most serious questions.
The first poster uses one of the key images of the movie to stark, simple effect. So aside from the title, a short pull quote and the cast list, the only thing here is a photo of someone standing there in a bedsheet with the eyes cut out. “It’s all about time” we’re told in the copy toward the bottom of the design. The whole thing looks like it’s in black and white and the starry background that’s shown gives it a weird, mysterious scope, which is cool.
The first trailer opens with the sheet-covered figure standing in what looks to be a quarry before we get shots of M and C in bed and generally being a cute couple. She’s telling him about the notes she used to leave in an old house so she’d have something to come back to. When we see that he’s died she becomes depressed and through the rest of the trailer we see the ghost lingering on the edges of the action of M and others.
I’m not sure what exactly is going on here but I’m on board. The performances from Mara and Affleck look great and this seems like a mysterious, twisty story that really has to be seen to be fully understood or believed. It certainly lives up to the hype that came out of festival screenings.
Online and Social
The official website is wholly unique. First of all, the URL ends in .store and the point here is – or at least was – to get you to “buy” a sheet like the one worn by Affleck in the movie. There are prompts to enter to redeem a code or you can hold down your mouse button and watch a 9-minute long video of scenes from the movie with text like “Why are you here?” and “Are you feeling infinite?” over them before you’re given the chance to order your own. Unfortunately they’re all out of stock but the site still looks like it’s selling them, with promotional copy akin to what you’d find on the site of Land’s End or something. There’s even a link to a store in New York where you can, or could, get your own.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve been able to find. The movie isn’t big enough to get a huge ad spend so while there may be some targeted ads in select cities, there’s nothing to my knowledge that’s run nationwide.
Media and Publicity
The movie got some early votes of confidence when A24 picked up distribution rights before it even premiered at Sundance. It was there that Lowery talked about the emotional journey of making the movie and Affleck and Mara talked about working together again and what it was like to take on such a gut-wrenching story.
There were a few other interviews by Lowery, Mara or Affleck to talk about similar subjects. And there was some coverage of the small storefront A24 set up to sell sheets and the whole experience the studio created for that.
I’m intrigued by how A24 has set out to sell this as something very, very different. It’s not Ghost, with its swooning love story about eternal love. But it’s also not a story of overtly trying to set things right or come to terms with the life you lived while you were here. Instead it’s being sold as a mysterious love story that is more about the rubble one leaves behind in a life than an effort to pick up that rubble.
The campaign really has to be divided into two halves: First, the poster and trailer are nicely consistent in how they present a strange, unusual story about a man wearing a white sheet and kinda sorta haunting his widow; Second, the website and the experiential element of actually having people being able to to order and buy the sheets shows the studio having a bit of fun with the concept. That’s great, but it’s doubtful that’s going to do much to reach more than a small subset of the audience outside of film press and those who hang on their every word. Still, it’s a fun execution and deserves some kudos.