You can be forgiven if you’ve never seen The Room. No, not Room, the Brie Larson drama from a couple years ago. The Room, written, directed and starring Tommy Wiseau, is widely held to be one of the worst movies ever made, but was a passion project of both Wiseau and his friend Greg Sestero. The film has quite a cult following among film fans who don’t quite glorify its cheesiness but who definitely acknowledge its role in cinematic history.
The story behind the film’s making is now being told in the movie The Disaster Artist. James Franco directs and stars as Wiseau, with the story following his friendship with Sestero and the process of making The Room. That includes a look at the mysterious Wiseau, whose background and personal life have always been unknowns.
“I did naaaht! Oh, Hi Mark.” is the big copy that’s on the first poster, with that text shown on the green screen of the movie set. The title only shows up in the form of a hashtag in the lower left corner as we’re primarily shown Franco as Wiseau, with a studio light in the background and a boom mic hanging above him.
The second poster uses one of the first publicity stills released as its central element. So we see Tommy and Greg sitting in a theater, their crew behind them, presumably at a screening of the movie they’ve made. A positive quote from a critic helps to establish its quality.
The first teaser is just that, a teaser of something more to come. It just shows Wiseau trying to get through shooting one scene and consistently flubbing his line. The crew becomes increasingly frustrated as the number of takes tops 50 but eventually he gets it, though, of course it’s not a great performance. Still, he got it.
This is mainly about showing off the cast and the general idea of the movie. It’s not going to resonate at all with general audiences who likely aren’t going to have the context of the original’s reputation and so is meant for an audience who’s already well-versed in The Room’s history and reputation.
The story of how Tommy Wiseau created The Room is much more clearly explained in this trailer. We meet Wiseau as a frustrated actor. After meeting Greg Sestero, who’s in a similar position, they decide the only want to succeed is to create their own movie. So they assemble a crew and get to it. The rest of the trailer shows the sometimes hilarious process of doing so.
Honestly, this looks great. While there’s lots of insanity on display here, I most want to see Rogen as The Room’s director. He’s positioned here as essentially the voice of the audience, reacting with bewilderment to Wiseau’s often unconventional – but 100% committed – choices.
Making an appearance in that trailer is the original billboard Wiseau bought to promote the original film and which stayed up for over five years, well after it had come and gone. People quickly found that the website shown on the billboard still worked and that calling the number still played a message from Wiseau inviting them to a screening of The Room.
The second full trailer once more starts out in an acting class but this time focuses on Wiseau’s mysterious nature and tendencies toward secrecy. He introduces the movie as “his life” before jumping back to show how he goes about making The Room, from rejection by other directors to the production itself. There’s conflict and other problems as we keep seeing he doesn’t like people asking questions about his life.
it’s a bit darker than the other trailers but fills in some important gaps in what’s been presented to date, so it works as one element of a bigger picture.
Online and Social
The movie’s official website opens with a headshot of Franco as Wiseau and a loading message encouraging the visitor “Don’t worry about it.” After that the page switches to one with a carousel of positive critical quotes along with the message “Oh, hi! Welcome to Tommy’s Planet.”
Scroll down the page and you’ll come across stills, more review pull quotes and lots more. There’s a printable headshot of Franco as Wiseau you can download if you sign up for A24’s email newsletters, links to stories about the movie, Giphy Stickers to download, background on the billboard campaigns mounted for this movie as well as the original, embedded Tweets with reactions to the film and lots more.
You can also access the main, more traditional content like “About,” “Videos” and “Tickets” via the menu in the upper right of the site. That’s also how you can find links to the movie’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles. There’s a cool feature when you open that menu that plays a couple scenes from both The Room and The Disaster Artist showing how the original was recreated accurately.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The promotional billboard mentioned above came back up in the movie’s paid efforts. An outdoor sign that basically recreated the original was created and erected in Los Angeles, this time featuring the new movie’s title and website. A phone number was also included that really worked in much the same way Wiseau’s first one did, only this time with Franco.
TV advertising kicked off with a spot that not only promoted the movie but which encouraged people to film themselves performing a scene from The Room and post it on social media using #ImADisasterArtist for a chance to win “The Tommy.” That’s a nice bit of meta marketing in a campaign full of it.
Social media ads were run in conjunction with the release of each of the trailers. There were also Twitter promoted posts bought that used a Variety cover story on Franco (linked below) as the basis for the ad.
The teaser poster of Franco declaring his innocence on the film set was also used for a theater standee that included space for visitors to step on and have their picture taken.
Media and Publicity
SXSW was the movie’s big coming out party, resulting in a ton of positive buzz for the whole thing as well as Franco’s performance in particular. There were lots of strange stories that came out of that press conference as well as subsequent press like how Franco stayed in character the whole time and so on. It was later announced as one of the films screening at the Toronto International Film Festival.
There were a number of other stories about the unusual shoot that kept the movie in the minds of the audience in unique ways, including comments about Franco directing the whole thing in Wiseau’s voice and what he had in common with the guy he was playing. The younger Franco also addressed what caused him to hesitate for so many years to work with his older brother.
Franco was the subject of a Variety cover story that included an interview with him about how he maintains such frantic schedule, his insecurities around his career and this film and lots more. His brother Dave also spoke about working James in such a big way and what the production was like. James was also interviewed about how he found The Room and what lead him to try and tell the story behind such an infamous film along with coproducer and longtime collaborator Seth Rogen.
There were also plenty of stories that revisited the original material and the history it has amassed. There was an interview with Sestero, on whose book the film is based, and the legacy he feels it has as well as how it grew into a cult phenomenon. Reports came out saying that Franco had shot almost a half hour of shot-for-shot recreations of The Room’s scenes for use in the film, or at least on the DVD release. There were considerations of what about The Room is real and what has been embellished by history.
Franco was announced as one of the final hosts of this season of “Saturday Night Live” and did various media appearances to talk about the film and drum up interest in the general audience that doesn’t know the history behind the story.
I have to admit that when the campaign first kicked off – heck, even back when the movie was first announced and started screening – I had zero interest in what was going on. Watching a corny production of a low-quality film didn’t appeal to me on any level. That changed pretty quickly when the first teaser trailer popped up and the attitude of the movie was more clearly on display.
A24 and Franco have worked hard to change attitudes like mine with a campaign that honors but doesn’t necessarily glorify The Room. It’s never disrespectful to Wiseau. And the way it overtly borrows elements like the L.A. billboard and more shows a deep love and appreciation for the filmmakers and their dedication, even if the result of that hard work and dedication isn’t all that great. It’s a fun, interactive and engaging campaign that should appeal to cinephiles and lovers of bad movies as well as those who are on board for Franco, Rogen and their previous work together.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.