Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal both wrote and star in Blindspotting, now in limited release. Set in Oakland, which they’re both from, the movie follows Collin (Diggs) as he tries to make it through his last three days on probation following a stint in prison.
Something happens that opens up a rift between Collin and his life-long friend Miles (Casal), showing how Miles wants to remain somewhat of a thug while Collin wants to move beyond his old life. At the same time, he’s unwilling to simply leave his friend behind, causing tension between the two as well as in other parts of Collin’s life, tension he has to resolve as he tries to decide what kind of person he wants to – and will be allowed to – be.
The first poster offers one of those images your fourth grade teacher tricked you with. A winding series of lines appears to show a tree set against the brown background. Look closer and you notice the faces of two people in the negative space around the trunk of the tree. Copy at the top forces you to look twice by asking “What do you see?” while also conveying some idea of mystery about the story.
A second one-sheet uses strips that look like what you’d find in a shredder to intermingle photos of Collin and Miles to highlight how they’re not that different in reality, just taking different paths. This one encourages the audience to “Change the way you see” and shows off the movie’s festival credentials.
Both Collin and Miles got character one-sheets that show them hanging out and leaning up against a wall with faded and chipped paint, showing that they don’t live in the fancy part of town. There’s no copy or anything to offer insights or explanations to the audience, just some critics’ quotes praising the film and the actors/creators to let people know this is already a well-reviewed film they should be paying attention to.
Two more posters show the conflict and relationship between Colin and Miles, one with a picture of them facing each other while standing on a street lit solely by red traffic lights and the other with them facing opposite directions while Colin sits in a truck and Miles stands outside it. Seen in the rearview mirror is the man who’s shooting Colin witnesses, creating nice visual consistency with the trailer.
An incredible series of three posters keeps the focus on Colin and Miles, showing them either standing next to or facing each other. The images, though, take a very artistic approach to showing the difference between the two friends that will drive much of the story.
Collin is uncomfortable with his friends’ behavior as the trailer opens, not wanting to be around the guns that they’re so obviously enamored with. He’s on probation and would like to not be sent back to jail because the people around him are idiots. Later on he witnesses a cop shooting an unarmed man. It’s clear Collin is a good guy but he’s stuck in a situation that puts him in terrible situations, having him need to make terrible choices, on a regular basis. He just wants to turn his life around but sees a system around him designed to not let that happen.
It’s pretty powerful and Diggs looks great as a man who wants to be the kind of person he believes himself to be. There’s a lot of harsh reality going on here that is clearly dramatized to make a point. This doesn’t look like an easy film to watch but it does look incredibly timely and important.
Online and Social
The splash page of the movie’s official website offers a version of the key art along with a collection of pull quotes from early reviews, presented here as graffiti along the wall Collin and Miles are standing against. Links to the official Facebook and Twitter profiles are in the upper right.
Scroll down the page and you’ll find a collection of photos and GIFs that, in many cases, add some line of dialogue to the image. There are a few that flip over when you click them, which not only adds a bit more information but also nicely shows the two sides of the neighborhood and lives represented by Miles and Collin.
Back at the top of the page, the content menu offers quick access to materials like the “Trailer,” “Posters” and a “Synopsis,” which also includes a cast and crew list. “Acclaim” has more positive quotes from critics and others while “Coming Soon” allows you to see where and when the movie will be playing in the near future. Finally there’s the “Soundtrack” which takes you to where you can buy or stream the album.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The conflict Collin feels about Miles and their changed relationship is the focal point of the first TV spot that came out in mid-July, showing how he wants to stay out of trouble but also remain loyal to his friend.
Media and Publicity
Considering Diggs’ involvement and the subject matter, it’s no wonder the film was so anticipated in advance of its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Just before that debut, Diggs and Casal got a nice feature interview where they talked about the story and why they wanted to tell it. Lionsgate acquired the film for distribution before the festival was over.
After that it was also screened at the SXSW Film Festival. The studio then presented it at CinemaCon as part of its diverse slate of upcoming film, including a spoken-word performance by Diggs and Casal of a portion of the film to break it down in a very stark, unadorned way.
As release approached there was more publicity, including a joint interview with Diggs and Casal where they talked about the story as well as their connection to Oakland as a unique cultural microcosm. Both also commented on the musical sensibilities and structure they worked to bring to the story.
Strong festival word of mouth is the movie’s greatest asset as it hits theaters. The movie is one of several coming out this year that deal in some manner with not only movements like Black Lives Matter but how many parts of the system in the U.S. are designed to keep some members of society at the edges.
Diggs has some name recognition based on his run in “Hamilton” on Broadway and a few other small roles in recent years, but here he looks to break out into more substantial and personal storytelling. It’s no surprise, then, that as not only the star and cowriter but the biggest name involved in the movie, the campaign is mostly centered on Miles’ story and his struggle not only to improve his life but figure out what that even means or looks like.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal appeared together on “The Daily Show” to talk about creating the movie and what the story meant to them. They’re also interviewed here about how there’s a slight surge in the number of movies, including their own, set in the Bay Area.
Another TV spot that plays up the critical acclaim the movie has accumulated.