How Focus Features is selling a story of the hard choices young women have to make.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always covers a topic that isn’t seen in many mainstream films, even in the enlightened era in which we now live: Abortion. The story focuses on Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her best friend Skylar (Talia Ryder) as they travel from their Pennsylvania home town to New York City after Autumn finds out she’s pregnant. That trip is necessary in order for Autumn to get the abortion that lawmakers have outlawed in her own state.
The movie was written and directed by Eliza Hittman and arrives in theaters this week via a campaign that has shown just how unusual it is among recent offerings.
“Her journey. Her choice.” That’s the copy featured on the movie’s poster, released in February, but it’s also a good motto for most politicians and activists to adopt. Autumn is shown on the poster, but that photo is only shown at the bottom of the design, leaving most of the top a blank off-white field.
Autumn, we learn as the first trailer (2.4 million views on YouTube) from December opens, is pregnant, which is not great news as she’s still in high school. Her cousin Skylar wants to help and so helps her travel to New York City since getting an abortion in Pennsylvania is out of the question. Nothing goes as planned, creating an even more emotional experience for both of them than they had anticipated.
The second trailer(558,000 views on YouTube), released just last week, sells the same kind of story but is even more emotionally devastating, showing Autumn move through the whole process and struggle with each step.
Online and Social
Focus Features’ website for the movie features a variety of content – bios, a synopsis, news links etc – all shared within the framework of the site’s standard site template. It’s good stuff for the most part, but nothing revolutionary.
More interesting and relevant material can be found on Her Journey Her Choice, a standalone site that has information on abortion resources, adoption planning and more for expectant mothers facing a difficult situation.
Advertising and Promotions
Focus Features acquired the film in advance of its screening at Sundance earlier this year. As that event was winding down the news came it would later screen at the Berlin Film Festival. At Sundance it wound up winning the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award: Neo-Realism.
Autumn is explaining away her trip to the doctor as nothing serious or important in the first clip released in February. Another clip, debuting on Women in Hollywood, shows the moment Autumn finds out she’s pregnant.
Closer to release the movie screened at the Athena Film Festival in New York and won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Focus hosted a screening of the film in New York City earlier this week.
Media and Press
In an interview from Sundance, Hittman talked about having her stars audition in an unusual place to break down some of the formality of the process.
Another interview with the director allowed her to talk about the subject matter of the movie and how rare it is for something like this to make it to the screen.
There’s no denying the emotional heft of the campaign, which doesn’t attempt to downplay the themes of the story at all or sugarcoat it in any way. The gut wrenching nature of what happens to Autumn – including how her choices are made harder by the politics around her – are on full display.
But what really makes the marketing special is that it provides resources for those in a similar situation. That kind of effort has been seen on other recent movies about suicide or sexual identiy, but this is an understandably more serious topic. Good on Focus Features for not only distributing the kind of movie that’s rarely seen in theaters but also for taking it to the next level in that way.
Picking Up The Spare
The director and principle cast talked about how uncommon it is to see abortion handled so directly on screen in a joint interview.
The studio filled a significant gap by releasing this PSA focusing on a partnership with Planned Parenthood.