How Netflix has sold a female-led action thriller.
Karen Gillan plays Sam in Gunpowder Milkshake, this week’s new release from Netflix. Sam is an assassin who finds herself on the run following a job gone wrong. That winds up bringing her back in contact with Scarlet (Lena Headey), Sam’s mother who also happens to be an assassin. Scarlet herself had to disappear years ago, leaving a young Sam alone, and so the two have some issues to work through. Helping them both are former associates of Scarlet’s; Madeline, Florence and Anna May (Carla Gugino, Michelle Yeoh and Angela Bassett, respectively).
The movie, which has a middling 69% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, has been sold by Netflix as a bright, female-driven take on the action/revenge genre, with Gillan at the forefront, though the rest of the cast isn’t far behind. Let’s take a look.
The first poster (by marketing agency BOND), released in May, offers a very literal visual interpretation of the movie’s title, with a bullet taking off the top of a diner milkshake. It’s the title treatment at the top that stands out, though, immediately establishing an identity for the movie with its bright neon lights.
Another poster released at the same time has a similar approach, but this time the bullet is breaking the glass, smeared red lipstick visible at the point of entry.
The main poster came out in mid-June, showing most all of the lead cast as they stand in front of a diner with the title as its brightly-lit sign. All five characters are armed in some manner, the variety of their weapons hinting at how many ways they collectively know to kill someone.
Sam got a poster of her own a bit later.
The trailer (317,000 views on YouTube) came out in mid-June and opens with Sam seeking out the help of the librarians who are actually assassins. She needs that help because an assignment has gone sideways and she’s now responsible for protecting eight-year old Emily (Chloe Coleman). That’s just the setup, as the rest of the trailer is solely concerned with selling the over-the-top action of the movie, showing just the kind of butt-kicking audiences can expect.
Online and Social
No website, as is standard for Netflix releases, but StudioCanal, which produced the film, did run some social media accounts like this Twitter profile that helped with promotion, including sharing some promo spots. Netflix did give it some support on its own brand channels, but the focus there has been on its recent Fear Street anthology.
Advertising and Promotions
Distribution rights were picked up by STXFilms in February, 2020, about two years after it was announced during the American Film Market in 2018. A batch of first-look stills came out in mid-November.
Things were quiet until April 2021 when STX sold the movie to Netflix, one of many such sales as studios cleared out some titles as the coronavirus pandemic wound down.
The cast and director assembled via video chat to talk about how they got involved in the project and what the story entails. That video, released as part of Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign, also included the first publicly-released footage from the film.
Gillan and writer/director Navot Papushado attended a screening/Q&A at the New Beverly Cinema earlier this week.
A video with Bassett sharing some of her favorite lines from throughout her career, up to and including this movie, was released just the other day.
Another video has Papushado sharing some of the influences he pulled from when making the movie.
Gillan, who had shared a handful of videos from the set, put out what she called the first episode of her new talk show with Headey – kind of – as her guest.
Papushado talked about how and why he cast Gillan, who herself commented on what attracted her to the movie (including the title itself) and more.
Unlike some other recent releases this campaign has done a solid job of establishing a visual identity for itself, thanks in large part to not only the bright title treatment but also the enthusiasm of Gillan and the rest of the cast.
That’s not to say the movie looks great in and of itself, but it sure is sold to the public as being a lot of fun, and that’s really just fine. The same can be said of many similar movies like John Wick or Nobody, so clearing that bar is really all the campaign needs to do.