How Focus Features has sold a drama about when karma unexpectedly comes calling
In The Outfit, in theaters this weekend from Focus Features, Mark Rylance plays Leonard, a mild-mannered tailor plying his trade in Chicago after being forced to leave London’s fashionable Savile Row. Specializing in high-end men’s clothing as he does, and the setting being the 1950s, Leonard’s clientele is largely mobsters and others involved in the city’s organized crime operations. That also involves allowing his store to be used as a dropping point for various messages within the organization.
One night the bill for Leonard’s arrangement comes due as he, along with his assistant Mable (Zoey Deutch) finds his store in the middle of a battle between the mob and the police.
Directed by Graham Moore, who also cowrote the screenplay with Johnathan McClain, the movie also stars Dylan O’Brien, Nikki Amuka-Bird and others. So let’s see how the campaign was run.
announcement and casting
Focus Features acquired the project in late February, 2021.
the marketing campaign
The trailer (4m YouTube views) came out in mid-November of last year. As it opens, Mable is wondering whether Leonard is satisfied in his life and questioning why he stays where he is. But there’s something strange happening in the shop, leading to a group of mobsters using it as a safe space to avoid the police. Things get increasingly intense as the night goes on as Leonard simply tries to survive with the help of Mable, who may have some secrets of her own.
At the same time a poster was released that takes a nice noir, Saul Bass-ish approach to design. With two fields of solid color, one orange the other yellow, a lone figure stands in the distance, a gun visible in his hand. His shadow falls behind him taking on the shape of a pair of tailor’s scissors, communicating to the audience that this is a crime drama with a fashionable setting. Adding to that is the copy “Every suspect fits a pattern.”
In January came two announcements: First, that the movie would premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. Second, that the initial February release date was being pushed to mid-March.
The second poster came out in February, just as Berlinale was kicking off. Once again a pair of scissors acts as the central element, but this time the open scissors are used to divide up the various factions, with Leonard and Mable at the bottom and the various others arrayed around them.
Moore was interviewed while at Berlin about this being his first directorial effort, the various sources of inspiration for the story, working with Rylance and lots more. While he wasn’t actually at the festival, Rylance also spoke at that time about what attracted him to the screenplay and what kind of research he did on Savile Row with the tailor making the suits Rylance wears in the film.
A clip was released in early March with an extended look at a scene where Mable and Leonard are discussing the morality of what he does, their opinions of their clientele and how it impacts Mable’s personal life in particular.
Richie (O’Brien) has a confrontation with another member of the crime family in the second clip, released a week before the movie was due in theaters. Leonard discusses his history with Richie in the next clip. A bit later Fandango MovieClips got an exclusive clip with Leonard stuck after some of the mobsters make an unusual demand.
The topics of going up against Rylance and tackling a period drama came up in an interview with O’Brien. Additional interviews had him commenting on graduating to more adult dramas and why it is he seems to be having a moment in his career.
There was also an interview with designer Zac Posen, who created the costumes for the movie, including the suit worn by Rylance, and how he got involved.
The making of the movie, including interviews with the primary cast and crew, was covered in a behind-the-scenes featurette released by Focus Features.
There have been lots of movies in the last couple years that have clearly been marketed at a discerning adult audience. This one might be the best of that bunch, in large part because it creates a strong brand identity from the outset and never deviates. It has some of the strongest, most well-designed posters in recent memory and trailers/promos that create a sense of tension without giving away the plot or revealing lots of story points.
O’Brien plays what might seem to be an outsized role in the publicity push, maybe because he’s been positioned as this film’s breakout star. But it’s the combination of Deutch and Rylance that really provide the strongest points of interest, especially in the minds of the intended audience.