Marriage Story – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling the latest from writer/director Noah Baumbach.

marriage story poster 3There are countless movies that chronicle the beginnings of a relationship. Plenty capture the middle of a marriage as well, even if the focus isn’t on that couple but instead on others around them.

With this week’s Marriage Story, writer/director Noah Baumbach takes on the ending of a marriage, a phase that doesn’t get a whole lot of cinematic attention. Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson play Charlie and Nicole, a couple whose marriage starts out romantic and idyllic. Over time, though, cracks start to form as frustrations and tensions mount. Through it all, including their eventual divorce proceedings, the two must find ways to remain connected in part for the sake of their son Henry.

Netflix has given the movie a marketing campaign that emphasizes the way Charlie and Nicole have been, are and always be together and yet apart. Like many of its recent high-profile releases, Marriage Story received a limited theatrical release in advance of it becoming available for streaming subscribers this week.

(Note: I usually write these in advance of the theatrical release, but this one slipped by me so I’m publishing it as it comes to streaming. These things happen.)

The Posters

The movie’s parallel storylines are made explicit on the pair of posters (by marketing agency BLT Communications) released in August at the same time as the trailer. One shows Nicole and the other Charlie, both of their silhouettes set against lightly colored backgrounds with a photo of the city they live in shown within the cutout.

Charlie and Nicole are shown with Henry in happier times on the theatrical poster from October. The couple is playfully embracing as Henry squirms at the bottom of the picture, a pose familiar to any kid who’s been caught in the middle when the adults decide to get a little mushy. It’s a simple poster that seems like it could be for a similar movie from the mid-70s but it establishes the core dynamic of the story, at least as it exists at the outset.

The Trailers

There were two trailers released around the time the film was premiering at the Venice Film Festival in August, one that had Charlie sharing what he loves about Nicole and one with Nicole offering a similar perspective on Charlie. The dual perspectives show the high points of their marriage before devolving into the end of their marriage, when they don’t have anything to say to each other. It’s a clever way to sell the unique nature of the movie’s story and certainly works to achieve a balance that a standard trailer would have a difficult time with.

The second trailer (1.9 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-October and combined Charlie’s and Nicole’s stories, starting with them sharing what it is they love about each other before showing how they navigate the dissolution of their marriage. Despite that, it becomes clear they are still going to be part of each other’s lives, which is just as tricky as remaining married was.

Online and Social

You won’t find a synopsis on the movie’s official website, which instead focuses on the chasm between Nicole and Charlie. The character-centric key art is placed on either side of the site’s front page and clicking their outline will take you to the appropriate early trailers. The other trailer as well as the bevy of featurettes released recently are also curate on the site.

Advertising and Promotions

Details about the film started to come out in late July, culminating in the announcement it would screen at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. A screening of the movie at the Telluride Film Festival was preceded by a tribute to Driver that was introduced by Martin Scorsese, who directed the actor in 2017’s Silence. It was also scheduled as the “Centerpiece” selection at this year’s New York Film Festival and among those showing at the Hamptons Film Festival.

Screening at the Toronto Film Festival in September generated conversations that the movie might be Netflix’s best bet yet at getting into awards consideration given the performance from Driver and Johansson along with others. It was then scheduled to be the opening night feature at Film Fest 919 in October. In advance of the movie’s screening at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, Driver and Johansson were named “Outstanding Performers of the Year.”

Netflix managed to reopen the recently-shuttered Paris Theater in New York City to screen the film.

In a surprise twist, the movie was added to the AFI Fest lineup at the last minute when Apple pulled The Banker, which had been scheduled to screen there, from the lineup.

Featurettes released by Netflix included one that focused on the ensemble cast that was assembled by Baumbach and how composer Randy Newman created the film’s score. Also getting attention was costume designer Mark Bridges, editor Jennifer Lame and costar Laura Dern.

Just a few days ago the movie got a big boost when it picked up multiple wins at the Gotham Awards. Those come after it received multiple Independent Spirit Awards nominations.

Media and Press

While in Venice, Johansson and Driver talked about making the movie with Baumbach and how the story related to the personal troubles some of them have gone through in the past.

A massive profile of Johansson included mention of the many high-profile films she has in the works and on the release schedule, but it was her comments about Woody Allen that generated the most headlines.

Press coverage at Toronto included awards speculation as well as assessments of where Netflix was as a distributor along with various interviews with the cast and filmmakers.

A profile of Driver from October talked about his career as a whole and the high-profile directors who have cast him in their movies while pointing out the unconventional nature of his appearance and personality.

Dern was interviewed about how quickly she agreed to sign on to the project and what it was that attracted her.

An interview with Baumbach allowed him to talk about how he developed the story and what real life events inspired him to write it. At the movie’s premiere Johansson and the rest of the cast praised the director while explaining what the story meant to them and why they got involved.

While Johansson talked about the movie a couple months ago while promoting JoJo Rabbit, Driver made some talk show appearances closer to release, including on “The Late Show,” “Late Night” and elsewhere. Baumbach himself was interviewed on “The Daily Show” and Dern appeared on “Kimmel” and other shows.

Another interview with the director focused on the work that went into some of the movie’s key scenes. There were also interviews with Alda and Dern about their roles in the movie along with their entire careers. In addition to one more profile of Baumbach, there was also a features on Julie Haggerty that looked at her career and how it’s now included this film

Overall

On some level the campaign is fairly straightforward, selling a movie that hits all the beats you might expect from what is essentially a relationship drama.

But there’s so much here that’s not shown, it’s hard not to think there’s a sucker punch waiting around the corner. That feeling is reinforced by the way the campaign has kept Charlie and Nicole apart in all the individual elements.

Really, then, what’s being sold here is a tearjerker from a reliably original writer/director and featuring a talented cast. The twists and turns of the story will be rending and affirming by turns, but it’s the journey here that is the main attraction.

Picking Up the Spare

A couple additional featurettes from Netflix on the movie’s production design and the way Baumbach approached directing the story. There were also clips of conversations from festivals with Driver and Baumbach, Johansson and costar Ray Liotta. The much-discussed scene of Driver singing Sondheim was released as a clip.

Baumbach was interviewed on “The Tonight Show” while he and editor Jennifer Lame spoke together about honing the story and its pacing.

A profile of Driver included comments from Baumbach and others about the actor’s approach to his roles and more.

Another featurette from Netflix on the writing of the film.

The Report – Marketing Recap

Amazon Studio’s new film about uncovering government secrets gets released with coincidentally appropriate timing.

the report poster 2Scott Z. Burns wrote and directed The Report, this week’s new release from Amazon Studios. The movie, based on a true story, stars Adam Driver as Daniel Jones, a U.S. Senate staffer given the responsibility to investigate and report on the actions undertaken by the CIA in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Specifically, Jones is tasked with determining if the CIA’s program of torture and various forms of “enhanced interrogation techniques” were of any substantive use to U.S. intelligence gathering. What he finds is that not only were those efforts of little to no value but that agency officials routinely misled lawmakers as to what they were doing and whether it was helping to keep America safe.

The campaign mounted by Amazon has sought to position Jones as a crusading fighter determined to do what’s right despite the powerful forces aligned against him. With an 86 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, early reviews have been positive but there seems to be a distinct lack of buzz for the drama.

The Posters

the report posterJones is presented on the poster (by marketing agency LA), released in August, as a collection of copy, some of which is appropriately redacted. Even part of the title is scratched out. “Truth matters” reads the copy at the bottom, but the whole design is stark and attention-grabbing, selling the movie as a serious drama for serious people.

The second poster, released in October, uses the same design concept but this time includes the faces of Annette Bening as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Jones’ boss, and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm). The movie’s festival credentials are also highlighted along with a positive review quote playing up the film’s story.

The Trailers

Amazon released the first trailer (5.4 million views on YouTube) in August. As it starts, Jones is explaining how the attacks of 9/11/01 changed his perspective to one focused on national security, leading to a job in government. When he learns the CIA destroyed evidence of torture he sets out to find out what was on the tapes that have gone missing, finding that the agency engaged in wanton cruelty with little to show for it. The intelligence community takes issue with that finding and begins targeting Jones and making the case that what they did was essential to national security, leading him to take action to make sure his report sees the light of day.

A second, shorter trailer (427,000 views on YouTube) was released in October that focused on the ramifications of the report and what it was meant to both accomplish and undo.

Online and Social

Amazon created Twitter and Facebook profiles for the movie but no official website. Those profiles don’t even have a link to any site where people can buy tickets or register their interest in watching it when it becomes available for streaming.

Advertising and Publicity

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Amazon picked it up during the festival, one of many high-profile acquisitions it made. In August it screened at the Telluride Film Festival.

In mid-June Amazon finally announced a September release date for the film, planning a two-week theatrical release before it would become available on the company’s streaming service. That release date was shifted to November in late July, but the same two-week window between theatrical and streaming availability was kept intact. In fact it was noted this film, along with The Aeronauts, represented the first salvo in a shift by Amazon away from applying the theatrical model to all its feature releases, something it had previously committed to as a way to stay in the good graces of exhibitors and studios.

Amazon held a number of screenings of the movie in various locations, usually those associated with government or journalism, in the last couple weeks. Some of those included Q&A sessions with the cast and crew and even Jones, who joined the filmmakers on stage to talk about the true story the film is based on.

Online ads used variations on the key art to raise awareness. 

the report online ad

Media and Press

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Amazon picked it up during the festival, one of many high-profile acquisitions it made. Burns spoke about the story and how he envisioned it as an alternative to officially-approved versions of events.

Benning was interviewed about taking on the role of Diane Feinstein and how she decided not to research the real woman too much lest it overwhelm her performance.

An interview with Burns allowed him to talk about how timely the story told in the movie still is, especially as the U.S. is in the middle of impeachment proceedings that have the concept of accountability for illegal actions as their core premise. Burns, along with the real life Jones, also spoke about how this movie seeks to correct some of the problems with earlier movies like Zero Dark Thirty that seemed to position torture as both effective and necessary.

Overall

While Amazon has made the case that it’s reevaluating the theatrical release window it’s previously had in place as a way to appease theater owners, it seems that choosing this movie – a political drama that has more in common with the kinds of films that were popular 40 years ago – to be one of the first under the new system. That could be because of a lack of faith in the commercial viability of a story like this, regardless of its high-caliber cast.

That being said, the campaign…well…it seems to be targeted specifically at the audiences that still enjoy the kinds of films that were popular 40 years ago. It sells a movie in which someone going on with their public service job despite other people telling them “don’t do that” in loud voices is high drama.

What’s missing from all but a handful of interviews is a clear message to the audience as to *why* this story is still so essential and relevant. That whistleblowers and others who seek out the truth are an essential part of our society and government is as important now than ever before. More emphasis on that might not have improved the movie’s box-office chances significantly but it would have tightened up the campaign a good deal.

Picking Up the Spare

Amazon announced it would be one of the first test cases for its new policy not reporting on theatrical revenue for their movies.

The front pages of major newspapers across the country were wrapped in ads for the movie just days before it hit theaters. There were also a handful of trucks with messages about truth and fear driving around Los Angeles in a promotional stunt.

Another interview with the director has him connecting the dots of accountability between the story told in the movie and what’s happening right now. Maura Tierney was interviewed about the difficult subject matter featured in the movie.

There was more from Bening on how she approached playing the real life Feinstein, including recalling first meeting the Senator 40 years ago.

To my surprise, there was a really nice official website for the movie that offered information on the real events and people not only portrayed in the film but also those that impacted what’s seen on screen.

A few new featurettes from Amazon have come out, including one that focused on the importance of the truth to society, one that introduced the characters of the story and one that broke down some of the numbers featured in the story.

A making of featurette came out a couple weeks after the movie hit theaters.

The Dead Don’t Die – Marketing Recap

dead dont die poster 10Zombie movies aren’t exactly uncommon in theaters. This week’s The Dead Don’t Die offers something new though as it comes from writer/director Jim Jarmusch, a filmmaker more well known for his thoughtful and occasionally quirky low-key character dramas. Add on to that a cast that includes Bill Murray, Chloë Sevigny, Adam Driver, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits and others and you have something that’s intriguing at the very least.

Murray, Sevigny and Driver play sheriff department officers in a small town that finds itself at the center of the zombie apocalypse as the dead start breaking free from their graves. Wholly untrained for this sort of thing but still responsible for the citizens in town, the officers set out to do what they can to keep the undead at bay while keeping those still alive safe.

The Posters

dead dont die posterThe first poster from early April proclaims the movie sports “The greatest zombie cast ever assembled,” the king of hyperbole that’s reminiscent of the old days of B-movie horror flicks designed to be seen in between make out sessions during a summer matinee. A single undead hand rises from the grave while the names of that impressive cast are featured on either side of the arm extending toward the night sky’s full moon.

A series of character posters came out a bit later, with each one bringing the character in question to the foreground while a zombie lurks behind them, the actor’s name highlighted in the cast list still running along both sides of the design.

 

 

The photos of Murray, Driver and Sevigny as well as costar Tilda Swinton from those posters was combined into a single image on the theatrical one-sheet, which maintains the branding and tagline seen previously.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released in early April, presents an offbeat and ridiculous zombie story. When a small town is hit by a wave of the undead it perplexes local law enforcement and just can’t be believed by anyone but eventually some of the rules are figured out and people start to take action. Overall, though, it’s a dry zombie comedy featuring great actors from a director you wouldn’t associate with such a story, which is most of the appeal here.

A restricted trailer came out a month later that had the police discussing the rules and laws of killing zombies as well as making seemingly arbitrary decisions about which residents are and aren’t informed about the dangers facing the town.

Online and Social

Focus Features’ official website opens with the second trailer. A synopsis of the story can be found once the front page loads and more photos, bios of the actors and other information is available by scrolling down the page and clicking on some of the pictures found there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A promoted Tweet featuring the first trailer helped generate awareness and hopefully interest.

In mid-May the first TV spot was released, covering the rules for killing zombies while showing how the small town has become infested with the undead, much to the dismay of local law enforcement.

Media and Publicity

In early April it was announced the movie was selected as the opening night feature at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Its U.S. premiere, though, was scheduled for the New Orleans Film Festival. It also later screened at Beyond Fest, with Sevigny appearing for a Q&A with attendees.

The first clip, debuted by People, came out in mid-May showing innocent travelers asking about local hotels in exactly the way characters in horror movies usually do. A second from moviefone featured the three police officers in the town being honest about how maybe it’s not going to be OK.

While at Cannes, the cast talked about what kinds of things scare them, including Jarmusch revealing what real world topics he was dealing with using the zombie metaphor. Swinton was also interviewed about her character and working with the rest of the cast, as was Sevigney.

A feature profile of Jarmusch focused on how he got this eclectic cast – which includes some previous collaborators – together for a very unconventional project. He also talked about his love of zombie movies in another interview.

Gomez was interviewed by Jimmy Fallon about working with the other actors and what kind of shenanigans Murray played at Cannes.

Overall

While the early reviews from Cannes and elsewhere haven’t been universally positive – often because they view the film from the perspective of Jarmusch’s previous films instead of on its own merits – the zombie genre is certainly one that needs a fresh perspective. It’s one that’s morphed over the years from an allegory for assimilation and numbness to one that seems rooted in survivalist fantasies involving fear of outsiders replacing “regular” people.

The campaign doesn’t make it clear what exactly zombies are being used as a metaphor for in this movie, but that’s because it’s too busy poking fun at the genre’s conventions. The focus is on how a bunch of well-meaning but clueless law enforcement professionals are reacting – or under-reacting, as it were – to what’s unfolding around them, which is at least an original take.

Picking Up the Spare

MovieClips got an exclusive clip that featured an extended look at one of the most popular lines from the trailer. 

There’s a video for Sturgill Simpson’s title tune from the movie. Sevigny participated in a game of “This/That” for Focus. 

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – Marketing Recap

the man who killed don quixote poster 3It’s been 20 years since director Terry Gilliam began working on The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, an updated take on the Miguel de Cervantes classic. In that time Gilliam has had financing materialize and disappear as well as cast and crew members come and go. To call the production “troubled” would be an understatement, but the visionary director has never abandoned the concept, even if the story has been tweaked over time.

As it stands, with the gestation process finally finished, the movie stars Adam Driver as Toby, a commercial director on location with a new production. He reconnects with Raul (Jonathan Pryce), an amateur actor he worked with years prior on a student film and who over the years has grown convinced he is actually Don Quixote. The two embark on a series of adventures that blur the lines between reality and fantasy, much like Quixote himself.

After a long string of legal wrangling and other obstacles, the movie finally came to theaters last night in a one-time-only screening from Fathom Events before receiving a limited release next week.

The Posters

There are a few different posters that have been floating around over the last several months as release dates have come and gone and distribution plans made and abandoned.

One has all the characters arranged above cloud alongside a windmill, other minor characters dancing on an open palm at the bottom of the image, the whole thing certainly communicating a sense of whimsy and fantasy.

Another takes a more abstract approach, showing a stick figure of Quixote lying on the ground with a massive spear piercing his torso. This may be the best of the bunch because of its minimalist approach, not trying too hard to be clever or communicate too much. It’s a simple message, but it works well.

 

What seems to be the theatrical poster has Quixote’s head in the background, with Toby riding his motorcycle out of it toward the camera while other scenes, characters and objects are arrayed around the rest of the design. It’s meant to suggest, at least, that this is all happening within Quixote’s head but is certainly a colorful image that sells the movie well.

The Trailers

The story laid out in the first trailer, finally released at the end of February, only makes sense if you’re really paying attention. Toby, we see, is having trouble bringing the vision of his commercial to life and passes the time seducing his boss’s wife. One day the actor playing Quixote starts acting as if he really is the adventurer and that Toby is Sancho. That takes the two of them on a series of hijinks, with the lines of what is and isn’t real getting blurrier by the moment.

It’s wonderful and feels exactly like a Gilliam film, which is just what we’re looking for.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website offers the trailer and a synopsis along with a two-part “Production Story” recap of the long, twisted road the movie has taken. In addition to the social profiles on Twitter and Facebook there was a separate page for the Fathom Events release.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

It’s likely Fathom has done some advertising for the movie’s one-night screening, but I haven’t seen what that might be. No other paid promotion appears to have been done.

Media and Publicity

Shortly after production had begun, a whole slew of behind the scenes pictures were released, perhaps to prove to everyone that this was actually happening. A few additional stills like this came out at random times as well. Problems still swirled around the movie, though, including a dispute over financing and rights that threatened an anticipated debut at Cannes. Strangely, that was followed by an international trailer that not only proved the movie *actually* existed but also lead to speculation it would make the Cannes debut as planned, though later comments from the festival’s director made it clear the legal wrangling was at least in part why it wasn’t scheduled.

Things simmered down for a bit with the news it was indeed going to screen out of competition as the festival’s closing film, though even that was later contested due to *new* legal and rights issues. Eventually it was officially scheduled as the festival’s closing night feature, but not before Gilliam suffered an illness – at the time reported as a minor stroke – and Amazon Studios, which had been on board for U.S. distribution, backed out due to the movie falling well outside the promised delivery window.

Kind of hilariously, a documentary about Giliam’s efforts to make the film was announced as coming from the same team responsible for Lost in La Mancha, a documentary about the *previous* attempt back in the late 90s/early 00s to get the film done. That’s a whole new level of “closing the loop.” After the screening was over Gilliam talked briefly about how glad he was just to have the movie out in the open finally and how he hoped it would find an audience. That revelry didn’t last long, though, as a judge ruled against Gilliam just before Cannes, finding he did not have the rights to the movie.

the man who killed don quixote pic 2

In late-July, Gilliam started sharing a handful of potential posters for public feedback and comments specifically meant for the international markets the movie was already cleared for release in.

A Fantastic Fest screening was announced, making it the North American premiere of the movie. It wasn’t until the middle of December of last year, though, that Screen Media finally picked it up for domestic distribution, tentatively scheduling a release date.

Gilliam was interviewed about the decades-long journey he took to get the film finally made and released.

The first clip released showed Driver’s director trying to tame his production and star. Another one later on shows Toby explaining to someone how his actor has gone crazy.

Of course much of the focus as Gilliam hit the interview circuit wasn’t the movie itself but its long road from inception to completion. That included recountings of the many different iterations of cast and crew that have come and gone over the years, his long history with not just Quixote but Quixote-like characters, how the legal troubles scared away Amazon and other distributors, how he’s not sure what he’ll do without this film hanging out there for him and more.

Overall

It’s almost impossible to judge the campaign’s effectiveness by any singular measure. Things have dragged on for so long and there have been so many different rumors, so many conversations, so much speculation that culling the wheat from the chaff almost can’t be done. It’s not that there hasn’t been an effective marketing push mounted here in the final months, as an official release was eventually finalized, it’s just that considering how things have evolved, shifted and changed over the years a formal campaign is almost secondary in selling the film to the public.

What that campaign symbolizes more than anything is Gilliam’s ability to will the movie into existence. It, as much as the movie itself, is the capstone on this project he’s been working on for over 20 years, proof that all that effort wasn’t completely in vain.

Still, Gilliam’s comment that he’s not sure what his like will be like without this looming on the back burner can’t help but come to mind. How will we judge the movie given it’s hovered over every other project he’s worked on in that time? How will we judge him? He’s come to be defined by this movie in the same way Brian Wilson was long defined by “Smile” in the years it remained an unfinished and unreleased Beach Boys record.

We’ll be sorting out the answers to those questions for years to come. In the meantime the movie is here, at least in some manner, and we can put all those issues aside. Whatever you or I think of the campaign that was mounted, it attempted to sell not the film that was started but the one that was finished, which is always the case. Most movies, though, don’t come weighted down with the baggage of so many outsized expectations, the majority of which the director himself is responsible for.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Gilliam appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and recount the bumpy road he’s been on for the last 30 years. Driver did “Late Night” a couple days later.

BlacKkKlansman – Marketing Recap

blackkklansman poster 3Spike Lee, one of the most powerful and important filmmakers of the last 30 years who we collectively too often sleep on or overlook, is back this week with the new movie BlacKkKlansman. The movie is basically just what you might think it is based on the title, a story of a black member of the KKK…at least kind of.

Based on real events from the 1970s, John David Washington plays police officer Ron Stallworth. In the midst of the social turmoil of the time, Stallworth decides to infiltrate the KKK to determine how dangerous they are. He conducts most of his business over the phone but partners with fellow cop Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) to be the face of the operation when things need to be handled in-person. They do so well they eventually cross paths with KKK leader David Duke (Topher Grace) himself.

The Posters

Ummm…wow. Stallworth is shown on the first poster standing there with one fist raised in a “black power” salute and the other holding a hair pick, all of which, when combined with the leather jacket he’s sporting, makes it clear the story takes place several decades in the past. The main thing is…he’s wearing the white hood of the Klan over his face, creating an incredible juxtaposition between the visual elements and setting up the nature and premise of the story. The edges of the photo shown have been artificially worn to give it a dated feel as well.

Driver and Washington stand on opposite sides of a white triangle, on which is the tagline “Infiltrate hate” and a reminder this is based on a true story. Of note here is the clear callout beneath the title that the movie comes “From producer Jordan Peele” to capitalize on his popularity.

 

One more had Washington standing within an American flag whose red and white stripes had been converted to black and white, those stripes going both behind and in front of him to illustrate how woven he and others are into the American experience. This one promises the movie is “Based on a crazy, outrageous, incredibly true story.”

The Trailers

I’m just not sure how to adequately explain how the first trailer opens with Stallworth, recently added to the police force, adopting a very white-sounding voice to call and get in the good graces of David Duke. Stallworth is out to infiltrate the KKK and can handle part of that, but needs “the right white man” to actually play the part in person, which means recruiting Zimmerman, who’s a bit skeptical. The execution of the plan coincides with the civil rights movement and other societal upheavals, with the reluctant partners out to take down those looking to keep any non-white people in their place.

It’s…it’s really funny. What’s shown here, with the music and everything, plays fast and loose and breezy, showing how the two partners make their plan come to fruition, albeit for different reasons. This is the kind of filmmaking we haven’t seen from Lee in a number of years and both Washington and Driver look pitch perfect.

Online and Social

Focus Features’ website for the movie isn’t exactly chock-full of information, but the basics are all covered. The site uses the studio’s standard layout, with the trailer playing as the site opens and other content available further down the page. So as you scroll down you can see an “About” section and then, available by clicking on the various pictures on the page, read bios and other facts about the cast and crew. Over on the right there are also links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I’ve seen a few online ads that have used the film’s key art and some social posts using the trailer, but that’s it. There no TV spots I’ve been able to find.

Media and Publicity

Aside from the…unconventional and eyebrow-raising title, the first real bit of news about the movie came when it was announced as one of those screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Footage was shown off by Lee at CinemaCon, with the tone of what was seen taking a good amount of the press and other attendees by surprise. The first still was released shortly after that. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.

A feature profile of Lee appeared just before the Cannes debut that allowed him to talk about making the movie, what he wants to convey through it, his thoughts on the current president and lots more that show he hasn’t missed a step over the years. He talked again to Vanity Fair after that screening, which was very well-received and generated a ton of great word-of-mouth. It also included comments from Lee, unsurprisingly, about the current U.S. political climate and administration. He reiterated those views in subsequent interviews like this before the movie was ultimately given the festival’s Grand Prix award, significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it was one of the few entries in the actual competition this year from a U.S. filmmaker.

The movie was one of two at Cannes featuring Topher Grace, resulting in a narrative emerging about how this was a kind of comeback for the actor and how this was part of a mission to reinvent his career. He talked more about why he opted to take on such a controversial role while Washington was also profiled in a feature where he talked about carving out a career independent of his father’s and more.

At some point it was noticed the movie was one of several either primed for release or in production that focused on the KKK being the adversary in some manner.

In late July a major press push happened that included Lee talking about the tone of the movie and how he sees himself in the scope of film history, how he became involved with the project and how his family influenced his filmmaking, why he included recent news footage as well as more on the Trump presidency and the current state of racism in America. That Rolling Stone story also revealed Lee had secured an unreleased Prince song to use during the end credits, something he explained more in-depth here. Co-writer Kevin Willmott also talked about many of the same themes mentioned above.

That coincided with the release of two clips, one showing Grace as Duke thanking his supporters for putting “America first” and one showing Stallworth getting more familiar with black culture.

While there wasn’t much on the paid front, there was a significant press push in the final week before release. Washington appeared on “Access Hollywood,” while Grace appeared on “The Today Show,” as did both Lee and Washington. Meanwhile, Lee showed up on “NBC Nightly News” and elsewhere. All those and others created an exclusive featurette for Regal Cinemas.

The real Stallworth was interviewed as well, mentioning how he’d spoken to Duke recently and how the Trump-supporting racist was “concerned” he may not come off well in the movie, something that defies parody.

Overall

Well…What to say about that. Spike Lee has made a movie that:

  1. Is about black law enforcement standing up for an underrepresented culture and taking on established powers that have ignored the plight of their community for too long.
  2. Is about how white supremacist neo-nazis are unquestionably the bad guy, someone to be targeted for investigation and taken down because of their hate speech.

And all of that and more is in a campaign that makes the story seem not only timely but funny. It’s hard to think of a story that’s more relevant, especially since its release is timed to the one year anniversary of the white supremacist marches at Charlottesville.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

More from the real Ron Stallworth on how he helped John David Washington prepare to play him. There’s also this additional interview with screenwriter Kevin Willmott.

Spike Lee shared a music video for the previously-unreleased Prince song he managed to secure for the movie.

Great profiles here and here of Laura Harrier, who didn’t get much attention in advance of release. Costume designer Marci Rogers also was interviewed about her work on the movie.

John David Washington shared what his first experiences on the set of the film were and what inspired him about working with Spike Lee.

Washington and others from the cast spoke out about what has happened in the country in the year since the Charlottesville incidents and how the movie connects to that. They also explained how they got into character for the time period the story is set in.

There have been a number of stories like this that continue to explore the real events depicted in the story and the connection between the real Ron Stallworth and Washington, who plays him in the movie.

Topher Grace continues to be a central focus of the press as he appears on “Late Night” to talk about the film.

Lee finally got on TV, talking with Seth Meyers about the connections between this movie – and the events that inspired it – and the present day. He also appeared on “The Daily Show.”

John David Washington appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie, working with Spike Lee and more.

The real-life Ron Stallworth is interviewed here about his actual experiences and how closely the movie adheres to that.

The technical aspects of shooting the film are discussed here by director of photography Chayse Irvin.

The movie’s producers spoke about how they were a bit more free to tell this story in the way they wanted following the success of Get Out.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Marketing Recap

star wars last jedi poster 9For the third time in as many years, Disney/Lucasfilm are bringing Star Wars to theaters just in time for the holidays. After successfully reintroducing the franchise with 2015’s The Force Awakens, we took a detour away from the core “Saga” that has been the focus of the movies to date in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Now we’re back to the story of the Jedi and the fight against the powers of darkness in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The story picks up right where The Force Awakens left off, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds the self-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who she hopes will help her learn who she is and what her destiny might be. Meanwhile, The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) continues its fight against the ascendant First Order, ruled by the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) and Finn (John Boyega) along with Chewbacca and a bunch of porgs keep fighting the good fight while Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) continues to emote across the entire galaxy while trying not to be the Diet Coke of evil.

With so much Star Wars hype and promotion over the last three years, the franchise lately has never seemed far out of reach. To sell The Last Jedi effectively and forcefully, Disney has worked hard to make sure the campaign sells a compelling and unique product to the audience.

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Logan Lucky – Marketing Recap

Brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, respectively) come from a long line of losers in the new movie Logan Lucky, directed by Steven Soderbergh. They decide they’re going to turn things around, though, and set out to reverse their fortunes by robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600.

The problem is they don’t exactly have the smarts to pull off such an elaborate heist. So they enlist the services of a convicted thief named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them out. Between the three of them and with the reluctant help of Logan’s sister Mellie (Riley Keough), they execute their scheme. But will they actually get away with it?

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