bodies bodies bodies – marketing recap

How A24 has sold a dark comedy about friends, murder and secrets

Bodies Bodies Bodies movie poster from A24
Bodies Bodies Bodies movie poster from A24

A reunion of friends gets weird quickly in Bodies Bodies Bodies, the new release from A24 coming to theaters this weekend. The story focuses on a house party being hosted by Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and David (Pete Davidson). With Sophie fresh out of rehab, hints of secrets and deception around them and an unbalanced social dynamic given David is rich while the rest aren’t, things take a turn after a game of Bodies, Bodies, Bodies – initially intended to loosen things up – ends in the discovery of an actual dead body and the search for who among the group might be the killer.

Maria Bakalova, Myha’la Herrold, Lee Pace, Chase Sui Wonders, Rachel Sennott and Conner O’Malley round out the cast of partygoers in the film, directed by Halina Reijn and written by Sarah DeLappe.

So, with the reminder that this definitely isn’t the Apple TV+ series “The Afterparty”, let’s take a look at how it’s been sold.

announcement and casting

A24 acquired the project, at the time a spec script from Kristen Roupenian, in 2018.

Stenberg and Bakalova were the first to be cast in early 2021 as production began, with Davidson and others added over the next few months.

the marketing campaign

The first move in the marketing campaign was a screening of the film at the SXSW Film Festival in March of this year. Reviews and buzz out of that screening were generally positive and A24 set a release date shortly after the festival ended.

“This is not a safe space” we’re warned on the first poster, released in late April, as seven pairs of eyes look out with a knife cutting through the copy.

The first trailer (1.1m YouTube views) came out at the same time and shows a wild night happening. We get some glimpse into the strained friendships among those in the house, but mostly it’s about showing what a crazy time everyone is having. Eventually, though, things get serious when one of them turns up dead, but the people in the house are still seen to be more focused on their own trauma and making sure they’re not triggered.

Featured in the trailer – and highlighted by the studio after its release – is an original song from Charlie XCX, who is apparently a current popular music artist.

Rejin, Stenberg and others were interviewed in EW’s summer movie preview issue about the origins of the story, the process of putting together the cast and more.

The next poster came out at the beginning of June, this time showing the faces of the characters, all of whom are illuminated by the light from their cellphones. The knife from the first one-sheet is moved to the background on this one, more of a hint than an overt statement to the audience.

Reijn participated in a Q&A after a screening of the film as part of Sundance London later that month.

Herrold and Stenberg interviewed each other about this movie as well as the other projects they were currently involved in.

As the second trailer (7m YouTube views), released in mid-June, begins, Bee and Sophie are on their way to David’s house for the party. From there it follows the progression of the party, from having fun and dancing through playing the game to finding one of their friends dead. Everything gets more tense from there as the night progresses as they turn on each other while also trying to stay safe.

A week or so later a series of short videos were published introducing the audience to the various characters and what personality type they filled in the story.

Most of the cast assembled at San Diego Comic-Con late last month for interviews and a screening to publicize the film to what was hoped to be a young, hip and interested crowd.

“Hot Girl”, the Charlie XCX song teased in the trailer, was released at the end of June with a lyric visualizer and lots of interviews/reviews.

A24 held a few screenings of the film in recent weeks, culminating in a special event in New York City with some of the cast in attendance to introduce the movie and get audiences excited.


The campaign is pretty good, but it’s definitely targeted at those under 30. They’re the group that’s going to find some of the dynamics displayed in the trailers and elsewhere most relatable. They’re also more likely to have a high tolerance for Pete Davidson in particular, who sticks out in the marketing like a sore thumb that has probably crashed on your couch for a month while he “figures things out”, which oddly looks a lot like smoking weed and getting five more tattoos you’re pretty sure are infected.

Wanna Play Lee Pace GIF by A24 - Find & Share on GIPHY

That’s not to say it will definitely fall flat for those outside that group. But it’s clear the studio is targeting those for whom going to parties with glow necklaces and weed-laced cake is the norm.

The Hate U Give – Marketing Recap

the hate you give poster.jpgBased on the groundbreaking book by Audrey Wells The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr (Amandla Stenberg), a young black woman who lives in the poor part of time but goes to school at an elite – and mostly white – high school. She balances both worlds in various ways, being part of each community when she can.

That balance is disrupted when her friend Khalil (Algee Smith) is shot by a police officer. Starr is angry and sad and finds she wants to speak up and fight back against the kind of system that would allow such a thing to happen. Both halves of her life, though, are pressuring in different ways and she has to find the courage to carry on despite all that.

(Note: This came out a couple weeks ago in limited release and I just missed it because the official release date I was using to plan my recaps listed 10/19. No oversight or slight was intended.)

The Posters

The first and only poster is a variation on the original book cover art, showing Starr holding up a sign with the movie’s title.

Debra Cartwright, the artist who designed that original book cover, had some thoughts on both creating that first work and its use for theatrical key art as well as the casting of a light-skinned girl, which runs counter to the dark-skinned figure seen on the novel.

The Trailers

We meet Starr and get a glimpse of her life in the first trailer, seeing all the people and places in her neighborhood, including a local boy who’s crushing on her. She explains how she code-switches when she leaves home to attend a magnet high school, turning into a whole different version of herself. When she’s out with Khalil one night he’s shot by police during a DWB-inspired stop, throwing her whole world into chaos. Many encourage her to stay quiet, especially after being pressured by police, but Starr insists on speaking up and speaking out because she knows what happened wasn’t right.

Online and Social

It’s a pretty standard content offering on the movie’s official website, which features videos, a synopsis, photos and more along with links to official Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles. The one section worth calling out is the “Educator Resources,” which links to an outside website where teachers can download study and discussion guides to help foster and direct conversations about the movie’s story and themes.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The studio sponsored a presence for the movie at VidCon, the popular gather of video creators and media companies who want to get their attention. Later on Barnes & Noble announced it would hold discussion forums for the book at select locations around the country.

The first TV spot starts out playing much like the first trailer, but then dives more deeply into how the shooting she witnesses and her role following that impacts the code-switched life she leads at the magnet high school she attends.

One of the featurettes below was used as a Promoted Tweet with a link to buy tickets.

Media and Publicity

The first publicity for the film was not great. YouTube personality Kian Lawley was originally cast as Chris and most all the movie shot with him. It was only then that controversy developed because of past videos from Lawley where he used racially offensive language in a dead-serious way. That was doubly troubling because of the story’s subject matter. So his role was recast with Apa in that role and much of the movie reshot from scratch, something Steinberg and director George Tillman Jr. spoke about while Fox was promoting the film at CinemaCon. Around that same time a first still was released.

Not only did it appear at VidCon but Angie Thomas, the author of the source novel, appeared with the director and cast at various book and literary events and conventions. VidCon attendees also received a sneak peek at the teaser for the movie before it was released shortly thereafter during the BET Awards.

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. It later appeared at the Hamptons Film Festival, where it won the audience award.

Stenberg was among those featured in Variety’s issue focusing on rising young talent, giving her an opportunity to talk about inclusivity in genre films, her career so far and more. Around that same time Thomas and Tillman spoke about the events that inspired the story and how it came to be adapted into a film, respectively.

The first clip released showed Starr coming to terms with the violence she’s witnessed and which is part of everyone’s life, with her father explaining it’s a trap other people fall into.

Around the time of Toronto a featurette was released showing the entire cast as well as Tillman talking about the story and its themes and how both are as timely now as they’ve ever been.

Toronto provided plenty of opportunities for the cast and crew to talk about the film, with Hornsby talking about the stakes for his career in playing Starr’s father, everyone explaining what the movie means to them, Stenberg clarifying for the white people in the back that “post-racial America” isn’t a thing that’s ever been, and everyone addressing the issue of supposed color-blindness.

It was also announced as among the films screening at the Urbanworld Film Festival. It was later revealed Def Jam would release the soundtrack for the movie. Tillman later talked about the themes and story elements of the movie.

A series of free screenings were arranged by Fox for youth organizations both to speak to those organizations and hopefully generate some word of mouth.

Hornsby was interviewed about how the powerful script had him hooked immediately while the whole cast offered their thoughts on how they approached the story and their characters, including how they drew inspiration from real people in their lives.

Just a couple weeks ago screenwriter Audrey Wells passed away suddenly, which prompted Stenberg to speak about how she collaborated with the director and writer on molding the story.

How Lawley was removed from the film and replaced with Apa came back up closer to release, including new details of just when the controversial comments were made and how they impacted everyone involved.

Regina Hall has been in a number of things recently, but her appearance on “Kimmel” included promotion of this movie. Stenberg also showed up on a number of talk shows both in the morning and late night to talk about the movie and share other amusing stories.

There was a whole mini-campaign launched focused on the #ReplaceHate message. That kicked off with ashort spot featuring the cast holding up signs featuring different words such as “empathy” plugged in where “hate” is in the title. Additional spots featured Stenberg as well as actual fans participating and spreading the message.


I’m more than a little shocked this hasn’t been more fervently used as a whipping post by Fox News or, if it has, that such commentary hasn’t been covered by the mainstream entertainment trade press. Considering its high profile and powerful message, you’d think Ted Cruz or someone would have a strong opinion on how it’s corrupting our youth by teaching them to not be deferential to the police or something.

Snark aside, this seems like the crown jewel in the recent wave of movies featuring #BlackLivesMatter and other racial themes and stories. It carries a very positive message about standing up for what you believe in even if the world is telling you to sit down. And if the movie encourages a few more people to understand what “code-switching” is and how those around them use it, so much the better.

Picking Up The Spare

The cast talks here about their own experiences with microaggressions at school and how those have impacted their lives.

Nice profile of Angie Thomas, the author of the book, and how she’s using the buzz around the movie to take her career to a new level.

The movie’s appearance at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival allowed Stenberg to speak more about the emotional nature of the story.

Author Angie Thomas speaks here about the process behind bringing her book to the movies.

Where Hands Touch – Marketing Recap

Here’s how Vertical Entertainment sold the wartime teen romance WHERE HANDS TOUCH starring Amandla Stenberg.

where hands touch posterLeyna (Amandla Stenberg) is a biracial teen living in 1944 Germany in the new movie Where Hands Touch. The daughter of a white woman and black man, Leyna is a German citizen but not the kind that’s in favor at the moment. While she ostensibly has all the rights and privileges others do, she lives in fear because of the persecution of ethnic and racial minorities happening all around her.

One day she meets Lutz (George MacKay), a member of the Hitler Youth and son of a prominent SS official. The two fall in love in the passionate, emotional way only teens can, but their relationship is fraught with the difficulties of the time, as Leyna must balance her love for Lutz with the horrors being visited on others all around her.

The Posters

The movie’s only poster tries its darndest to communicate the message of the story but is weighed down by poor design. Stenberg as Leyna is in the center of the frame, looking out hopefully just off to the side of the camera. In the background a building is draped in Nazi flags as bombers fly overhead. This looks like something designed by committee, where everyone just had to make sure it was as bland and unappealing as possible.

The Trailers

The first trailer makes it clear there is no whitewashing or underplaying of the German Nazi regime in the story. We watch as Leyna’s family works to keep her safe as thing intensify because she looks like someone the regime would otherwise be targeting. She has limited freedoms because she has papers that keep her safe. But things begin to get troublesome when her relationship with Lutz causes problems not only for her but also for him as the son of a prominent military official.

Online and Social

All you’ll find on the official website is the trailer, a synopsis, a photo gallery and the ability to buy tickets for a screening near you. There are also links to the Facebook and Instagram profiles for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’ve seen or am aware of.

Media and Publicity

A first look still was released way back in 2017, well before the movie eventually debuted at the 2018 Venice Film Festival. In that time, Stenberg and director Amma Asante repeatedly, including just before Venice, had to defend the movie as one that didn’t in any way romanticize Nazis or their ideology.

Around the time of the first trailer a featurette was released that included the cast and crew talking about the story, the production and the realities of the world the movie takes place in, focusing on how it’s still a YA romance at heart.

The movie also appeared at the Toronto Film Festival, where it received fairly good reviews and word of mouth. While there Stenberg spoke about how the production, which took place during the 2016 presidential election, added all the more to the feeling the story was timeless. She was also the subject of a profile that covered the movie as well as what else she’s done in her career.

Asante was interviewed about whether the story is based on a real person, clarifying that it’s more a composite of the experiences of people like Leyna at the time.


I understand the points people have made that the movie seems to relegate Nazi Germany to “Just Another Tragic Backdrop,” but that seems to be somewhat unfounded, even just based on the campaign. There’s clearly enough here that explains the reality of what was happening, even if it doesn’t make that the focal point of the story.

The problem, then, is that it’s hard to have it both ways, to tell a story related to the Holocaust without telling the story *of* the Holocaust. Not only that, but the publicity campaign did not have Stenberg’s full attention, as she’s also on the road promoting The Hate U Give, coming later this year. So it will likely slip through the cracks, further marginalizing the story.


A new 30-second spot has been released that focuses on the dangers faced by Leyna more than the teen romance angle.