Where’d You Go Bernadette – Marketing Recap

whered you go bernadette posterWriter/director Richard Linklater returns to theaters with this week’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? Based on the book by Maria Semple, the movie stars Cate Blanchett as Bernadette, a wife and mother who has become frustrated by years of being unable to express the artistic side that won her massive acclaim years prior.

To try and restart the creative engines, Bernadette escapes the world of petty feuds with her neighbors and sets out on a journey to Antarctica as a way to rediscover who she is and what excites her.

The Posters

whered you go bernadette teaser posterA teaser poster tries to be a bit too clever, showing the movie’s title as if it’s the beginning of a text conversation asking “Where’d you go, Bernadette?” with a reply, presumably from Bernadette, still pending, marked by the “…” showing she’s still typing.

“Disappearances can be deceiving” the second poster proclaims, explaining further down the design this is “A mysterious comedy” from Linklater. Blanchette’s face, with sunglasses covering her eyes, is seen in front of a paper cut out of mountains, helping to establish that the character is going to go on some sort of journey, especially when combined with the copy. The poster uses a similar look and feel as the cover of Semple’s book, with Bernadette’s face in front of a backdrop of mountain tops.

The Trailers

Becky is surprising her parents at the opening of the first trailer by reminding them of a promise made long ago. Her request is to go to Antarctica, but they’re understandably reluctant. We see more of the family dynamic before Bernadette goes missing, leading everyone on a chase to figure out where she went to and why.

The second trailer from early May shifts the focus to be more on Bernadette herself, showing how she’s unfulfilled by the life that’s developed around her while her daughter worries her mom’s not living up to her full potential. Bernadette takes out her frustrations by terrorizing her neighbor in various ways, a problem that has developed because she’s no longer indulging her creativity. When a new project catches her attention she begins acting out, leading up to her literally running away from her life and to Antarctica and all the challenges it presents. It’s much more clear about relationships and motivations and presents a much better picture of the movie and story.

Online and Social

In addition to the usual batch of marketing materials, the movie’s website has a “Becoming Bernadette” feature that allows visitors to create their own Bernadette, customizing hair, sunglasses and other features in the same style as the cover to the source novel.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie was among those announced by AMC Theaters as part of the first curated under its Artisan Films program to highlight smaller films.

In late July Fandango released an exclusive featurette that had Blanchette and others, including author Maria Sample. THR also hosted their own exclusive featurette on the movie.

Annapurna put out a video offering the recipe to the “Pink Penguin” cocktail shown in the trailers.

A partnership with Yaymaker encouraged people to visit one of that chain’s locations for a night of painting and other creative expression, in keeping with the movie’s story and themes.

whered you go bernadette yaymaker.png

Media and Press

People kind of knew he was shooting a film of some sort but a conversation with The Houston Chronicle confirmed some of the story details while also including a request for stories anyone from the area who was alive around 1969 might have.

Linklater, Blanchette and others were interviewed about how they connected with the source material and more.

Blanchette is slated for a handful of late night and other talk show appearances throughout the week. Emma Nelson, who plays Bernadette’s daughter Becky, also made the media rounds in the last couple weeks.


For a movie that seems to be built around a singular character the marketing never seems to build a strong, identifiable personality of its own. Yes, Blanchette’s Bernadette is out there being as bold as she can be, but the campaign as a whole seems unable to decide if it’s a wacky family comedy or a dramatic story of a woman rediscovering who she is. There are elements of the story that are introduced and then never addressed again and it never provides a strong call to action for the audience to seize on.

That being said, the way it maintains the branding from the book is a good move, as is putting Blanchette at the forefront of the campaign. It just seems the studio wasn’t sure what to do with a movie that might not be easily placed in a single category. That’s not uncommon with Linklater, who frequently blends genre elements in his stories, but it seems it’s made selling the movie a somewhat difficult proposition.

Picking Up the Spare

Here’s Blanchette’s appearance on “The Late Show.”

There were a number of additional interviews with Blanchett and Linklater in particular, talking about the challenges in filming, the process of rewriting the source novel, working with Blanchett and what lessons Linklater has learned over his career.

Annapurna released another cocktail recipe video as well as a featurette on the character played by Kristen Wiig.

Booksmart – Marketing Recap

booksmart posterAmy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are best friends in the new movie Booksmart, from first time director Olivia Wilde. The two have been inseparable since early childhood, following all the rules and pushing each other to be their best, especially when it comes to following all the rules and succeeding at school, where they’re at the top of their class and ready to head to college.

Feeling like time is running out to blow off some steam and slightly discouraged by the fact that even the burnouts got into good schools, Molly convinces Amy to attend an end-of-year party and let loose for a change. Amy’s not wholly on board, but when they head out they not only have some fun but get into some of the trouble they’ve been avoiding all this time.

The Posters

Amy and Molly are just looking at the camera with faces full of attitude and disdain on the poster, conveying how they view the world and deal with everyone around them. Copy above the title treatment explains that outlook further, labeling them as Getting straight As. Giving zero Fs.”

Just days before release a couple “homage” posters came out that put Amy and Molly in designs reminiscent of classic teen comedies Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Clueless.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released at the same time the movie was debuting at SXSW, shows the audience how Amy and Molly are driven winners who follow the rules and destroy the competition, not risking anything that might keep them from success. That’s annoying to some people and eventually Molly decides they need to cut loose now that high school is over and show everyone how fun they are. Attending a party leads to all kinds of mayhem, of course, as the two get into all sorts of trouble.

About a month later a green-band trailer came out featuring many of the same scenes but with a bit of new footage thrown in hitting similar beats.

One final trailer – in both all-ages and restricted flavors – hit some of the same beats but the latter in particular adds even more of the outrageous antics Amy and Molly get into. There’s also a great line about how they “are not one-dimensional,” a nod to how characters like these in other movies often have a single definable trait.

Online and Social

Annapurna put up a site for the movie that continues the branding seen on the poster and elsewhere and has some of the marketing materials, but not a lot else.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

United Artists partnered with Instagram to offer the studio’s followers on that platform the chance to get tickets to an advance screening of the movie. The partnership marked the first time Instagram has actively promoted a movie campaign like this and followed Wilde and the studio providing early looks to executives and others at tech companies in Silicon Valley.

Media and Publicity

The movie immediately become one that got people talking when it was revealed Wilde would be making her directorial debut with it. She spoke about it early on occasionally, including while at SXSW in 2018 with another film and while promoting Life Itself in late 2018.

A first look still accompanied an interview with Wilde where she talked about the story as well as the filming process and working with the cast. She talked more about the movie when she was named one of Variety’s 10 up and coming directors to watch this year.

Wilde was named one of the featured speakers at the 2019 SXSW, an honor that coincided with the movie’s publicity cycle. That SXSW 2019 premiere was recapped in a sizzle reel video showing Wilde not only promoting the film but also engaging in some of Austin’s finest food and shopping and other activities to help sell the movie to attendees. A short featurette came out in late April that had the cast praising Wilde’s efforts on the set and talking about the story.

Other interviews and profiles had Wilde sharing the influences she pulled from in crafting the story and how to easily increase inclusion in casting decisions while other stories called out the fact that smart girls at the center of a story like this is relatively unusual in the movie industry.

The first clip showed some of the ridiculous high school stuff Amy and Molly have to deal with. A second expanded on the pivotal scene where Molly convinces Amy to break the rules and go to a party for a change.

Featurettes from early May covered the fashion Amy and Molly as well as other characters sport and how Dever and Feldstein bonded on-set and how that bond informed the friendship between their characters.

There was another major profile of Wilde that addressed how she was tired of not being in control of her career. Feldstein received her own interview, with another focusing on her being Jonah Hill’s sister. A joint interview with her and Dever had the pair talking about their characters and the original nature of the story

Billie Lourd, who plays a classmate and social rival of the main characters, did some press in advance of release and was the subject of one of the handful of “Meet the Cast” videos the studio put out, with Dever also getting her turn.

Just before the movie came out Annapurna released the first six minutes of the film to give audiences a bit more of a taste of what to expect and show off the performances by the leads. That worked well in generating a a fair amount of positive buzz, at least among those who were already excited for the film. A major push that involved promotions from Ellen DeGeneres helped do likewise for general audiences.

One theme that emerged was how this movie was part of a trend of stories about lesbian teens, a character type Hollywood has been unsure how to handle or portray for a long while.


Annapurna has run a great campaign that positions the movie as a true original, one that won’t be like anything else currently in theaters. It leans a bit heavily on the notion of this being the “female Superbad,” something that makes the mistake of continuing to consider women only in their relation to men, but it’s also a useful shorthand for the audience to draw some inferences from.

Putting the three women – Wilde, Dever and Feldstein – front and center was the best decision the studio could have made, allowing them to define the movie’s brand and image in the minds of the public. The studio’s last minute push was designed for maximum impact, hoping to sway anyone who hadn’t already committed to seeing Aladdin this weekend and who might be eager for something original.

Picking Up the Spare

Wilde and the two stars shared some drinks and talked about the movie and how the project came together. The director also revealed how Feldstein was the only one she wanted playing Molly and her child’s involvement in production. 

Screenwriter Katie Silberman was interviewed about the long journey the script took to production, including how she worked as producer to help keep things up to date. She spoke about the movie’s ending specifically here. 

There were a couple more TV appearances made by Feldstein as well as another by Dever. Wilde also made a few more stops. 

More featurettes were released by Annapurna, including one that positioned it among classic high school comedies, another with Wilde talking about how she’s one of a precious few female directors working at the studio level and how she wanted to be authentic to the teen experience and one that touted the efforts of casting director Allison Jones in assembling talented actors.  

Additional interviews and features brought the cast and crew together to share stories from the set, introduce the supporting cast and an interview with costar Diana Silvers about her pivotal role. Dever and Feldstein were jointly featured again as well while Silvers got another profile later on.  

The movie’s eventual box-office fate, which was underwhelming, a situation many said was due to Annapurna not fully committing to its marketing, a position I dispute, or engaging in a misguided release strategy. Sam Adams at Slate has a more nuanced take, pointing out that the landscape has changed significantly since Superbad came out in 2007 and that there really wasn’t a winning scenario for the studio when audiences seem intent on gravitating toward familiar spectacle instead of offbeat originality. Whatever the case, the movie got the attention and support of a number of celebrities who tried to rally their social media followers to seek it out. 

Another poster was released well after the movie hit theaters featuring artwork and design that’s very much an homage to the kinds of school-based comedies that came before it, including Animal House and others. 

Vice – Marketing Recap

vice posterOne of the most divisive and controversial personalities in modern American politics gets the satirical treatment in Vice, the new movie from writer/director Adam McKay. The film reunites McKay with star Christian Bale, who this time disappears beneath the weight he put on to play former Vice President Dick Cheney.

The story follows Cheney as he’s tapped by Presidential candidate George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell) to bring the years of experience he’s accumulated as Secretary of Defense as well as a major business owner to help the relatively green Bush govern. But Cheney has other ideas, seeing the weak President as a chance to fully get his hands on the levers of power without having a fraction of scrutiny the higher office would bring.

The Posters

A silhouette of Bale as Cheney is featured on the poster making this seem like an artistic magazine cover. The cast names are featured above the title while McKay’s credits are shared at the very top. It’s a nice bit of pop art helping sell the attitude and approach of the movie.

The Trailers

Bush is recruiting Cheney to be his VP as the trailer opens, though Cheney is somewhat reluctant to take on what’s mostly a “symbolic” position. So he proposes an alternative arrangement where he takes on the management of most everything that’s vital to the presidency, with Bush being left as mostly a figurehead. The montage that follows shows just how extensive Cheney’s role became and how that impacted the country and the world.

The performances by Bale, Rockwell, Carell and others are a highlight here, but what’s also on display is the visual style of the movie, which seems just as fast and tight as what McKay brought to The Big Short. That’s the real sales pitch here, a fast-paced trip behind the curtains of power.

Online and Social

There’s only the usual batch of information and content on the movie’s official website, not much else.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising began in mid-October with a spot showing the same kind of manic energy as the trailer, including Cheney bargaining for the kind of power a VP doesn’t usually enjoy. The movie’s SAG Awards were touted in a promoted Tweet.

Media and Publicity

Some of the first publicity for the movie came during the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. While there promoting Hostiles, Bale was obviously much doughier than he usually is, a change that was often commented on and which he said was part of his preparing for the role.

About a year later not much had happened on the publicity or marketing front, but McKay finally confirmed the movie’s title on Twitter.

A while after the trailer was released McKay started doing interviews, including one where he said Cheney is more dangerous than Trump because he’s smarter and more calculating.

He reiterated those comments in a substantial THR cover story on the movie that had the director talking about the process behind making the movie, Bale gaining the weight for the role and lots more.

An interview with McKay featured him revealing he had a heart attack on set that Bale helped him, thanks in part to the research the actor had done on symptoms and treatment. McKay was also the subject of a feature profile that allowed him to talk about his recent shift into more dramatic – albeit stylized – films, what kind of research he did while preparing for the film and more.

In early December it was announced the movie would open the Capri, Hollywood Film Festival. Shortly after that a first look at Tyler Perry as Colin Powell was released, garnering the same kind of bewildered reactions that greeted pics of Bale as Cheney much earlier.

Adams appeared on “Kimmel” and then on “Late Night” to talk about this and other recent projects of hers. Bale and Rockwell appeared together on a Variety podcast to talk about weight gains, how to not do bad impressions and more.

The movie’s red carpet premiere allowed the cast and McKay to talk about various things, including how a musical number was cut.

Bale’s transformation into Cheney was the subject of man stories, including a feature profile on the actor’s process. How he and McKay went about working to craft the story and how that story fits into the context of today’s political environment was covered in a number of joint interviews with the pair.


The campaign works hard to capture the same tone as The Big Short to try and get the same sort of critical and commercial success that movie saw. So it keeps going for clever and hip in the tone and presentation of the movie to help establish it as the emotional sequel to that earlier effort from McKay.

It never quite reaches that level, mostly because it’s working so hard to do so. That doesn’t mean the campaign doesn’t make the movie look interesting and intriguing. There’s been a lot of talk about how it might be an attempt to “humanize” Cheney, someone who not only engaged in bad behavior of his own but also poisoned the well of American society. That’s not the reading I get from the marketing, though, as it seems to be selling someone it knows is a terrible person and wants to make that point to the audience.

Picking Up the Spare

Carell was interviewed about how he approached the role of one of the most reviled political figures in modern American history.

Bale, Adams and others spoke about creating the movie’s unique visual style and format. McKay also revealed how a surprise cameo came about and why he decided to tell Cheney’s story.

If Beale Street Could Talk – Marketing Recap

Recapping Annapurna’s marketing campaign for If Beale Street Could Talk from director Barry Jenkins.

if beale street could talk poster 2Based on the James Baldwin novel of the same name, If Beale Street Could Talk is the new movie from writer/director Barry Jenkins. Set in early-1970s Harlem, the story focuses on Tish (Kiki Layne) and Fonny (Stephen James) , a couple that’s madly in love.

Tish becomes pregnant about the same time Fonny is sent to prison on charges he raped a woman. Desperate to prove his innocence and get him back and work to get a lawyer for him. Through all this it’s the power of her love for Fonny that pushes Tish forward, never losing hope that they will be together.

The movie goes wide this week with after enjoying success in limited release for the last couple weeks.

The Posters

if beale street could talkTish and Alfonzo are sharing an intimate moment on the first poster, a nice fading red and blue filter from top to bottom. Baldwin’s name is called out, as is Jenkins’. Copy at the bottom encourages us to “Trust love all the way.”

That same tagline is used on the second poster along with many of the other elements from the first one. Tish and Alfonzo are also still looking into each other’s eyes but this time you can see more of the neighborhood street in the background.

The Trailers

The first teaser was released on James Baldwin’s birthday and while it didn’t show much in the way of a linear story, it was clear about the tone of the movie and the theme of family, community and identity. We get the connection between Tish and Alfonzo and how deeply they’re in love, as well as the bond between Tish and her mother. This was an incredibly powerful first effort and sold the idea that Jenkins was not slouching in his sophomore effort.

There are elements of social justice, moral righteousness, class division and much more on display in the second trailer, but at its core it’s selling a movie about love. Tish and Alfonzo are in love with each other and each loves the baby she’s carrying, just as they ask their sometimes-disapproving family to love it and them. Swooping crane shots, well-framed images of inequality and more are all on display here, presenting a movie that’s timely and timeless, grand in scope but personal in focus.

A final short trailer encourages Tish to “trust love all the way” as we see the basic outlines of the story and the romance that drives the characters to make the choices they do.

Online and Social

Annapurna’s official website for the movie offers the trailer as well as a “Lookbook” that features background information on Baldwin, Jenkins and the rest of the cast with quotes and photos from and of everyone involved. The “Acclaim” section has quotes from some of the early reviews of the movie while “Save the Date” lets you add the movie to the calendar of your choice so you remember to buy tickets. There are also links to the official profiles on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A condensed version of the trailer was used on Twitter in late November as a Promoted Post. A later sponsored post focused on King’s performance, calling out the recent nominations it had scored.

Media and Publicity

The first news of the movie came when it was announced the adaptation would be Jenkins’ follow-up to his critically-acclaimed Moonlight. The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, with first look stills released around the same time. It also made the list for the New York Film Festival.

The U.S. premiere, though, was scheduled for the Apollo Theater in New York in October. That’s a nice placement since that’s Jenkins’ home turf.

A profile of Layne pegged her as the “rookie of the year,” saying her performance in this movie would catapult her to the big time. Another one also pegged her as the breakout star of the film.

While in Toronto, Jenkins spoke about how the movie’s story resonates today though it’s set in the past as well as how he wrote it as a companion piece of sorts to Moonlight. He also shared the advice he received in the wake of that movie’s success, what kind of offers he did and didn’t get and more. There was more from Jenkins offered during the Q&A following the film’s screening and a later interview had him revealing the role actor Jake Gyllenhaal played in securing the rights to the book.

Jenkins was honored at PEN America LitFest Gala. During an NYFF session, Jenkins spoke about how his approach to the story was informed greatly by the unique access he was given to Baldwin’s notes on the book and other background material.

A brief interview with Diego Luna had the actor talking about how he modeled his character after Jenkins himself. Colman was interviewed about his role and what the production was like a bit later on.

The Gotham Awards nominated the film in multiple categories, giving it a boost going into awards season.

The audience was introduced to the work of James Baldwin in a featurette from late November that had Jenkins and others speaking about the legacy of the author and the books he wrote, specifically the one the movie is based on. Another from a few weeks later had Jenkins focusing on how Baldwin used Beale Street as a blank canvas for anywhere in America.

More interviews with Jenkins followed in late November, many of which focused on the need to tell more stories about a broader range of black characters and people than have been historically produced, what other black-penned novels may be ripe for adaptation and what black authors people should dig deeper into.

King spoke about her career as well as her role in the film and how it’s been received so far while Jenkins continued to speak about his favorite moment in the movie and the burden of doing justice to Baldwin’s legacy.

The first clip offered an extended look at the scene where Tish announces to the rest of her family that she’s pregnant. A later clip, released after the movie was already in some theaters, showed an emotional confrontation about the baby.

The movie’s Golden Globes nominations allowed Jenkins to speak some more about the themes of the movie and how relevant and important it is. He was also interviewed about how the movie represents the culmination of his obsession with and devotion to Baldwin and his attempt to get the voice of the story right.

Annapurna shared the highlights of a cast Q&A that accompanied a recent screening of the movie. After that an interview with King had her talking about the movie and Jenkins talking about working with her. She also appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about this and other upcoming projects.

The movie was added to many critics’ end-of-year best-of lists while different members of the cast continued to heralded as breakout stars of the year, all of which added to the movie’s cache and buzz.

Jenkins was interviewed on “CBS This Morning” about the empathy he felt was at the heart of Baldwin’s story. He also called out how he keeps casting his movies with talented young actors from Chicago’s DePaul University while also touching on some of the other regular themes.

There were also profiles of Layne that focused on how rare it is for a black actress to play a straightforward romantic lead and interviews with Henry about the story and characters. The scarcity of romantic roles for black actors was also mentioned by Domingo. Jenkins made even more media appearances on “The Late Show” while James did “Late Night.”


You have to love how Jenkins is selling this as a passion project of the first degree from beginning to end. Unlike many other projects to which that label is affixed this time it’s not just about something the creator found clever or interesting at some point but an essential story he felt needed to be brought to a wider audience.

It’s his personality, bolstered by the acclaim he’s received in the wake of Moonlight, that’s at the forefront of the campaign. Every time Jenkins was interviewed about the influence Baldwin had on him it’s his commitment to the author’s message that comes through most clearly. Not only that but, like many of the best leaders, he keeps pushing the spotlight onto the others involved, namely the talented cast.

The late focus in the publicity on how love stories featuring all-black casts is similar to how movies like Crazy Rich Asians was covered and achieves the same end, calling out how bad Hollywood has been on creating inclusive stories. At some point this will hopefully be so common it’s no longer worth mentioning.

Picking Up the Spare

Another interview with the whole cast of the movie about their history with Baldwin’s work and filming with Jenkins.

Henry appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie, as did James and King.

The Sisters Brothers – Marketing Recap

sisters brothers poster 2John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix play the titular pair in the new movie The Sisters Brothers. Eli (Reilly) and Charlie (Phoenix) are a couple of assassins in the 1850s with a reputation for efficiency, cruelty and success, they find themselves pursued across Arizona by Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), who has a grudge to settle with the brothers.

Along the way Eli and Charlie deal with not only with the consequences of their actions but also Eli’s changed perspective on what they do and how long they can do it. So they have crises both personal and professional to surmount, including simply staying alive.

The Posters

sisters brothers posterThe shape of a skull wafts up to the sky from the dust kicked up by the brother’s horses on the poster, letting everyone know that death follows them on their journeys. The copy at the bottom hits that same point: “Make a killing. Make a living.”

Eli and Charlie are seen more clearly on the theatrical poster, standing side by side and looking rough from the life they lead. “Brothers by blood. Sisters by name.” is the copy at the top of the one-sheet.

The Trailers

As we see in the trailer, the two brothers are a pair of hired guns just trying to make a living in the Old West. Eli is looking for a way out of their violent life and dreams of opening a small store and setting down but Charlie seems to think this is all he knows how to do. They’re on the trail of a prospector/chemist who may have discovered a new way to pan for gold. The “why” of that isn’t made clear, just that Eli is hoping this will be their last outing.

It’s a pretty funny trailer, though not consistently and not in expected ways. Basically what’s being sold here is a kind of ironic Western more than anything, with some laughs along the way as we see people dealing with the violent life they need to live to survive.

Online and Social

The official website only has the trailer and a synopsis along with a prompt to buy tickets. It doesn’t even feature links to the movie’s Instagram, Facebook or Twitter profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A few paid Tweets crossed my radar, but that’s about it. No TV spots were found and I didn’t see any other online ads being run.

Media and Publicity

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the Venice Film Festival. Those appearances created a good amount of positive buzz and, in the case of the Deauville Film Festival, an award that the stars, writer and director were all on hand to collect.

Reilly spoke while in Toronto about the long journey he’s taken to get the movie made and more. There was also a profile of Reilly that covered how he’s always had a varied and interesting career, as well as talking about how this was one of several movies he had coming out in the next several months. A similar profile hit the same basic points.

A clip released earlier this week shows a showdown between the two men. At about the same it was announced the movie was being added to the lineup for the London Film Festival.


The emphasis in the publicity campaign has been on Reilly, which makes sense given Phoenix has been on quite a few recent releases that have involved a good number of interviews and other profiles. It’s good to see, since we don’t often enough give Reilly credit for being able to bounce effortlessly between comedy, drama and everything in between.

Overall the message of the campaign is that the movie deals with the effect violence has on your life and your soul. That’s a good message for today’s world, where violence is too often seen as something that can be easily compartmentalized and put to the side. The word of mouth that’s been generated in the last week or two thanks to festival screenings may help it find an audience in limited release.


A new interview with John C. Reilly includes hefty background on how is wife Alison Dickey was the one who found the novel and helped bring the movie along.

A couple fun little videos were released after the movie came out that showed how to get ready for a lady and mix a drink in the Old West.

Another full trailer came out post-release. This one starts out by introducing the brothers and then explaining who they are what they do. What they’re running from isn’t made all that clear, but we do get lots of background on the bond between the two and how committed they are to each other, even if they’ve started to see things differently.

Costar Raz Ahmed spoke here about working on the movie and taking on a role that isn’t always available to non-white actors. And Rebecca Root talks about being a trans woman playing a cis woman.

Author Patrick DeWitt, writer of the source novel, was interviewed about what it was like seeing his story and characters be turned into a movie.

Another little “how to” video was released, this time on how to cook a gourmet dinner.

A series of character posters offers brief descriptions of who each of the leads is.

Sorry To Bother You – Marketing Recap

sorry to bother you poster 10Rap/hip-hop star Boots Riley makes his feature film writing and directing debut with this week’s new release Sorry To Bother You. Based in part on Riley’s own experience, the movie stars Lakeith Stanfield as Cassius, a young man living in a magical alternate version of Oakland with his girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson). Riley is kind of aimless and has trouble holding down a job, but is a nice guy who works hard.

One day he gets a job at a telemarketing firm and finds the key to success is simply hiding his blackness and pretending to be someone else. Suddenly he’s raking in the cash both from his real job and taking other opportunities that are a little more questionable, all while living a life that is ever-so-slightly exaggerated from reality.

The Posters

A series of brightly-colored posters, one for each character, came out right around the time of SXSW. Each one gave us a look at the character, with the name of the actor above the title, but written like it’s going to offer their character name. So it’s “Tessa Thompson is Sorry to Bother You.” That’s kind of fun and shows the movie’s irreverent and unusual attitude.



Two more posters came out later, one of which showed Cassius on the phone despite his head being bandaged while the copy emphasized “Destiny is calling.” The other was more of a theatrical one-sheet, showing Cassius from a distance as he leans against a wall while looking at something on his phone. There’s no tagline here, just a couple of positive blurbs from early reviews of the film.

The Trailers

I honestly don’t know what’s going on in the first trailer and I don’t really care. We have Cassius working menial jobs and living with Detroit before finding the keys to success in making himself sound more white on the phone and getting involved with the shady Steve. It’s a trip and a half and looks incredible. This is going to appeal to a lot of people for its whacked out attitude and clear message about what it takes to make it in the world and how much you have to sell out to celebrate.

The second trailer is similarly inscrutable, showing more or less the same level of “wow…what?” as the first, only slightly more outrageous thanks to its red-band designation. There’s so much good stuff here but if you’re looking for realism, this isn’t the place.

Online and Social

For a movie that’s so obviously presenting a heightened version of reality, the official website is pretty ordinary. There’s all the usual material like the trailers and information on the cast and crew, along with some quotes from early reviews of the movie. Up in the corner are links to the film’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles. One interesting addition is a link to a merchandise store where you can buy some of the fashion and other items featured in the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I haven’t seen or been able to find any TV spots, which is surprising given the studio is generally giving this a sizable push. There has been some online advertising done using elements pulled from the key art.

Media and Publicity

Almost universally – unsurprising given the creative talent on both sides of the camera – the movie made critics’ “films we need to see” lists in advance of its Sundance Film Festival debut. While the subsequent buzz wasn’t universally positive, it was still well-received and was called out as one of a handful of films at the festival taking a fresh look at masculinity. Hammer spoke while there about the unusual nature of the story and the character he plays. Annapurna Pictures acquired distribution before the festival was over. Riley also was interviewed a bit, talking about how he’s always harbored aspirations of being a filmmaker, what it was like to attend Sundance and more. After that it was also screened at the SXSW Film Festival.

Riley was later announced as the recipient of the Sundance Institute’s Vanguard Award. A feature profile of the freshman filmmaker went through his whole career, the somewhat difficult process of getting the movie made, how he’s had to hustle and scrap to maintain his creative edge and lots more. He, along with members of the cast, spoke more when the movie was screened at BAMcinemafest.

A video profile introduced Riley to those unfamiliar with him and allowed the filmmaker to explain what the movie was about. He and the rest of the cast talked about the experience of filming in Oakland and more in a series of interviews like thisThere were also a few joint interviews with Stanfield and Thompson where they talked about how unusual and interesting the movie was and what attracted them to it.


If Riley was looking to come out of the gate with a strong first impression, he appears to have succeeded spectacularly. Not only has he made what looks to be a spectacularly original movie, but Annapurna has given it a campaign that is one of the most colorful and eye-catching of the year. Its vibrant personality and skewed sense of humor is front and center, making sure anyone who catches any part of the marketing is going to know exactly what kind of movie it is they can expect should they choose to visit the theater.


Writer/director Boots Riley ignited a thousand hot takes when he spoke up about the lack of international distribution for his well-received movie, citing a belief by the studio and others that “black” movies still don’t work overseas.


There isn’t usually a lot of attention paid to producers, but Nina Yang Bongiovi got a nice profile covering how she has become a force in the indie movie world and helped bring this movie to fruition.


The movie has generated a metric ton of stories such as this about code-switching and “white voice.” Annapurna Pictures leaned into that by releasing a featurette with Patton Oswalt and David Cross, who provide some of the white voices used by black characters in the film.


Star Lakeith Stanfield has engaged in a bit more media, including appearing on “Kimmel” to promote the movie.


Lakeith Stanfield received a substantial profile in The New York Times covering how he’s made a decent career to date by playing off-kilter characters.


There’s also been lots more coverage of writer/director Boots Riley, including this feature where he talks tech and this one where he weighs in on the role activism should play in the life of the artist.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – Marketing Recap

Annapurna Pictures is hoping to capitalize on a hot cultural moment with this week’s release of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. The movie follows William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans), a psychologist in the early 1940s, as he takes the ideas he’s researched and championed around women’s sexual strength and freedom, as well as his earlier invention of the lie detector, to create the superhero known as Wonder Woman.

Those ideas are not only expressed in comic form, albeit under a pseudonym, but put into practice. While he’s married to Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) the relationship is an open one. He introduces a fascinating young student named Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) into the mix, the three of them forming a tight supportive unit that allows for the pushing of all sorts of boundaries.

The Posters

Three character posters featured all three of the main cast against a bright background, the two women holding a very familiar looking lasso, with Olive also sporting a Wonder Woman-esque costume. “Ever wonder?” is the question posed on all three posters. There doesn’t appear to have been a final “theatrical” poster released, with the version showing Olive in costume used as the primary one-sheet.

The Trailers

The first thing was a brief teaser that had voiceovers talking about secret identities and the reasons someone is writing something. All that as a woman steps out from the light and we see she’s dressed in a fancy getup that closely resembles some aspects of Wonder Woman’s costume.

Immediately as the trailer opens we meet Marston and find out he’s writing Wonder Woman under an assumed name, though a board of some sort is questioning his motivations for doing so. Marston becomes fascinated with a female student of his and they begin a relationship of some sort, one that eventually extends to include his wife. That review board takes issue with the content of the comics he’s writing and we find out he’s trying to understand the women in his life.

It’s not bad, showing the twisted and unexpected relationships that form between Marston, his wife and the student. And we certainly get that this is happening as he’s writing and setting out the early years of Wonder Woman. There’s talk of bondage and sadomasochism, all of which have been well-discussed topics integral to the character’s development.

A later trailer wasn’t all that much different, just with some new shading around the edges. The basic premise is that same, that Marston’s ideas for bringing his ideas about women’s empowerment aren’t making him any friends and are even viewed with skepticism by his wife. There are a few new scenes but the basic message is the same and it’s presented much more dramatically.

One final trailer offered much of the same footage but framed it like a cross between a comic book and Pop Up Video, with various secrets and facts about the characters and story being shared along the bottom of the screen. There was also a spot that took some of the footage and presented it in art form, coming off like a motion comic.

Online and Social

There’s not much happening on the movie’s official website. The official trailer appears in the middle of the front page, surrounded by the smoldering flames of comic books being burned, seemingly in protest. There are links along the side of the video player to buy tickets as well as to the movie’s Twitter, Instagram and Facebook profiles. Finally, if you click the flame icon, the video player disappears and you see that yes, indeed, someone is burning Wonder Woman comics.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Promoted posts were published on Twitter and Facebook that used short clips pulled from the trailers, selling the basic outline of the story and promising audiences “The year of Wonder Woman continues.” That’s a more overt attempt to ride the coattails of the earlier movie than had been made to date.

Online ads used the key art, particularly the shot of Heathcote wearing the very Wonder Woman-esque costume and holding a lasso, as well as shots of all three leads to drive ticket sales.

Media and Publicity

While the movie didn’t have a big push at San Diego Comic-Con, it was there that director Angela Robinson talked about how she discovered the story of the Marstons and what it was that attracted her to it. The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival, a screening that resulted in pretty positive word-of-mouth and initial reviews.

Robinson spoke in an interview in EW’s fall movie preview about how this was really a love story the movie was sharing, albeit an unconventional one.

Writer/director Robinson talked about her own history as a Wonder Woman fan and the surprises that accompanied her research into the real lives of Marston and the women who helped define the character he created. She also addressed, while at Toronto, the advantageous timing of release, coming so soon after the very-successful Wonder Woman. That timing, she said, was purely coincidental because of the long time this project has been gestating and waiting to be approved.

All three main cast members did the press rounds, showing up on late night and early morning talk shows sometimes on their own and sometimes as a trio.

Hall and Evans were interviewed along with Robinson about the delicacy with which they had to film a particularly racy sex scene with Heathcote. A profile of Heathcote allowed her to offer her own thoughts on the “courageous” nature of the sex-positive story being shared in the movie. And Robinson kept talking about how surprising the untold story of Marston was and what motivated her to share it with the world.


As everyone, including myself, has pointed out, the studio here wants to make hay while the sun shines, hoping to capitalize off the tremendous popularity and goodwill of Wonder Woman earlier this year. Some aspects of the campaign do so explicitly while others are more implicit and subtle. Whatever the actual execution the audience is asked to apply a halo effect to this new release on account of the character’s resurgence into the spotlight of popular culture.

While that’s been the aim of the marketing campaign, the publicity efforts have been more focused on the constant reminders that Marston’s background and the events leading to the creation of Wonder Woman aren’t widely known. There’s also been a strong emphasis on the sex-positive nature of that backstory, with those condemning Marston’s relationships and worldviews clearly positioned as impediments to his progressive cause.

All that adds up to a campaign that’s trying to sell a relationship drama, though one with superhero trappings. It succeeds on that front, particularly when taken as a whole. If you’ve just been exposed to part of the effort your perspective may be different.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Detroit – Marketing Recap

detroit poster 2Summer is usually when studios put out movies that don’t challenge audiences all that intensely. People want to be entertained, not lectured to. Dunkirk challenged that a couple weeks ago and now Detroit seeks to do likewise, only more so.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the movie stars John Boyega and others in a story based on the true events that took place in the titular city 50 years ago. Specifically, it’s focused on the raid by police of the Algiers Motel in Detroit and the subsequent death of three black men and the severe beatings of other men and women. That raid took place during protests and riots by black citizens in the city that emerged following an earlier confrontation and was followed by continued unrest that culminated in the National Guard and other military elements being sent in. What precisely happened in the Algiers was never made entirely clear and, just as is too common today, subsequent trials exonerated the officers involved.

The Posters

detroit pic 1The first poster employs a tactic that’s being used more and more, that of shifting the perspective to show an image that is actually a landscape that’s turned on its side to be in portrait format. Some of the copy is oriented for portrait but the main photo of cops holding back a group of protestors and the title are both landscape. The photo is a bit beaten up like it’s been handled and stored for decades and is worn. It’s pretty effective at establishing the setting and story without giving away too much. “It’s time we knew” is the copy that tells us we’re getting some story we likely aren’t aware of.

A second poster uses the same portrait orientation for the title while placing four close-up shots of members of the main cast in quad format around the poster. Again, the appeal is made that this comes from the director of Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker and is based on a shocking and “terrifying” true story of a time in America’s recent history.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off with actual news footage from the 1967 violence that gripped the city. So we hear about the snipers that have everyone on edge and other actions. We meet Melvin, a security guard who’s just trying to do his job and keep things peaceful before cutting to a bus load of citizens who decide to hole up at a local motel until things calm down. Things begin to escalate when someone pulls a prank involving a starter pistol that no one outside knows is fake. So the police and national guard that are in the city raid the hotel and start looking for the gun. That brings everyone together as the burnt out military just wants answers, Melvin wants everyone to survive and the violence everywhere escalates.

It’s an incredibly effective and terrifying trailer that shows the historical context for the story and the very personal perspective we will be asked to follow. Boyega looks great as the cop who just wants to keep the peace and do his job. The violence keeps ramping up further and further and this looks like a gripping story.

As the second trailer opens we see Melvin is being questioned by the police about the events of the dramatic night. He recounts what he knows from his involvement as a security guard but it turns out the police have it in mind to pin at least some of the deaths at the hotel on him. It’s then the trailer pans out to set the historical context of what happened in the city as a whole and in the hotel where everything went down.

I kind of dig how this one takes a more personal approach to the story. It’s not just about the city, it’s about *this* guy and what happened to him and what he saw. That makes sense both from the point of view of connecting the audience very personally with the story and because hey, why not put Boyega front and center for at least part of the campaign, right?

Online and Social

When you load the official website it’s clear the site is built on Tumblr from the way content is laid out. The trailer starts playing in one of the tiles at the top of the page, with another letting you play a video that intercuts footage from the movie with an interview with a number of people who lived through the events depicted and the filmmakers.

Keep scrolling down the page and you’ll encounter a number of other photos from both the film and the news of the time. You can sort which ones you’d like to see by choosing either “Film” or “1967. The “Trailer” will play the final trailer for you.

Most importantly, more of the interviews can be found in “True Stories,” which gives you the same one seen at the top of the page as well as a second with more memories and insights.

The bottom of the page has links to the movie’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV advertising kicked off with a spot that condensed the story down to show the racial climate that will be portrayed in the movie, with shots of kids acting tough and cops getting in everyone’s faces as tensions begin to boil over.

The second trailer was used pretty extensively in social ads on Twitter and Facebook. Key art was used for outdoor billboards as well as banner and other online ads.

Media and Publicity

One aspect of the movie got particular attention, namely that it was a movie about black people that was written by a white guy. Screenwriter Mark Boal addressed that disconnect head-on, discussing how he discovered the story, the responsibility he felt to tell it, working with Bigelow again and lots more.

Boyega also was a focus of the press, where he talked about taking on this role, what it’s been like to bounce between Star Wars and other projects and other topics like how familiar he was or wasn’t with this particular part of America’s history. Boyega also did the late night talk show rounds to promote the movie there.

detroit pic

As a well-known director it was good to see Bigelow get the spotlight as well. She and co-star Anthony Mackie did their own press appearances, was interviewed about how this movie fits into her body of work that focuses on real-life action and violence and otherwise talked about doing what she could to highlight a part of history.


This is a challenging movie to sell. It’s the kind of low-profile prestige movie that doesn’t usually get big release platforms these days. Indeed, I kept having to remind myself it wasn’t a Netflix original film, something they picked up at a festival.

The campaign hasn’t shied away from some difficult topics, though, including the attitudes and behaviors of the police and military who were in or sent to Detroit to deal with the situation. Boyega’s security guard character is clearly our entry point into the story, the one we’re following and who is shown to be beholden to two viewpoints, both that of law enforcement and his identity as a black man. It’s through his eyes that we see what’s happening and how things spiral out of control.

Not only is what’s being sold an important historical lesson – especially for people like me who knew of but weren’t all that familiar with what happened there – but it’s so incredibly timely to the world we live in now. It seems like once a month a new instance emerges of police killing unarmed black men, women and children and eventually being set free. Riots and protests have popped up around the country in the last three years in response to this and while none have reached the fever pitch of Detroit 50 years ago, they’re all reminders that we have a long way to go. The marketing of Detroit never makes that connection explicitly, but it’s there in the background for anyone who’s been watching the news.