JoJo Rabbit – Marketing Recap

Director Taika Waititi returns with a satire set in the past that’s still very much about the present.

jojo rabbit poster 2Waititi takes a break from interstellar super hero adventures to bring audiences another biting comedy. JoJo Rabbit is set in World War II Germany, home of young JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis) and his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson). JoJo is a member of the Hitler Youth, but his heart isn’t really in it and his sensitive nature leads to him being picked on by the other boys.

To compensate for that, JoJo creates an imaginary friend, one that gives him advice and helps him deal with all the emotions he’s feeling. It just so happens that imaginary friend is a version of Hitler himself (Waititi). Things get even more complicated for him when he discovers his mother has been hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in their home.

Fox Searchlight has given the movie, which is admittedly unconventional in its story and subject matter, one of the more memorable and entertaining campaigns of the year, one that’s true to Waititi’s brand. The movie is only opening in select theaters this week.

The Posters

jojo rabbit posterThe movie’s irreverent attitude is on display on the first poster, released in late July. The title is presented in big letters within a massive hand making what could be bunny ears, a peace sign, or both. The impressive cast list’s names are dropped in the blank space outside of that hand.

In August the second poster came out. This one arranges photos of the primary characters around JoJo, Hitler in the background giving the young boy rabbit ears to convey some sense of humor and have some fun with the title.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer (2.3 million views on YouTube) was released in late July, at the same time it was announced the movie would screen at Toronto. It doesn’t offer many hints to the story, but does include plenty of scenes showing Waititi’s absurdist take on World War II Germany. At the very end we see the director himself as Hitler trying to raise the spirits of young JoJo, who’s being picked on by his classmates.

September brought the second trailer (10.8 million views on YouTube), released just as the film was enjoying its festival screenings. It’s wonderfully delightful in how it shows JoJo to be a product of his time, albeit an apparently reluctant one. He’s shown as being conflicted about his involvement in various Hitler Youth activities, even as he has his imaginary friend there helping him along. When he discovers his mother has been hiding Elsa in the attic of their house things get even more complicated as he has a face to put to all the propaganda, one that doesn’t seem threatening or dangerous.

There are two moments worth calling out in particular:

First, Elsa repudiation of JoJo – “You’re not a Nazi, JoJo. You’re a 10 year old kid who likes dressing up in a uniform and wants to be part of a club.” – seems like a direct comment on the kind of militia cosplayers frequently seen in today’s world on the outskirts of social protests and other events. These men aren’t actually part of the military but enjoy putting on similar uniforms and sporting similar weaponry, finding common cause in intimidating the women and people of color they feel threatened by.

Two, Hitler’s backwards leg kick as he walks away from JoJo toward the end of the trailer would appear to be Waititi providing a subtle physical reference to a previous comedic incarnation of the dictator. Namely, it’s very similar to how Charlie Chaplin kicks the globe around the room during a key sequence of The Great Dictator. The movement is so clear and similar it can’t help but be inspired by The Little Tramp.

Online and Social

In addition to the trailers and other marketing assets, the official website from Fox Searchlight has a “Message from Taika” where he shares what his goals in making this movie at this time are and why he chose to undertake this kind of project. It’s a wonderful message that speaks clearly to the idea of children being raised to hate and what the effects of that kind of indoctrination are.

Advertising and Publicity

It was announced in late July that the movie would premiere at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, a major platform for the film and one where Waititi was given the Roger Ebert Directing Award. It was also slated to open Fantastic Fest in September and for the London Film Festival as well as the Hamptons Film Festival.

Waititi and Searchlight revived a decade old meme – one that predates the days when social media platforms lets users add GIFs as a shorthand for their feelings – with the release of a reaction video using footage from the film Downfall with new, inaccurate subtitles. In this case, Hitler is shown in his bunker reacting poorly as his generals and others informed him about the movie and Waititi’s involvement. It’s brilliant.

Reactions that came out of the Toronto screening were mostly positive, though a bit mixed as people grappled with how exactly the movie handles its Nazi material. It did win the Audience Award at the festival, though.

It was then scheduled to be the opening night feature at Film Fest 919 in October.

A sweet moment between JoJo and his mother was shown in the first clip released at the beginning of October. The next clip has Rosie confronting a Nazi officer (played by Sam Rockwell) about the mistreatment JoJo has received. One more shows JoJo and Imaginary Hitler having a pleasant and inspiring conversation.

Online ads used a mix of straightforward key art and over-the-top “chumbox” ads that took the provocative nature of the movie’s story and amped it up even further as a way to defuse controversy by poking fun at itself. Preroll video ads were placed on YouTube and other social networks that used cut down versions of the trailer.

Media and Press

As production got underway, Waititi talked about how it was going to piss off a lot of Nazis (always a good thing) and shared a first look at himself in Hitler garb to get people talking. The movie was also part of the CineEurope presentation from the studio. Waititi talked more about his unusual role during a masterclass he held during the Toronto Film Festival and then offered a brief update while promoting the “What We Do In the Shadows” TV show earlier this year.

An interview with Waititi included his comments on the movie’s story and tone.

Reports came to light in early August that Disney executives were becoming increasingly concerned about the movie, specifically that a satirical film about Hitler as a young boy’s imaginary friend was too controversial for the studio’s fans. That seems to assume that group is a single entity with a sole opinion based on movies like Cinderella and Toy Story, not to mention The Avengers and Star Wars. It’s also telling that a movie whose target is Hitler has people within the studio nervous.

During Venice there was another interview with Waititi where he explained how and why he tried to tell a story set in Nazi Germany with a comedic tone and how he approached playing a “benign” Hitler that existed in the mind of a 10 year old boy. He hit similar points when he was interviewed during the Toronto Film Festival.

jojo rabbit pic

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.

An interview with producer Chelsea Winstanley allowed her to talk about the role of comedy in analyzing social issues and what kinds of movies she has coming in the near future. Similar ground was covered in a joint interview with Waititi and much of the cast while Johansson spoke about how she approached her role here. Her emphasis on motherhood was reiterated by the director, who said he made the movie in part as a tribute to single moms.


If you want a single element that sums up the tone of the campaign it has to be the resurrection of the Downfall meme. One of the odd things about that meme, which was popular online in the days before Twitter in particular offered native GIF support, was always based on the shared assumption that it was kind of alright to use something explicitly Nazi-related to share some other message. We were finding humor by coopting Nazi imagery, removing some of the power that imagery has.

That’s more or less what Waititi is doing here. He’s using a very specific era – one that was filled with hate and violence – to send a message that hatred and violence are weak and powerless in the face of love and compassion. Using satire to do so only makes that message all the more cutting and compelling.

Waititi has made nothing but wholly original films. Even Thor: Ragnarok is on that list, with a tone and style that was drastically different from other super hero spectacles. They’ve all been about outsiders who are desperate to be understood, and this movie is no different, it’s just using slightly more controversial subject matter for fodder, but that makes the message all the more powerful.

Picking Up the Spare

There were lots of interviews with Waititi that touched on themes he expressed at the premiere, including how comedy can be used as a means fighting hate and how we should be past having to point out that Nazis are bad.

Waititi appeared on “Kimmel” and “The Daily Show” while Johansson stopped by “The Tonight Show.”

More clips as well as a making of featurettte have been released since the movie hit theaters, along with another video that focused on the ensemble cast assembled. Waititi reflected on applying his unique perspective to the subject matter in a featurette released in early November.

The movie’s production team talked about getting the look of the era right as well as how it would have appeared to a young boy. McKenzie also finally got a profile of her own.

An important point from this interview with Waititi, that he’s not in the business of conveying historical facts but getting to the truth of a moment.

There as a profile in November of Davis, the boy who plays JoJo, that included his thoughts on what message the movie is trying to send.

Lucy in the Sky – Marketing Recap

Fox Searchlight sells a story of how reentry is the hardest part of both space missions and everyday life.

lucy in the sky posterFor the second time in a month Hollywood is telling the story of an astronaut. This time around the movie is Lucy in the Sky, starring Natalie Portman as Lucy Cola, an astronaut who returns to Earth after an extended mission in space to find her connections to the world are more tenuous and less satisfying than the thrill of being out among the stars.

Loosely based on the real life of astronaut Lisa Nowak, the story follows Cola as she fights to reintegrate into her life and family after she’s back on the ground, her perspective on things changed by her time out in the black. When an affair with another astronaut (Jon Hamm) turns south, Cola’s behavior becomes even more erratic and dangerous.

Early reviews haven’t been positive – it sports a poor 28 percent on Rotten Tomatoes – but the campaign from Fox Searchlight sells an original twist on the idea of how dramatic events change your outlook on life and grip on reality.

The Posters

Lucy stands looking at the moon on the first poster (by marketing agency LA), the image meant to emphasize the scale of the universe while also communicating her longing to return to space. The movie’s appearance at the Toronto Film Festival is touted at the top. Note also how her name is slightly elevated in the title treatment, a nice visual representation of how she’s floating above things, not quite grounded in the way the rest of us are.

The Trailers

The first teaser from mid-March opens with Lucy losing her focus while out on a spacewalk. Her return to Earth shows she’s having problems adjusting to life back on the ground having been changed by her experiences seeing so much of the universe. She’s feeling “a little off” and has been hallucinating as well as behaving in ways that may be harmful to herself or others. Those around her want to help and understand, but just can’t see what’s happening to her.

It was August before the second trailer was released. This one shows even more clearly the problems Lucy is having in restarting her life on Earth after having walked in space. She can’t connect with family or friends and starts seeing others as threats to her success and notoriety. She also frantically begins an affair with fellow astronaut Goodwin, who’s just one of those around her that starts to feel Lucy is increasingly untethered from reality and might even be dangerous.

Online and Social

Fox Searchlight’s website for the film is good, if a bit understocked. The “Cast” section offers brief video clips of the character played by each named actor with “About” containing a story synopsis and “Videos” housing both trailers.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Two short clips were released in late September/early October. One had Lucy and Goodwin talking about what she’s accomplished in her life while the second had her commiserating with other astronauts about what they’ve all gone through on their missions.

If there was other advertising done it wasn’t extensive enough to cross my radar. It’s likely some video ads were produced that ran online and maybe even on TV and that other online ads used visuals from the film, but I haven’t encountered them.

Media and Publicity

The first still from the film showed Portman in full NASA uniform, but not much else.

In early 2019 the movie’s title was changed from Pale Blue Dot to its current name.

An interview with Hawley in September allowed him to talk about the story and how he worked to stay as accurate as possible to reality, though there were some changes made and omissions decided upon. Portman and Hamm later discussed the research they did and the chemistry they developed on screen.

At the movie’s premiere, Portman talked about the difficult process of donning a spacesuit for the film while Hamm commented on the unique nature of the story. Another interview with Portman had her sharing details on what was or wasn’t included in the movie’s story and how that plays into gender politics in this day and age.

Both stars made the late night and morning talk show rounds to talk about the movie and their experiences shooting it. So did costar Zazie Beetz, who plays one of Cola’s fellow astronauts, one she sees as a rival both personally and professionally.


One of the constant themes in the press coverage of the movie was an anecdote about the real life woman whose life is being shared here involving wearing astronaut “diapers” on her cross-country trek to confront the man she’d been having an affair with. That detail is apparently not included in the film and Portman was repeatedly asked why it was omitted.

The obsession (there’s no other real word to use) with this aspect of the story is a great indicator of how many members of the press search for the lowest, most salacious detail to pull out, one that will generate the most clicks because it contains the word “diaper.” It says more about the state of the industry than it does with the filmmaking choices made by director Noah Hawley or any of the writers.

That it has dominated the press cycle is unfortunate, because there’s a good movie being sold in the rest of the campaign and my fear is it’s tainted how the film is being received. The marketing as a whole is selling a movie about how hard it is to reenter the real world after being so far removed from it for so long. That idea has been explored before, but mostly with soldiers returning from war zones as the protagonist. To put a woman who has glimpsed something extraordinary and who then has problems adjusting to everyday minutiae and routines is an intriguing twist on that, one that is worth exploring more deeply.

Picking Up the Spare

Just after the movie was released another extended TV spot came out that emphasized the scale of the story.

Cinematographer Polly Morgan talked about how she used visuals to show the main character’s descent into emotional instability.

Hamm stopped by “The Late Show” to talk about the movie and more.

More from director Hawley on his approach to the story and more here, while a later interview had him talking about supporting women and doing his best to tell their stories.

Ready or Not – Marketing Recap

Tracking shows Fox Searchlight’s horror-comedy will bring in over $6 million opening weekend.

ready or not posterThis week’s new release Ready Or Not has a familiar premise: Grace (Samara Weaving) is about to marry Alex (Mark O’Brien), whose family is incredibly rich and powerful, having made their fortune selling games. As is the case in many stories, the members of the Le Domas family have concerns Grace is only marrying Alex because of his money.

With that in mind, the family has the tradition of playing a game whenever someone new joins the family. In this case the game is Hide and Seek, which sounds innocent enough. What Grace finds, though, is that this version involves her being hunted in the massive Le Domas mansion. If she survives the night, she is deemed worthy.

The studio has run a campaign that’s heavy on shocks and laughs to try and bring in an audience looking for something original as the summer winds down.

The Posters

Grace looks ready for action in her bridal gown on the poster, with the members of the family she’s marrying into arrayed around her similarly armed and apparently very hostile and dangerous. The mansion where the action takes place is burning in the background, setting the location of the action while also promising things are going to take a very nasty turn. It’s a dark image but it matches the tone of the trailer.

The Trailers

Things seem fine, if awkward, at the opening of the trailer. Grace is about to marry into Alex’s extremely wealthy family. After the ceremony she finds there’s one more hurdle to clear, she has to play a game of the family’s choosing, a kind of rite of passage. Only this game of Hide & Seek has her hiding from her new in-laws as they chase her around a massive estate with weapons, promising she’ll be welcomed if she manages to stay alive. Seems there’s some sort of ritual she’s meant to be a part of, and the chase is filled with accidental shootings, bloody revenge and more as the movie is shown to be a dark, violent comey.

Online and Social

Unlike many recent movies, Searchlight’s website features a nice design and some unique features. Click on any of the names in the “Cast” section and you get a short video of the character they play interacting with Grace in some manner. Brief information on the “Filmmakers” is available along with a “Story” synopsis, the red-band trailer and links to the social profiles for the film.

Advertising and Publicity

Weaving and the filmmakers brought the movie to Fantasia Fest in late July to reach those fans.

In early August the first clip was released showing an extended look at the scene where the game being played that night is chosen. A second has Grace being found by Daniel but being given a head start by him.

The Midsummer Scream event in Long Beach, CA included a movie-themed “experience” that attendees – largely horror fans – could be part of.

NCM’s Noovie Backlot got an exclusive spot showing Grace being told the rules of the game and realizing there may be more going on here than she initially thought.

A featurette released shortly after that offered a bit of insight into the story while focusing on the wedding dress that Grace wears throughout the movie. Another featurette had Weaving lounging on a couch while explaining the movie’s story, from Grace meeting Alex to the terrible night she endures. The craziness of the movie is shared in another video that includes a focus on Radio Silence, the group that includes the producers and director while Weaving offers tips on wedding dress maintenance in another.

Commercials like this positioned the movie as one of the most shocking things audiences could choose at the tail end of summer, showing it to be filled with bloody and outrageous chases and characters. Others ran a little longer and showed more of the backstory but still ended by selling a movie designed to make audiences gasp in astonishment.

The cast and crew assembled for the movie’s premiere, which featured plenty of marketing branding. That event seemed to include some sort of movie-themed party including creepy waitresses serving drinks and boxes from the games created by the movie’s family out on tables.

There seems to have been a concerted effort – visible if you scroll through Twitter updates using #ReadyOrNotMovie – to reach #Earpers, or fans of the show “Wynnona Earp.” That’s because Melanie Scrofano, the star of that show, is also part of the Le Domas family in the film.

Media and Press

Press activity for the film didn’t really seem to get started until the last few weeks before release. That included a brief profile of Weaving, interviews with the directors and costar Adam Brody. They, along with Andie McDowell and others, also made appearances on various talk shows in recent weeks.


I previously took issue with the idea that this movie has received none of the scrutiny directed toward The Hunt, despite how the two share a “people hunting other people for sport” premise. While reviews have labeled Ready Or Not as being a sadistically fun and engaging horror comedy, the fact is that the two films don’t appear substantively different based on their marketing campaigns. That this one is being reviewed at all shows the importance of judging the final product before calling for boycotts or passing judgement.

That issue aside, the campaign does look like it’s selling a fast-paced good time at the theater. Weaving is really a standout here, bringing significant charisma to not only the clips of the movie that are used but the various featurettes that show more of the story’s sense of humor. It shows that horror – including the more comedic areas of the genre – is among the last bastions of truly original storytelling in modern film.

Picking Up the Spare

Another fun video with Weaving that had her investigating a mysterious “cursed” box.

The actress spoke about the film and her uncanny resemblance to Margot Robbie here and her experiences filming – including injuring her costars – here. She was interviewed along with MacDowell here about the shocking, outrageous story.

While The Hunt Has Been Pulled, Ready Or Not Debuts As Planned

The reasons Universal Pictures ultimately went from suspending the marketing campaign for The Hunt to pulling it from the release schedule entirely have evolved over time. At first it seemed to be because advertising a movie about people being hunted by a group of bored elites looking for a little excitement seemed in bad taste following the recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

Reports later emerged the studio was shaken by reactions to test screenings of the class-based satire that had already generated death threats and concerns over a broader cultural backlash. Universal’s primary issue appears to be in the handling of the situation, which has put them in the position of being reactive not proactive.

While I don’t agree with the decision – we deserve to debate the movie itself, not have endless discussions that build off the latest Hot Take until the snake has eaten its own tail several times over – it is understandable to some extent. Stories about people being hunted, even if they are satire in nature, may not be received well in an age where aspiring shooters are making kill lists and arming themselves with hundreds of rounds before beginning their own hunting.

So why, one is forced to wonder, is Fox Searchlight continuing as planned with this week’s release of Ready Or Not? Like The Hunt, Ready Or Not revolves around humans hunting other humans.

That movie stars Samara Weaving as Grace, a woman about to marry Alex (Mark O’Brien), part of a family that has made its fortune selling games. At a dinner at the Le Domas family mansion after the wedding, Grace is asked to participate in the tradition of playing a game anytime someone new joins the family. The game turns out to be Ready or Not. What surprises Grace is that this version involves her being hunted by everyone else. Only if she survives until dawn will she be deemed worthy to actually become one of the Le Domas clan.

If there’s any difference between the public presentations of the two movies, it’s that Ready Or Not is not as overtly about class differences. There are no mentions of “deplorables” or “the one percent” or other keywords that are likely to generate headlines and stir up emotions among people who don’t care to be criticized.

Instead, it’s just about a woman being hunted for who she is. That message, it seems, is still acceptable.

It’s surprising, since real world incidents of liberal elites taking out their frustrations on rednecks by hunting them through the woods of a European estate are surprisingly difficult to come across. Startlingly common, though, are instances of mass shooters sporting a history of abusing women or feeling deep-seated anger over having been rejected by women. The shooter who killed so many people in Dayton recently reportedly had a list of women he wanted to kill or rape, presumably because they had wronged him in some imagined way.

That one movie that seemed to have something at least worth considering about class roles has been spiked because it was seen as offensive while another about hunting a women to keep a family bloodline pure and untainted by interlopers moves forward says something about society that we don’t seem to be addressing. Namely, that you can try and kill as many women as you want, but if you dare put anyone who looks like they may have worn a MAGA hat in the crosshairs, there will be hell to pay.

Universal didn’t spontaneously decide to pull The Hunt, it did so in reaction to some reactions and the concern there would be more. A barrage of criticism from Fox News would have been bad for the studio and bad for its corporate parent Comcast. That a similar outcry hasn’t been directed at Fox Searchlight or its corporate parent Disney – recently said to be concerned over the Hitler satire JoJo Rabbit would be too controversial for its audience – is notable.

Tolkien – Marketing Recap

tolkien poster 3Two years ago there seemed to be an unusual wave of movies telling stories of famous author’s early days, capturing the moments that inspired their most well-known literary works and offering insights into their personal as well as professional lives. This week another entry in that subgenre hits theaters in the form of Tolkien, turning the spotlight on the author of The Lord of The Rings and other fantasy stories.

Nicholas Hoult stars as the title author in a story that follows him from his days at university through his experiences during World War I, his courtship of Edith (Lily Collins) and the various ways he would wind up telling the epic yet very personal stories he’d become famous for. That includes a focus on the passion he had not only for telling stories but developing fully-formed languages, something that would play heavily in his work.

The Posters

A teaser poster released late last year shows the title treatment with the “O” of his name glimmering like a ring and highlighting a page of elaborately handwritten text in the background. That same background is used on the second poster but this time we see Hoult as Tolkien staring out at the audience, two riders facing off against each other in the foreground in very dramatic fashion.

Edith is added to the theatrical poster along with the men who become Tolkien’s university friends and who form the real life “fellowship” with the writer. All three posters sport the copy “A story of love, courage and friendship” to explain the various aspects of the movie’s story. They also all feature a green and yellow color scheme that’s in keeping with the branding of the books and even the movies based on his work.

The Trailers

The first brief teaser doesn’t show much, but does work hard to draw the thematic connections between Tolkien’s own life and the stories he would become most famous for telling.

The full trailer, introduced by Hoult and Collins, introduces us to Tolkien and his passion for both languages and telling stories. Those stories we see are metaphors for the violence and terror of war as well as the brotherhoods and fellowships formed during such conflicts. It used sweeping, dramatic music to help underscore the story, but in doing so it presents it as a large story when in fact the main focus is decidedly personal. In short it tries too hard to be LOTR, not a biopic of a buttoned-down English professor and author.

Online and Social

Fox Searchlight’s official website for the movie features most all the usual content such sites usually sports, including information on the cast and director along with “Videos” and ticket-buying prompts along with links to profiles on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The teaser was used in a promoted post shortly after it was released to get more people’s attention. The full trailer was similarly promoted after it came out.

A number of TV spots began appearing in late April, beginning with one emphasizing the journeys taken and followed by commercials showing how Tolkien wanted to change the world, the real life fellowship formed between him and his friends, his desire to create a legend of his own and more.

Media and Publicity

EW shared the first look at Hoult in character in late January.

A couple months later the cast and crew appeared in a featurette where they talked about the influence of Tolkien’s work on their own lives and more. The first clip came out a bit later showing Edith encouraging Tolkien to come up with a story and tell it to her, meant to reinforce that he’s a natural storyteller.

Hoult talked about playing someone who so fully realized the worlds he was creating and the responsibility of portraying a real person. Collins was interviewed about how she wants to show the role Edith played in Tolkien’s life and his creative process. The two stars appeared together on “The Late Show” to talk about the movie with LOTR super-fan Stephen Colbert.

A minor speed bump emerged when the Tolkien family released a statement last month saying they did not endorse the movie, making it clear they had not seen it and so couldn’t speak to any particular scene or story element but simply didn’t approve of any biopic. Director Dome Karukoski responded not long after saying working with the estate would have created more problems than it solved since it would have lead to a compromised vision in some manner.

A featurette from late April emphasized the love story at the heart of the movie that compliments Tolkien’s creation of his fantasy worlds. Another explained why the filmmakers chose the parts of the writer’s life they did and how they wanted to change the perception of who he was.

Another clip showed Tolkien flummoxing his professor with his audacity in creating new languages to tell the stories he wanted to.

The Montclair Film Festival held in New Jersey last week hosted an advance screening of the movie with Colbert acting as master of ceremonies, interviewing the cast and talking about his own fandom for the author’s works.

Just before the movie hit theaters another featurette was released showing the cast talking about what a legend Tolkien was while a final clip featured him in conversation with his university friends.


The campaign doesn’t do much to differentiate itself from those for the movies mentioned in my article linked at the top. It shows all the usual beats, from him seeking comrades who understand him to being traumatized in some manner to finding the love of his life, someone who will support him in his work. The branding of the title treatment and other imagery works hard to build the connection between this and Tolkien’s work, which is understandable even if it comes off as a bit heavy handed at times.

Aside from that, Hoult and Collins seem to be doing good work here, though the latter’s role seems to be more or less thankless as many similar parts do. Still, it’s a nicely dramatic story being sold in a marketing campaign that likely won’t break through the full-scale barrages of Avengers and Aladdin.

Picking Up the Spare

There were more profiles of Hoult as well as a joint interview with him and Collins on the making of the movie. 

The Favourite – Marketing Recap

the favourite poster 2The Favourite, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, tells the story of two women desperate to hang on to the coattails of power. Set in 18th century England, Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne, who may be going slightly mad. She’s determined to continue engaging in her life of luxury, even as the country she leads engages in a war with France.

Amidst all this her friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) continues to enjoy her proximity to power and the influence that comes with that. Her position is threatened, at least in her eyes, by the arrival of a new aid to the Queen, Abigail (Emma Stone). Thus begins a jockeying for power with plenty of backstabbing, manipulation and other bad actions.

The Posters

the favourite posterI don’t even know how to describe the format of the first poster. The usual information – title, cast and other talent – is all included. But the layout is so unique, including the squares formed around those names, it takes a minute to realize what’s really going on. Then there’s the fact that it features not just a tagline but a whole story synopsis right there in smallish type. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen before.

The relationship between the three women is on display in the theatrical poster. Queen Anne and Lady Sarah are shown to the side in their own little frame, with Abigail sulking on the floor, just outside the conversation. At the top is the same title treatment and credits block seen earlier.

The Trailers

There’s a mad queen at the center of the story being sold in the first teaser, which has her and those around her engaging in all sorts of royal hijinks that are seen as anywhere from slightly eccentric to completely bonkers. It’s all very fast-paced and presented as even more off-kilter because of the fisheye point of view the camera often takes. Lanthimos’ previous work is of course name-dropped to help appeal to the crowd that’s become fans of his.

Everyone’s got their own agendas at work in the second trailer, which debuted at the same time the movie was making the festival rounds. Lady Sarah is madly protective of the attention of Queen Anne, but Abigail’s presence in the house means there’s someone competing for that attention. Backstabbing, threats and passive aggressive interplay follows as they try to keep the Queen from falling apart while also attempting to take their in-house rivals down.

Online and Social

Fox Searchlight’s official website has all the standard material like the trailer, gallery and synopsis. The “How Goes The Kingdom” section takes you to a series of posts from a Tumblr blog with GIFs, videos, photos and quotes that can be shared. There are also links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The second trailer was used as a promoted Twitter post in mid-September to help raise awareness.

In mid-November TV advertising started with a series of commercials that highlighted the kooky nature of of the story, the backstabbing the characters engage in and more.

Other online ads used the key art and other stills from the film.

Media and Publicity

It first really popped on a lot of people’s radars when Fox Searchlight announced a release date for the movie. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio and then a few months later announced as the opening film of the New York Film Festival. It was also announced as one of those screening at the Venice Film Festival.

While at Venice Lanthimos and the cast spoke about the story and how the movie unintentionally echoes and amplifies many of the subjects and themes that have come up in the last year or so as sexual assault, discrimination and more have risen to the surface once more.

It continued on the festival circuit, screening at Telluride as well. While there Stone spoke not only about this film but about her career in general. Lanthimos also commented on how he wanted the same sex love triangle in the story to not be a thing but just to be accepted and have people move on.

It was then announced among the titles appearing at the Austin Film Festival and the New York Film Festival, where it continued earning kudos and where the cast and crew talked about the research they did for the story. Later on it received a number of accolades from the Gotham Awards, including a special prize for Weisz, as well as a handful of British Independent Film Award nominations.

Stone appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie and her status as the only American on the set. Weisz later hit “The Late Show” to also hype up the film and talk about that extra “u” in the title.

The first clip showed the conflict for the queen’s affection and favor Abigail and Lady Sarah are engaged in.

A feature story on the movie had the cast and Lanthimos talking about the gender politics, the long road the movie took to production and lots more.


That THR feature profile on the movie really sums up the theme of the movie’s campaign, that it’s a story of power, gender politics and other related issues. It’s not presented as movie that’s as offbeat or unusual as some of Lanthimos’ other films but more of a mainstream dramatic comedy of women who are out to define their own destiny.

The marketing never focuses too much on the story but instead just shows the performances of the three leads, particularly Weisz and Stone. That’s a strong card to play and one designed to appeal to audiences during this season of serious movies hitting theaters.

Picking Up The Spare

Colman was the subject of feature profile that mentioned how this isn’t the first time she’s played royalty and an interview that touched on her acting choices and what kinds of roles she’s drawn to.

Lanthimos was interviewed and profiled about the sometimes difficult nature of his stories and his vision for this film. He also talked about the journey the script took to completion and how he and the crew worked to break free of the constraints of the period setting.

Weisz spoke about working with the director again and being on a female-dominated production while Stone was interviewed about playing a character a bit more rough-edged than usual. The two of them along with Lanthimos were interviewed together about the odd nature of the story.

A couple weeks after release a new featurette had the cast and crew talking about the themes of the story and the characters they play. Another talked about the perspective of the story and a third featured the cast talking about working with Lanthimos.

There was also a profile of the movie’s noted dance sequence while the producers of the film spoke about a decade of working with Lanthimos.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? – Marketing Recap

can you ever forgive me posterMelissa McCarthy plays writer Lee Israel in the new movie Can You Ever Forgive Me?, based on Israel’s memoir of the same name. Set in the early 90s, the story finds Israel as she’s fallen on hard times and is no longer able to sale the kind of celebrity profiles that made her famous for the last 20 or 30 years.

One day she stumbles on a slick money making idea when she discovers a personal letter from a famous author stuck in a book. She sells that and realizes if she wrote more letters herself she could make even more. Along the way she’s helped by her friend Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant), Everything’s going great until the FBI gets wind of her scheme and the world comes crashing down.

The Posters

The first poster took a familiar approach to selling the movie, placing McCarthy’s character as a small figure standing on a typewriter. There’s not much else happening here, with no supporting or explanatory copy or tagline. It’s just her standing on a vintage typewriter looking slightly befuddled. The design doesn’t even make it clear whether it’s a comedy or drama, which seems problematic.

The Trailers

Lee has fallen on hard times as the first trailer opens, selling some of her collection for cash because no one is buying her current books. Her agent tells her the future doesn’t look good but rent is due and she needs to make a living. When she comes across a letter from a famous author she tries to sell that but doesn’t get much because the content isn’t very compelling. That gives her the idea to begin forging other letters from other authors, which turns into quite the little scheme. Eventually it all catches up with her and the tap dries up, though her friend decides to pick up where she left off. Even when she’s caught she admits she had a good time.

What’s being sold is clearly a drama of hard times falling on talent people, but there are moments where it seems Searchlight couldn’t resist to use a comedic beat in the trailer. Maybe the movie is more darkly funny but I imagine it’s also an attempt to ease the audience in to accepting McCarthy as a dramatic lead.

Another short video came out in early October that cut the message of the movie down to its bare essentials.

Online and Social

You can get the basic information you’re looking for about the movie on its official website, which has backgrounds on the cast, director and the story along with the trailer. There are also Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Online ads and promoted posts used videos and key art. There don’t appear to have been any actual TV spots run, but some of the videos shared on social media were about the same size and substance.

Media and Publicity

The first photo of a nearly-unrecognizable McCarthy kicked off the publicity campaign, showing her in character as Israel. Heller talked about the making of the movie, including the desire for it not to be lumped in as a “biopic” when the first trailer was revealed. Heller also talked here about the challenges she’s faced in her career but how she’s now poised to break into the big leagues with a string of upcoming high-profile projects. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as that of the Austin Film Festival and the Telluride Film Festival. Those festival screenings created some pretty positive buzz for the movie as a whole and McCarthy in particular.

While there McCarthy had plenty of chances to talk about the pleasure of playing women who have no time to worry about being liked, the opportunity playing a straight dramatic part gave her to explore some darkness and more. She kept on that topic, pointing out characters don’t have to be likable to be interesting. Director Marielle Heller touched on the actress’s transformation as well.

A featurette including an interview with Heller, who offered the “elevator pitch” behind the movie that encapsulated the story and the people in it.

Two clips came out in the weeks leading up to release, one that had Israel and Hock meeting up at a bar and one that had Israel learning the FBI might be on to her operation and being shaken down for that information.

McCarthy hit similar topics at the movie’s premiere and then went on to make a few talk show appearances to tell amusing stories and play up the film.

The NYT published a serious profile of McCarthy that hit all the same beats and talked about her career so far. That came along at the same time as stories like this that called out how oh, yeah, McCarthy is one of the most talented actors currently working. There were also a couple joint interviews with McCarthy and Grant talking about working together to create the dynamic of the era and some with Grant about the aggressively unlikable characters they play.


The campaign started off a little weak, but gained significant strength in the last month or so. Maybe that’s just because it’s been several months since the trailer initially came out, but once McCarthy was able to get out there and hype things up and some clips started rolling in, it became clear this wasn’t something that could be easily dismissed. That was helped by the good festival buzz generated among film critics.

Picking Up The Spare

Another featurette with McCarthy on how she set out to inhabit the character of the real life Lee Israel.

Interesting details here on how the production team recreated the world of 1990s New York City. That was also the subject of a featurette released a bit later.

More TV spots like this and this have begun running recently, hoping to build on the positive word of mouth the movie has built up.

McCarthy showed up on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and more.

Grant spoke more here about working with McCarthy.

The Old Man and the Gun – Marketing Recap

old man and the gun posterRobert Redford is one of the most charismatic, charming and talented actors to ever grace the silver screen. With 78 acting credits to his name since 1960, he reteams with director David Lowery for the second time in this week’s The Old Man and The Gun.

In the movie Redford stars as Forrest Tucker, a man who’s enjoyed a long career as a generally non-violent, gentlemanly robber of banks. He’s still having fun with his chosen vocation, but feels time running out on him. One day he meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widow whose path he crosses while on the run from the authorities. The two develop a romance as Forrest eludes the police on his tail, led by Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck).

The Posters

Tucker’s face is obscured as he places a fedora on his head on the poster. It’s a simple poster, just showing him walking along carrying a case (presumably of money) and looking dapper. An old-fashioned typeface is used for the title treatment and other copy, including the tagline that qualifies the movie, admitting to the audience that “This story is mostly true.”

The Trailers

Redford breezes through the first trailer (and likely the entire movie) as we meet Tucker and see how while he may be a bank robber he’s exceedingly polite about it, always leaving his victims with a positive sense of the experience. The trailer is structured primarily around Tucker meeting Jewel and the two of them starting up a late-in-life romance, her eventually accepting what he does for kicks. There’s also the search for him by police, but that almost seems secondary.

We don’t deserve Robert Redford. I mean…it’s not even fair.

The second trailer hits many of the same story points in showing how Tucker so nonchalantly robs banks for the thrill, not necessarily for the money. Different here is the focus on the other members of his crew, while the relationship with Jewel is relegated to just a couple scenes showing their cautious flirtation and romance. It’s got the same vibe, though.

Online and Social

Fox Searchlight’s official website for the movie has some basic information like the trailer, a story synopsis, cast and filmmaker profiles and details on release dates. There were also Facebook and Twitter profiles where the studio shared updates on the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Media and Publicity

The first still from the movie was accompanied by news of it finally getting a release date. Later on Redford made comments about how this was going to be his final acting job. He confirmed that decision closer to release, saying the time had simply come for him to “escape” from the lifestyle and work.

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the London Film Festival. It also scored the prestigious opening slot at the Telluride Film Festival.

Redford shared how and why he says “yes” to a movie and why he said “yes” to this one while Lowery talks about how he worked to get that answer from the actor.

There was also coverage of how the movie started out its life as a 1999 feature in The New Yorker that profiled the real Forrest Tucker and his exploits. That history meant it was one of the movies produced by Conde Nast Entertainment, a division of the publishing company that’s had trouble taking off since its inception about five years ago but which was hoping this year would bring a turnaround.

Redford and Spacek, either on their own or together, appeared on “CBS Sunday Morning,” “PBS Newshour,” and “The Today Show” among other shows.” Costar Danny Glover, who plays a member of Tucker’s crew, was also interviewed about working with Redford.

Redford later expressed regret for bringing the focus of the publicity for the movie and his reported retirement, saying he shouldn’t have drawn attention away like that. It wasn’t the walk-back some sites framed it as, just him saying he should have kept his mouth shut in the moment.


Redford’s easy, confident charm has brought him through a career that’s lasted over 50 years. The campaign here shows that persona is just as strong now as it was when he broke out as a major star in the late 60s, when he was a king of 70s cinema, when he was the romantic elder statesman in the 80s and the commanding veteran of the 00s and 10s.

Mostly what’s shown is the story is a great vehicle for Redford to be everything he can be. It’s a silly kind of story that could be played for laughs in the wrong hands, but the marketing shows the actor and his costars, under Lowery’s direction, play it straight, pulling the drama out while still allowing the sly wink and smile the lead is best known for.


I missed this story the first time around, but Sissy Spacek shares a charming anecdote about meeting Robert Redford that’s 100% relatable.

Director David Lowery says shooting the movie in Texas really helped capture the authenticity father story, even if most of it was shot in Ohio as a stand-in for Texas. He and the cast appeared in a featurette where they all talked about the story and characters. Another interview had him talking more at length about working with Redford for the second time, as did this one.

More from Spacek here and here, the latter coming to my attention thanks to an email blast from Conde Nast, the media company that helped produce the film.

Additional TV spots like this have been released to keep up audience interest. And a new featurette focuses on how the movie reunited Redford with his longtime stunt double.

Lowery shares some expanded thoughts on the role guns play not just in the story but in the world along with more comments about working with Redford again and more.

Super Troopers 2 – Marketing Recap

super troopers 2 poster 22001’s Super Troopers is a legitimate comedy classic. It has a ton of quotable lines, the Broken Lizard troupe that wrote, acted in and directed it are all 100% committed to the insanity going on and, like Caddyshack, contains enough gags-per-minute to make you overlook the threadbare and utterly ridiculous and implausible story. The $18m in box-office revenue it brought in was respectable and sufficient to keep the team working on other films but not high enough to make a sequel a sure thing.

Thanks to a fundraising campaign, though, Super Troopers 2 is about to hit theaters. All the original troopers are back in a story about how a border dispute between the U.S. and Canada puts a small Canadian town under U.S. control, with the members of the Vermont Highway Patrol taking over law enforcement there. Of course since they’re more concerned with getting high and pulling pranks, hijinks ensue. So the question is, is there anything new the Broken Lizard team has to say. Also, will this movie in any way address how the first one is, in retrospect, filled with sexual harassment and police abuse “comedy?”

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Isle of Dogs – Marketing Recap

isle of dogs poster 3Writer/director Wes Anderson returns to the world of stop-motion animation – previously visited in 2009’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox – with this week’s new release Isle of Dogs. The story takes place in the Japan of the future, one where the nation has become overrun by dogs, many of whom are sick from a flu-like disease running through the canine population. To maintain public health, all the dogs are sent to an island of trash floating out in the ocean.

One young boy named Atari (Koyu Rankin) is distraught and so puts together the kind of plan that can only exist in a Wes Anderson film to rescue his beloved dog Spots (Liev Schreiber). When he arrives on the island he has trouble finding Spots, though. Thankfully he receives the help of other dogs who recognize what he’s trying to do, including Rex (Edward Norton), Chief (Bryan Cranston) and others, all while ducking the government authorities who want the embarrassing incident brought to a close.

Continue reading “Isle of Dogs – Marketing Recap”