Triple Frontier – Marketing Recap

triple frontier poster7The former Special Forces operatives at the heart of Triple Frontier have had enough of being underappreciated by the country they defended. Directed by J.C. Chandor, the story follows five disgruntled specialists who, tired of having to scrape by after dedicating their lives to public service, decide to to use some of the intel they’ve gathered for their own benefit.

To that end they set out to rob the estate of a notorious South American drug lord. Determined to get what they can so they can retire in some comfort, they face the reality that they are out on their own for the first time without a sanctioning country and military at their back. That means when the mission goes south they have no one to rely on but themselves. The movie features an all-star cast including Oscar Isaac, Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Garrett Hedlund and…not…Garrett Hedlund.

The Posters

The primary poster sets up the story pretty effectively, showing all five of the specialists who are engaging in the heist walking toward the camera in full gear and with bags – presumably full of money – in their hands. The green foliage shown in that photo as well as in the title treatment establish the setting while the movie’s creative bonafides are communicated by name-dropping Chandor’s previous well-known films.

Character one-sheets showed all five ex-soldiers who embark on the mission along with Adria Arjona, who plays a character who’s ill-defined by the marketing.

The Trailers

The beginning of the first trailer from last December is much like many others, focusing on a core team of special operators who are about to embark on a mission so dangerous they’re being given an out. Text shown over the footage, combined with the briefing being given by Davis, explains that they’re about to try and steal a massive amount of money from a drug cartel and that this operation is a robbery, not a sanctioned mission. After this they’ll be on their own. But they’re willing to take that risk because they feel they’ve been left on the side by the military they swore allegiance to.

The second trailer, which debuted on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” shows how it’s Garcia that recruits the team, playing on the money problems and overall dissatisfaction the rest of the team are experiencing. There’s more of the same setup from the first trailer, but we see that the mission goes south unexpectedly, leading the team to have to improvise and make harder choices than they expected to just to survive.

Online and Social

While there wasn’t an official website, Netflix did create at least a Twitter account for the movie which it used to share the same sort of videos, links and other information other movie profiles offer.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Online ads used shots and video elements of the main actors, all in full combat gear, to sell the movie as a star-studded action film.

The movie sponsored a special basketball draft event from online betting site DraftKings

Media and Publicity

The movie was originally set up at Paramount, which dropped the project in 2017, at which point Netflix picked it up and moved forward with a different cast and crew.

Isaac, Affleck and others were all featured in a story including a first look still from the movie. Affleck showed up on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and, as mentioned before, debut the second trailer. The actor also spoke about Netflix and how he saw it as the future of film distribution and viewing while he and Hunnam appeared on “The Today Show” to talk about the story.

The Playlist hosted an exclusive piece from the movie’s soundtrack composed by Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. Chandor revealed in an interview just before release that he found a rescue dog while filming, as did other members of the crew.

An exclusive clip hosted by IGN showed a pivotal moment from the story as the characters make an important decision about the mission. That site also interviewed the whole cast and crew, while Hedlund went solo to try and distill the movie’s story for audiences.

Overall

Honestly the most exciting part of the campaign is that the movie comes from director J.C. Chandor, who has a track record of crafting tight, emotional stories around a simple premise. He’s not a big part of the marketing push, which isn’t surprising given the star power on display here, but he’s still noticeable as the latest in a strong of high-profile directors working with Netflix on original features.

Outside of that, the campaign sells an emotionally conflicted action drama that has the potential to not only tell a harrowing story but also one the focuses on how treats its veterans and how they feel neglected (at best) following their years of service. There are some good visual elements to the marketing that are a mark above what Netflix usually offers in terms of effort, another sign they see treating talent well (including a limited theatrical release) as a key tactic in their long-term strategy.

Picking Up the Spare

Netflix released a featurette on the music from a key sequence in the movie and one that focused on the work out costar Adria Arjona did to get in shape for the production.

Isaac showed up on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie but of course the conversation turned to Star Wars. He and Pascal also did one of those Wired features about frequent web searches about them.

Chandor was interviewed about the lessons the movie offered to himself and the audience. He also offered his thoughts on working with Netflix and how he got involved with the project.

There was also renewed discussion of the long road the project took before finally being filmed.

Affleck spoke about the movie and other aspects of his career.

Mudbound – Marketing Recap

mudbound posterThe racial divide in America is a terrible thing. There are countless examples of blacks being held to different standards than whites, both in general society and through the constructs of our legal system. When a black man jaywalks he runs the risk of being shot by police, while a white man who guns down mall shoppers is portrayed as a troubled lone wolf who needs mental health care.

Mudbound, the new movie from director Dee Rees, jumps back 70 years in America’s history to show just one example of how things vary greatly depending on the color of your skin. Based on the novel by Hillary Jordan, the story follows two soldiers returning home to Mississippi after serving in World War II. Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell) is black and Jamie McAllen (Garrett Hedlund) is white. Coming back to the Jim Crow South means means that despite both putting their lives on the line to protect the world from despotism, one is welcomed much more warmly than the other.

The Posters

The first poster features the whole cast arrayed around the real estate of the image. Along with the cast list at the top and the prominent placement of the Netflix logo we also see the marks of TIFF and Sundance to tout the movie’s screenings at those festivals.

A series of character posters showed each individual up close in a grainy, high-resolution shot that showed the misery and despair on their faces along with the lines, dirt and sweat that comes with the lives each one leads. These are a stark collection that’s meant to evoke photos we’ve seen of people living through droughts and other events in this country.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts out with a Jamie hitting the dirt after hearing a car backfire, the after-effects of his time in the war. Ronsel helps him up and we see the Jim Crow-heavy world everyone’s living in, even Ronsel, who served his country in the war. Racial tensions impact everything and everyone, despite the fact that they’re all living in the same squalor and desperate conditions regardless of race.

The second trailer begins from the perspectives of the women who were left behind while their husbands went off to war. Those men, when they return, find a world that hasn’t changed to anyone but them. Jim Crow is still in place and there are still other dramas that are impacting everyday life and, it seems, those things are just always going to be so.

The movie is sold here more like a general drama than one that’s explicitly about race relations. Not that that’s unspoken or hidden, it’s just one part of a larger picture here where it’s been the focus in the other efforts. I don’t think that marks any great shift in strategy, just an evolution of messaging.

Online and Social

While, as usual, Netflix didn’t create an official website for the movie there were both Twitter and Facebook profiles. That may not seem like much but it’s more than is usually put in place and shows the commitment the company had to selling the movie more fully.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Online ads placed a few weeks prior to release used the key art showing the faces of the leads, with some including positive quotes from early festival reviews. There were also reports on Twitter that some TV spots were run but I’ve not been able to find them or otherwise confirm.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. The first look at the movie came shortly after that. That screening garnered a tidal wave of positive word-of-mouth, including speculation that the 2018 Oscar race was now official underway. Much of that praise was directed at director Rees, who talked about the story and why she opted to tell this story. And it stood out as one of a few movies taking a look at the toll of war on individuals. Netflix eventually bought distribution rights despite the steep asking price. The movie was then scheduled for a screening at the New York Film Festival, where Rees commented on how Netflix was an ideal creative partner because none of the other studios felt the movie was commercial enough to acquire and release.

Later on Rees talked about how she’s worked to position her career and the choices she’s made over the years that have impacted it, including a commitment to smaller movies that require passion, not studio gigs that come with big paychecks and lots of publicity.

Rees and others talked here about the movie’s early festival buzz, the potential for awards consideration and how long it took to find a distributor willing to pick it up. That last point, it turns out, was the result of the backlash to and disappointing results of The Birth of a Nation last year, which made some distributors gun-shy about signing on for a period movie dealing with racial issues. Oh, and there’s the fact that the story, which involves clashes with the KKK, is super-relevant today, which caused additional squeamishness.

There was also this group chat where Rees talked about what inspired the story and the cast talked about how shocked they were at the poor treatment of former soldiers. The movie was also announced as the opening night feature at AFI Fest. Another joint interview with Rees and members of the cast talked about the difficulty of filming the many emotional scenes in the movie and more.

Mary J. Blige, who plays Florence Jackson, Ronsel’s wife, was a major focus of the publicity campaign mounted by Netflix. She appeared on both late night and morning talk shows and was the subject of numerous profiles and feature interviews like this where she talked about taking on such a transformative role as well as her career in general along with issues of race, sex and more. Blige in large part became the central figure of the campaign right alongside Rees, who did her own publicity work to talk about being a black female filmmaker, the inspiration her family provided and more.

If it wasn’t a glowing portrait of Blige is was a profile of Mitchell and how he’s the next big star about to break into the mainstream. Or commentary on how this might be Netflix’s most serious play for Oscar validation. Carey Mulligan, who plays the sister-in-law of Jamie McAllen, also made various media appearances to talk about the movie and acting in general.

Overall

I kind of love this campaign. It’s low key but intense, just like the characters in the story. Unfortunately, any portrait of unequal treatment based on race is not only going to present a look back into the past of our country but an uncomfortable spotlight on our own times. That comes through loud and clear in the official marketing and is underlined in the publicity, where issues of race and gender were mentioned repeatedly.

That focus is going to make this a campaign people respond to very differently. It’s being sold as a prestige drama, exactly the kind of thing that wouldn’t fly at the box office going up against Justice League this week. And it’s attracted all the right kinds of attention, especially for Rees and Blige, to gain traction in that capacity. But the fact that the message of the film still has unfortunate timeliness may turn off some people who don’t want to be preached to or who feel, wrongly, that we should be moving beyond discussions of race.

Whatever the reception, the campaign itself is damn powerful, presenting a movie that pulls few punches in telling the story of people just scraping by.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

The movie’s screenwriters Virgil Williams and Dee Rees talk here about finding the right tone in one of the key scenes between the lead characters.