Writer/director Lynn Shelton is back with this week’s Sword of Trust. The movie stars Jillian Bell as Cynthia and Michaela Watkins as Mary, two women who set out to sell the antique sword Cynthia has inherited from her late grandfather. They come to believe the sword is somehow proof the Confederacy won the Civil War.
That claim is met with skepticism by pawn shop owner Mel (Marc Maron), whom they try to sell it to. But a series of events changes his mind and the three, along with Mel’s assistant Nathanial (Jon Bass), set out to sell it and split the profits. The group doesn’t know exactly what they’re doing, though, and the people they encounter aren’t exactly of the highest moral character.
As is often the case, studios don’t know quite how to sell Shelton’s movies. While it’s natural to focus on the characters when promoting a character-driven story, there’s nothing here beyond an arrangement of faces and a title treatment that looks like it’s pulled from a 90s low-budget teen comedy. It’s underwhelming.
Cynthia and Mary are trying to pawn their grandfather’s sword as the trailer opens, an item they claim proves the Confederacy won the Civil War. Mel is understandably skeptical. Word gets out that the sword exists and a lot of people wind up looking for it, leading Mel and the women teaming up to try and sell it for as much money as possible. No one knows what they’re doing, though, and there are lots of misadventures along the way.
Online and Social
Nothing much beyond the very basics on IFC’s page for the movie. It’s received support on the studio’s brand social channels but that’s about it.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve seen, but it’s likely the studio has done some location-targeted advertising in New York and LA for opening weekend that could expand as the movie does.
Media and Publicity
The movie was among those debuting at SXSW, a debut that brought mixed reactions. IFC picked up distribution rights at the end of March. It was later announced as the opening night feature at the Seattle Film Festival.
This weekend’s limited release includes a Q&A with the cast and Shelton at New York City’s Landmark Theater.
It’s actually kind of remarkable how small-scale the campaign has been. While I understand this week’s release is just limited and that there’s little chance the movie achieves any sort of breakout success in the near-term, it’s still surprising there hasn’t been more of an attempt to capitalize on the positive buzz generated by the SXSW screening.
The trailer is quite good and does a decent job presenting the premise and the talent of the cast, but the rest of the marketing doesn’t know what’s going on or how to deal with things. Given Shelton’s reputation as a high-quality filmmaker with a sterling reputation, that’s surprising, even as it offers some indication of where the movie industry is at the moment.
Picking Up the Spare
Another interview with Shelton here about creating the characters and how her career has been going. She also did an interview with Maron talking about conspiracy theories like the one featured in the movie.
The notion of alternate histories also came up in this conversation while Maron appeared on “The Tonight Show” to talk about the movie. He was interviewed about working with Shelton and his own take on conspiracy theories as well.