Ammonite – Marketing Recap

How NEON is selling a period story of forbidden but undeniable romance.

Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan star in writer/director Francis Lee’s latest film Ammonite. The movie takes its name from the fossil remains of extinct cephalopods, often found in marine rocks. Set in 1840s England, Mary Anning (Winslet) is a fossil hunter who makes her living selling what she finds along the coast to tourists. One day Roderick Murchison (James McArdle) approaches Anning about taking care of his wife Charlotte (Ronan) while he works. Initially reluctant, Mary and Charlotte eventually bond, with that bond becoming something more intense as time goes on.

NEON’s campaign for the movie, which has a decent 71% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, has focused on that romance as well as the movie’s period setting in general.

The Posters

Released in August, the image on the poster (by marketing agency Legion Creative Group) establishes the coastal setting of the story by showing waves of water coming in at the bottom. The romance, then, is communicated in how the translucent photos of Mary and Charlotte’s faces overlap to become solid where they meet, indicating that only when they’re together do the two individuals become a whole person.

The Trailers

Mary is describing the work she did on a particular fossil as the trailer (667,000 views on YouTube), released in August, opens. One day Charlotte enters her shop, accompanied by her husband, who wants Mary to take his wife with her on her walks along the beach looking for specimens. After some reluctance a friendship begins and then something else, something that seems to help both women come alive in a way they weren’t. Of course there is tension as they ponder what such a relationship would mean, making this a story of love and longing.

Online and Social

The page for the movie on NEON’s website has the basic information about the film, including the trailer, poster and a synopsis. There are also Twitter and Instagram profiles which have equally promoted the U.S. and U.K. releases.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

NEON acquired distribution rights to the movie in January.

In August it was announced the film would close October’s BFI London Film Festival. It was also scheduled for the Telluride and Toronto film festivals, with Winslet receiving a Silver Medallion Award at the latter.

Those screenings resulted in somewhat mixed reviews and word of mouth, but praise for the performances of both Winslet and Ronan, whom were pegged as potential awards contenders. It was later added to the New York LGBTQ Film Festival as the opening night feature and then to the Hamptons Film Festival lineup.

Media and Publicity

Some of the first publicity about the movie wasn’t wholly positive, as the director had to defend the story against comments from Anning’s relatives that the lesbian relationship depicted was never confirmed to be real.

A feature profile of Winslet had her talking about returning to acting and the experience of shooting the film, including filming the same-sex romance with Ronan.

During TIFF directory Francis Lee was interviewed about how he assembled the cast and worked with them to make the script come to life. There was also an interview with Ronan about her career to date and how this movie fits into that. In another she talked about how she wanted to get the love story right.

Lee continued talking about how and why he made the love story work in the film. Another interview with Winslet had her talking about shooting the film with Ronan and once more commenting on how it seems to mark a turning point in her career.

Closer to release, Lee was interviewed about finding the nuance and feeling in the story. Winslet and Ronan talked more about filming the love scenes and more.


On the one hand, there’s a lot about the campaign that seems like it pulls the same 12 elements from most other period romances, including the gentle surroundings, repressed emotions and such. In that way it becomes part of a particular genre, though that also means it kind of blends into the background.

On the other hand, the performances from Winslet and Ronan are shown to be the highlight here, with the story they’re part of a secondary value proposition. That’s why not only are they paired in the marketing elements like the poster and trailer, but have also frequently done joint interviews. Everything, then, works to reinforce the message of the two being a pair, which helps consistently sell the movie in the same way.

Picking Up The Spare

Winslet talked more about her role in the film when she appeared on “The Late Show.” She was also interviewed again about how she managed the love scenes with Ronan. Lee was also interviewed about the research he put into the story and more. 

Winslet participated in a Q&A with Todd Haynes about the story and her character. She spoke more about the film in a later interview.

Clemency – Marketing Recap

How NEON is selling a drama about the mental toll felt by those managing our overwhelmed prison system.

clemency posterAlfre Woodard stars in this week’s new release Clemency. She plays Bernadine Williams, a woman who for years has served as warden at a prison where death row inmates are housed and ultimately executed. In the leadup to yet another execution, Williams begins to struggle with the emotional weight of everything that’s happened on her watch and forcing her to create a stronger connection with the man about to have his fate sealed.

In a week where this is one of two movies about the realities of the criminal justice system – the other being Just Mercy – NEON has run a campaign that emphasizes Woodard’s performance as an emotionally-drained bureaucrat.

The Posters

The sole theatrical one-sheet (by marketing agency Legion Creative Group) has Williams looking tired and somber against a muted blue background. The bottom half of her body is coming apart, flitting away from her in the form of black doves. It’s some heavy symbolism, designed to show how her job is chipping away at who she is, pieces represented by twisted versions of birds normally associated with peace.

The Trailers

Williams is pragmatic about needing to just do her job in the first trailer (56,000 views on YouTube), released in September. She knows some people see her as part of the problem, but she makes it clear she tries to help the men on death row who move through her prison. No one on either side of the issue understand the position she’s in or the isolation she feels doing a difficult, almost impossible thing repeatedly, but she knows someone has to.

Online and Social

NEON gives the movie a good but not great site, with the standard marketing materials along with the “Social Assets” it usually offers.

Advertising and Publicity

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The positive buzz that was built up from those screenings was significant, with many calling it the highlight of the festival before it went on to win the Grand Jury Prize. Still, it wasn’t until over a month later that it was picked up by NEON.

In late July it was announced the movie would get yet another festival screening, this time at the Toronto International Film Festival. Woodard was scheduled to be honored when the movie was shown at the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Closer to release the studio hosted a handful of screenings, often accompanied by Q&As with the cast and crew, to drum up word of mouth and reach a motivated audience.

Media and Publicity

While at Sundance Chukwu was interviewed about the events that inspired the story as well as how much research she did into the prison system so that every detail was as correct as she could make it.

Hodge was interviewed about the research he did in preparing for the role, including visiting prisoners at San Quentin.

An interview with Woodard had her talking about her own research for her role as the prison’s warden and the responsibility she felt to tell an important story. She and Hodge appeared together on “The Daily Show” to talk about the movie.


Clemency is likely to get lost in the wake of other, bigger movies, but given the continued conversation about the flawed prison system in the United States – including news the Department of Justice wants to bring Federal executions back – it seems like an important addition to that discussion.

It’s just too bad there wasn’t a bigger push for the movie. While there were certainly a number of interviews recently and the decision to hold screenings with interested groups is a good one, it would have been nice if the filmmakers had been given a bit more visibility to weigh in on the story and characters.

Still, it’s hard to argue with any campaign that puts Woodard at the forefront like this, so at the end it’s a winning strategy.

Picking Up the Spare

An interview with Woodard and Hodge about the quick production schedule and their work in some emotional sequences.

How Chukwu invested herself into the story was covered in this interview.

Little Monsters – Marketing Recap

A class field trip gets interrupted by the undead in the Hulu original film.

little monsters posterZombie movies almost always rely on some sort of unique hook to differentiate them from the crowd of similar projects. This week’s Little Monsters has a great one: Lupita Nyong’o stars as Miss Caroline, a teacher taking her class on a trip to a local farm/nature center. Joining her is Dave (Alexander England), who wants to impress Caroline as a rebound after recently getting dumped.

Things take a turn for Dave when he finds he has to compete for Caroline’s attention with the annoying host of a children’s program (Josh Gad) as well as the undead zombies that have escaped from a nearby military base. Caroline has to work with the two guys to keep her class full of kindergartners safe and uneaten.

Nyong’o’s status as one of the new leading ladies of thrillers has been at the center of the campaign for the movie, which has a lot of fun with the tropes of the zombie genre.

The Posters

The unusual nature of the story is on display on the poster, which shows Caroline jumping with enthusiastic joy with her guitar in hand but also jumping to avoid the reach of the decaying zombie hands seen grasping from the bottom of the photo. That communicates nicely how while this might be a zombie movie it’s going to be one with a slightly different attitude and tone – also emphasized by the bright yellow used in the background – than audiences might expect.

The Trailers

The first trailer finally came out in September. It starts out with Caroline and Teddy leading a class of youngsters on their farm field trip, one that gets interrupted by the sudden appearance of flesh-eating zombies. After that we got a tongue-in-cheek presentation of the kind of mayhem and violence the movie contains as the human adults try and protect the kids from the zombies that have taken over and are searching for food anywhere they can get it.

Online and Social

It’s clear there’s a heavy NEON influence to the movie’s official website, which sports the usual marketing materials but also features the “social assets” that studio often puts on its sites.

Advertising and Publicity

Following the movie’s successful debut at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year NEON and Hulu formed an unusual partnership for distribution rights.

Hulu gave the movie some additional publicity by using it in its “Huluween” campaign highlighting a number of scary movies and shows available on the platform.

Media and Press

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at Sundance. While there, Nyong’o spoke about the story’s influences and what brought her to the role.

Closer to release, Nyong’o appeared on “The Tonight Show” to engage in hijinks with the host. At the movie’s recent premiere she shared what attracts her to horror films while writer/director talked about how he came up with the idea and wound up getting it made.


It’s a fun, irreverent campaign that presents the movie as full of thrills, sure, but also one that never looses a tongue-in-cheek perspective and tone. Nyong’o obviously shines here as the teacher who’s dealing with a lot more than she expected, even while taking a bunch of kindergartners to an outdoor location.

Mostly, what’s notable is that the campaign sells the story while never appearing to talk down to the material or audience. It’s easy to do these kinds of marketing pushes in a way that slightly makes fun of the zombie trope or those who enjoy them, but this steers clear of all that and focuses on the unconventional subject matter and tone that’s used.

Picking Up the Spare

Another profile of the writer/director that explains how he conceived of the story and got the talent involved.

Luce – Marketing Recap

luce posterAmy and Peter Edgar (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) are a well-meaning and respectable suburban couple who, years ago, adopted the boy they named Luce (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) from the troubled country of Eritrea in the new movie Luce. They’ve raised him to be a good person and, as he’s gotten older, he’s become an independent thinker who wants to raise awareness of important issues.

One day the bright future Luce seems to have as he prepares for the end of high school and the transition to college is threatened when one of his teachers, Mrs. Wilson (Octavia Spencer), raises some concerns about a paper he’s written, one in which he argues that violence on a national level is good for population control. She’s worried that kind of thinking is dangerous and that he’s taking advantage of his situation, while Luce and his parents are worried she is targeting him because of his position. A conflict ensues that brings a variety of issues out into the open.

The Posters

All four main players are shown on the one-sheet, their pictures cascading across the bottom half of the real estate with a concerned and anxious look on their faces. It’s a simple design meant to provide a blank white canvas for the emotions and issues raised by the story, which is hinted at in the copy “The truth has many faces.”

The Trailers

Luce is giving an inspiring speech about his family as the first trailer opens. He’s the model student and athlete, a young man who was adopted from another country by a couple that thinks the best of him. That image is threatened when a paper he writes is flagged by a teacher as being troubling. She becomes the enemy of Luce and Amy, who don’t want his future risked. The conflict escalates from the philosophical to the physical, with the teacher finding herself harassed and burglarized as Luce’s reputation becomes more and more precarious.


Online and Social

NEON’s official website for the movie doesn’t feature a lot of information beyond the marketing materials, but the design of the front page is well done in how it uses the poster key art to create some brand consistency. I also continue to appreciate how the studio provides a Box folder of photos and other media that can easily be downloaded right there instead of putting it behind some sort of press-restricted wall.

Advertising and Publicity

A first look still from the movie was released at the same time it was announced it would be screening at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it garnered a good amount of positive word of mouth and buzz. NEON picked up distribution rights while the festival was still happening. It later screened at the Tribeca Film Festival.

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

The conflict between Luce and his teacher is the focus of the first TV spot released in mid-July, which uses fast cuts and high drama to convey the story of the film.

An exclusive clip was provided to The Playlist showing a key moment of debate between Luce and his teacher. Another clip showed Mrs. Wilson confronting Luce’s adopted mother with her concerns.

Media and Press

The cast and crew were on hand at Sundance to talk about the themes of the movie and its story.

Spencer appeared on “Kimmel” earlier this week to talk about the movie while Watts showed up on “The Tonight Show.” Those two were also interviewed about the dramatic twists of the movie’s story and what audiences could expect.


This is exactly the kind of emotional drama that seems so important these days. The story, as it’s presented in the campaign is one that touches on themes of privilege, trauma and social responsibility, all topics that are in conversation in the news on a daily basis.

The marketing itself is good, all aimed at delivering the maximum emotional punch through short bits of the story being shared in a way to create cliffhanger moments to get the audience intrigued and feeling tense. Spencer and Watts being the focus of those clips and the press efforts show where the real standoff in the story going to be, making the movie seem all the more interesting.

Picking Up the Spare

A series of short spots focusing on the mother, father and son in the story came out shortly after the movie hit theaters. So too a clip of the prep for a key debate moment in the story.

Director Julius Onah and playwright J.C. Lee – whose work the movie is adapted from – speak here about the characters and themes of the story.

Spencer and Watts were jointly interviewed about the movie while Watts revealed it was Spencer’s involvement that got her to join the project.

The Beach Bum – Marketing Recap

the beach bum posterThe logline for The Beach Bum is simple and to the point: “A rebellious stoner named Moondog lives life by his own rules.” The rest of the marketing of the latest movie from writer/director Harmony Korine shows it really is that basic but also a bit more complex than what you might think based on that.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Moondog, a stoned layabout who just wants to enjoy his life, man, and not follow the rules laid out by anyone else. He’s surrounded by a group of friends and others who have similar goals, seeking little other than drugs, booze, sunshine and freedom. Isla Fisher, Zac Efron and Snoop Dogg costar.

The Posters

The first poster is a psychedelic trip, with the faces of all the characters arranged in order of billing, with Moondog shown at the bottom below the collage, splayed out on the beach. Swirling lights and bright colors hint at drug-fueled story filled with exotic characters and bold personalities, a theme that’s reinforced through the copy “You gotta go low to get high.” The design is similar to what can be found on the posters for super hero films like The Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok and others, all of which place a main character at the center of an assemblage of other, minor characters. So the audience is certainly getting the message that Moondog is the focus of the story, kind of a hero in his own way for those around him.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer sells the movie as something like The Big Lebowski meets Spring Breakers, showing the kind of crazy antics Moondog gets into on a regular basis, all while maintaining a steady high and having a lot of fun. Another teaser hits largely the same tone.

The next trailer, a red-band version released in January, is all over the place but completely, insanely enjoyable. Moondog is someone who drifts from one epic situation to the next free of concerns but always with a steady high going. When he gets in trouble with the law he decides it’s time to publish the novel he’s been working on for a long while, but that’s just incidental to the hijinks he’s shown as getting into on the regular.

Online and Social

NEON’s website for the movie contains the usual mix of trailers, a synopsis and links to buy tickets. “Social Assets” actually takes you to a Box folder where you can find GIFs, photos and other information, but it’s not presented in a very user-friendly way like it is on other sites. There are also links to the movie’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve been made aware of, but it’s entirely possible there have been paid social posts and online ads that haven’t come across my radar. I would expect there would be something, especially given Korine has a number of fans based on his previous film Spring Breakers.

Media and Publicity

Indiewire hosted the first look still from the film. Much later it was announced the movie would screen at SXSW, an appearance that included a red carpet and other promotional events, including scratch-and-sniff cards that smelled like weed being handed out to people there. A photo shoot featuring McConaughey showed the actor in all his hippie slacker glory along with an interview where he talked about working with Korine and more.

Moviefone hosted an exclusive clip showing Moondog talking with a sketchy dolphin-seeing tour captain, illustrating the kind of people he hangs out with but also his non judgemental nature.

Korine was interviewed about the movie and his general creative sensibilities, including mention of the “Young Twitchy” art show featuring his work that happened in New York City. There was also a profile of Stefania LaVie Owen, who plays the daughter of McConaughey and Fisher’s characters.


As I half-mentioned above, Korine has a good number of fans who were drawn to the crazy, nihilistic, sun-drenched rebellion in Spring Breakers a few years ago. So the campaign is smart to make him a focal point, particularly when it comes to the press and publicity work. His is the creative vision that has garnered the interest of so many people who want to follow his work, and this is an opportunity to do so.

McConaughey, of course, is also front and center in the marketing. The #mcconaugheysance that was in full force in the first half of the 2010s has faded recently due to some off-kilter choices. So the campaign here sells audiences on a return to his bongo-playing form, promising a movie whose main theme is that the sun-drenched actor is just hanging out and having a good time. Though it’s likely deeper than that, there’s nothing wrong with that simple selling point either.

Picking Up the Spare

McConaughey and Snoop made a joint (not sorry) appearance on “Kimmel,” with the former going out in the street for a stunt.

There were also further interviews with Korine where he talked about working with McConaughey and what he wanted to do with the story. Costume designer Heidi Bivens shared just how many thongs were required for production.

Given he’s in the movie it’s only natural McConaughey would talk about how Jimmy Buffett inspired part of his character. The subject of Efron’s hair also came up.

Vox Lux – Marketing Recap

vox lux posterVox Lux follows a young woman named Celeste from her teenage years as an overnight pop sensation through her attempted comeback nearly 20 years later, focusing on three stages of her life and career.

Natalie Portman plays Celeste in her later years, as she attempts to revitalize her career with a new album and tour she hopes will put her back on top. To do so she also has to deal with the years of personal and professional issues that have built up and try to overcome the scandal that derailed her stardom in the first place.

The Posters

Portman is on stage in full makeup and with a microphone attached to her on the first poster, essentially reusing a promotional image for the key art here. Aside from a blurb from an early review there’s nothing but the title and the credits as the studio hopes to make the flashy visual of the Bowie-esque performer the key message conveyed to the audience.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off with Celeste being interviewed about her new music after what we hear are a rough few years. Throughout the trailer we see her dealing – sometimes well and sometimes not so well – with the trappings of fame, offering an inspirational message to her audience while also falling down from apparent excess. There are plenty of hints at danger offered as masked gunmen walk through a building/home and it’s clear there will be drama in the mother/daughter relationship as well.

That looks incredibly off-kilter and lots of fun. You get some of the story but really what’s being sold here is a look and feel more than anything, all centered around Portman’s performance.

The second trailer, released just a couple weeks ago, shows more of Celeste’s beginnings and the path she took to stardom. She’s shown to be a Madonna-like performer who’s facing a lot of obstacles, some of her own making, as she fights for what she feels is hers.

That trailer served not just to sell the movie but also the original song performed by Sia that’s part of the story. It also shows a bit more of the relationship between Celeste and her manager, played by Jude Law.

Online and Social

All the usual material can be found on NEON’s official website for the movie along with a collection of “Social Assets,” clips and GIFs that can be downloaded and shared elsewhere. There are also links to the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

If there’s been paid promotions done by NEON I haven’t seen them. It’s highly unlikely there’s been nothing done on this front but nothing that’s crossed my radar.

Media and Publicity

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Venice Film Festival, news that came shortly before a first look at Portman in the movie was released. First look photos came out a bit after that, before the announcement it would screen at the Toronto Film Festival. A short bit of teaser footage featuring Portman was released via Vanity Fair before Venice got underway.

Both festival screenings generated significant positive buzz for the movies, particularly Portman’s performance in it. The actress was interviewed about the logistics of shooting the movie, what she felt was attractive in the role and more around that time.

vox-lux-gif2The reception at Toronto generated some awards speculation while Portman and the rest of the cast talked about the political nature of the story while director Brady Corbet shared what inspired him to make the movie. NEON bought distribution rights during the festival.

The movie was added to the lineup of the Austin Film Festival, where it was programmed as the opening night feature. A screening at AFI Fest was followed by a Q&A where Portman and Corbet talked about the themes of the story and more, including how Corbet compared Celeste to Kanye West.

Portman was the subject of a wide-ranging cover story in Vanity Fair that had her talking about the movie as well as a wealth of other topics, all accompanied by suitably glamorous photos of the actress. She was also interviewed about what drew her to the project and how it fits into her career to date and how the movie allowed her to fulfill a pop star dream while Corbet talked about how casting her really helped bring the story into focus.


Portman is, of course, the main draw here as she’s the one who has to anchor the story and sell the egotistical singer she plays in some kind of reality. The campaign makes sure to keep her in front of the camera, showing the kind of range she has to draw on to make Celeste a whole person, not just a caricature.

While the story is at times hard to discern from the campaign, that’s actually kind of the point as the confusion that’s created helps to sell it as a strange, otherworldly experience that itself is a metaphor for stardom.

Picking Up The Spare

Borget was profiled and interviewed again about how he wanted the story to reflect the attitudes and personality of a generation. Both he and Portman jointly talked about how the story is about the trappings of modern celebrity.

A week or so after the movie hit theaters a clip of Celeste at a press conference was put out alongside the official music video for Sia’s “Wrapped Up” original song.

Portman has made the media rounds in the weeks following the movie’s released, with appearances on “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show,” often focusing on the song of Sia’s she performed. She and Law also did one of Wired’s fun search-related videos.

There’s been a continued focus on the movie’s soundtrack, with videos for each song released on YouTube and a new short video showing young Celeste performing the song by Sia hitting as well.

Monsters and Men – Marketing Recap

monsters and men poster 2Monsters and Men, the new movie from writer/director Reinaldo Marcus Green, uses a police shooting of an unarmed black man as its inciting incident. That event has a ripple effect through the lives of multiple people and families, but the focus is on three individuals in particular.

Manny (Anthony Ramos), who just wants to provide a good life for his family and who filmed the shooting; Dennis (John David Washington), a police officer who’s seen the footage and is disturbed by the department’s silence around it; and Zyrick (Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a young and promising athlete who has to weigh his future as a baseball player against his desire to be active in his community.

The Posters

monsters and men posterThere’s not a whole lot to the first poster, which just shows Manny and Dennis staring each other down through the one-way glass of a police interrogation room. Aside from the title there isn’t even any copy or text on the poster. What that image shows, though, is the dynamic that will fuel the story of law enforcement and its sometimes adversarial relationship with those they’re meant to protect.

The theatrical poster offers a bit more, showing the main characters arranged above and around a background image of protesters assembled and marching. There’s not much more explained outside of the tagline, “One moment can change everything.”

The Trailers

The trailer lays out for us the basic premise of the story, that an unarmed civilian has been shot by a police officer, seemingly with little or no provocation. From there on out we see how the three main characters and those around them respond to the incident and how they all have to make decisions that are in the interests of themselves, their communities and more.

That looks pretty powerful and impressive. It’s very much the kind of conversation-starter that should be happening today and it pairs nicely with the similarly-themed Blindspotting as well as the recent Pass Over. The cast looks excellent and, most importantly, it doesn’t seem to be overly-exploitive, just raw and unfiltered.

Online and Social

The usual array of standard material is found on NEON’s official website for the movie, including the trailer, a story synopsis and prompts to buy tickets, either individually or in groups. As with other releases from the studio there’s also a nice section of “Social Assets” where you can download images and videos suitable to share online. Links to the official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages can be found in the upper right corner of the site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There’s a very good 30-second spot that can be viewed on the official website that narrows the focus of the story a bit to not overwhelm the tight running time. Green also shared images of outdoor ads around New York City the studio placed that used the key art.

Media and Publicity

The movie was one of those most frequently cited by critics as one they were anxious to see at the Sundance Film Festival. A clip was released by the filmmakers around that time to capitalize on that buzz and the film was soon acquired by NEON. The movie was announced as one of those screening on opening night of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Just days before release news broke that beleaguered movie ticket service and nascent film distributor MoviePass had taken a stake in release and distribution.

Washington did a little bit of publicity and press, including an appearance on “The Tonight Show,” and participation in live Q&As, but he was coming off the press tour for BlacKkKlansman, so Green handled a lot of the duties in this department. That resulted in interviews like this and other appearances


With a handful of similarly-themed films coming out this year, Monsters and Men risks getting lost in the end-of-year shuffle. I realize that statement is telling in and of itself since there are probably like 15 movies around the ennui of middle-aged white guys that came out this year while this is one of just three or four stories about the injustice faced by black communities.

That being said, the movie looks just as powerful as the others that have come out already or are still on the horizon and it’s necessary to tell more of these stories so they become just as common to make sure the issues raised aren’t washed away. Hopefully the campaign reaches enough people to help make that happen.


Director Reinaldo Marcus Green has further thoughts on how the story forced him – and hopefully the audience – to genuinely consider the point of view of police officers involved in incidents like those the movie depicts.

Assassination Nation – Marketing Recap

NEON has sold ASSASSINATION NATION with an outrageous, trigger warning-filled marketing campaign.

assassination nation poster 3Assassination Nation tells the story of a small town of Salem, which, as the marketing campaign will go on to tell us, completely loses its mind. Written and directed by Sam Levinson, the movie follows a group of girls led by Lily (Odessa Young) as they navigate the social minefield that is high school.

All hell breaks loose when they – and the rest of the town – is targeted by a hack that reveals everyone’s emails, texts, photos and other information. Suddenly all secrets are out in the open and no one can hide behind privacy or anonymity. That leads to an ever-escalating series of attacks and reprisals where law and order seems to be thrown out the window as grudges are settled and dark desires given free reign.

The Posters

The first two posters both sport the same tagline, reminding us “You asked for it, America.” One features a group of four women standing with their backs to the camera, each wearing a shiny red jacket and sporting some sort of weaponry on their back. The other has a woman on her hands and knees looking at the camera while licking red paint (I think it’s paint) off the white floor.

A bright red background is used on the theatrical poster, with the four lead girls standing in the front wearing their red jackets and holding some serious firepower in a defiant, violent image.

The Trailers

A teaser was released right around the time the movie was screening at Sundance that’s focused on Lily explaining how all the optimistic research about how kind and good people are is rooted in BS that isn’t representative of the real world. The footage is flashy and kinetic, selling a depressing fever dream of a film.

Later on an official red-band trailer came out that hyped up not only that this was based on a true story but so full of offensive and unbelievable events that the footage in the spot is only visible behind the repeated and various trigger warnings shown on screen. What you can see is a movie that seems to push every boundary and touch on every taboo available. An all-access version was released at the same time.

The same kind of town-wide sociopathic behavior is on display in the second trailer, which once again came in red and green-band flavors. This time around there’s at least a reason given for the mayhem that ensues: Everyone’s shit got hacked. No seriously, it’s explained that what began with a high school principal’s phone being hacked then spread to tens of thousands of others and everyone lost their minds because all the messages, private thoughts and other secrets went public and caused everyone to melt down and through polite civilization out the window.

Another trailer, titled “Fierce” and released in mid-September, starts out by showing us exactly what kind of material was leaked, causing the town’s meltdown. Unlike some of the other trailers, this one shows how the girls who have their information revealed are actually victims, at least at the outset. The same insanity follows, but it starts out by showing what an invasion of privacy the hack really amounts to.

At the same time there was a 60-second version titled “Sassy” that was basically just a cut-down version of “Fierce,” following the same arc and containing much the same footage.

Online and Social

The “Fierce” trailer opens the official website, so take a minute to watch that again. Close that and the splash page features full-screen video with a button to buy tickets and links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. On Twitter there was lots of amplifying of fans who were signalling their anticipation of the movie based on the trailers and other promotions. The Facebook page has lots of short GIF-like videos that are framed in bold colors and feature some outrageous captions.

gif1Moving over to the drop-down menu in the upper left, the first section is “Trailer” which has all the trailers. After that is the “Synopsis” where you can read a story recap and see a cast/crew list.

That’s followed by information on two contests people can enter, one the “GIF Challenge” and one the “Scratch Card Giveaway, the former something that’s just online and the latter run in conjunction with Dolls Kills Stores.

“Social Assets” has videos, GIFs and stills to download, all of which have been optimized for use on social media platforms. “Press Assets” also has downloadable assets, including the posters and trailers as well as the press notes.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots started running in late August, with a series of commercials that played like cut down versions of the trailer, offered more information on Lilly and her rebellion against conformity or positionedpositioned the movie as a more violent kind of Mean Girls. Some of those videos were also used as paid social posts. Other online ads used video snippets and elements of the key art.

Culture news site Refinery29 ran lots of stories about the movie because of a new deal it signed with NEON to produce and distribute movies aligned with the kind of audience that frequents the site.

Media and Publicity

With a debut scheduled for the Sundance Film Festival, the movie was included more than once on the lists of what people were looking forward to seeing there. That proved prescient as it quickly sold to NEON, which partnered with the Russo Brothers (the directorial team) in an unusual arrangement before the festival was over.

Surprisingly, the movie was among those NEON was promoting at San Diego Comic-Con with cast appearances and more. The jump from Sundance to SDCC – literally from the niche cinephile world to the mainstream entertainment audience – was notable in and of itself. At the premiere, the cast and director spoke about the kind of cultural shifts that have inspired the chaotic, anarchic story.

assassination nation pic

A Regal-exclusive clip showed the kind of danger the main group of friends the story follows are in. Another clip released to EW showed the attitudes those girls have. Refinery29, which ran some contests for the movie, debuted a clip featuring costar Bella Thorne and also shared an introduction to the various characters.


The whole campaign is designed to upset and shock you. That begins with the initial teasers that serve as one long trigger warning for the content that follows and runs all the way through the various red-band trailers, clips and other materials. Whether or not it works to actually get people’s attention and lives up to that hype remains to be seen, but you can’t fault NEON for not going all-in on the premise.


This clip is a scene that was reportedly cut from the film to help it elude an NC-17 rating. Notably, the scene depicts the drawing of a naked woman, which is apparently too much for the ratings board.


Hard Nef, the trans woman who plays Bex in the movie, gets profiled here and interviewed here. She also showed uno “Late Night.
I’d been wondering about the surprising lack of paid advertising for the movie and it turns out that’s because NEON ran into push back from social media companies and others who were skittish about the provocative material being sold.

I, Tonya – Marketing Recap

i tonya posterIt’s worth noting that when news broke of skater Tonya Harding having had rival skater Nancy Kerrigan attacked after a practice in 1994, America was two years into the nascent reality television phenomenon. It’s by no means a recent development, but the audience was primed for stories of real life drama involving villains we could root against, sweethearts to root for and sympathize with and so on. Coverage of the story extended well beyond the world of sports and became a reality narrative the whole country followed for a while.

Now that story is coming to the big screen over 20 years later in I, Tonya. Margot Robbie stars as Harding in a story that follows her from her earliest days in the world of competitive figure skating, a career that’s driven by her hard-nosed mother (Allison Janney). Sebastian Stan plays Jeff Gillooly, Harding’s ex-husband and co-conspirator, the one who actually makes overtures to shady types who might be able to elongate Kerrigan (Caitlin Carver) from the equation.

The Posters

The first and only poster features Robbie as Harding standing against the cinderblock wall common to arenas as she holds her skates in her hands and sports a defiant scowl. It certainly seems familiar, largely because those of us who lived through these events will kinda sorta recognize the outfit she’s sporting. And it definitely conveys to the audience that we’re not getting a sugar-coated version of events but one that comes loaded with plenty of attitude

The Trailers

A short teaser trailer sets up Tonya as embracing the role of someone willing to be the bad guy as we see a few shots from the movie, including her skating, Harding being clubbed and more. There’s not much there, it’s just a taste to get something out there and get people talking.

The first full trailer is kind of insane. We see Tonya’s story, including how she was pushed by her mother to succeed in every way, mostly through criticisms and violence. All that made her defiant and tough and unwilling to play by the nice rules that are in place. We see her husband begin looking into having someone take out the competition and keep working, all while dealing with the emotional fallout of being raised like she was.

It’s coarse and vulgar and funny and yeah, it looks pretty darn entertaining. Robbie completely owns the role and Janney looks fantastic as the caustic mother who prods her daughter in the only way she knows how. There are a couple moments that seem to indicate the movie breaks the fourth wall regularly, offering commentary on what’s happening and the reality of the situation, pointing out moments of artistic license being taken. That only makes it look more insane.

Online and Social

The main page of the official website opens with full-screen video pulled from the trailer with the title and a “Get Tickets” prompt at the bottom of the page. That tickets call-to-action is also the first element in the menu at the top of the page.

After that is the “Trailer” section, which has both the teaser and the full trailer, the latter in both red-band and all-ages versions. The “Synopsis” after that offers both a story overview and the cast and crew list. There are several stills in the “Gallery.” Other than the “Share” buttons to post the site to social media the last section is the “Press Kit” that offers a PDF to download where you can get all sorts of relevant information.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

If there’s been a ton of advertising for the movie I haven’t seen it. Nothing has been found in terms of TV spots and I haven’t seen any online or social media paid promotion.

Media and Publicity

The movie had its big coming out at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was pretty well received. A big feature interview with Robbie appeared around that time where she talked about the technical and physical challenges in making the movie and admitted she didn’t realize this wasn’t a fictional story until they were filming. NEON quickly picked up distribution rights after that Toronto screening and it was later scheduled as one of the closing night features at AFI Fest. Robbie continued talking about the research she did into the woman she’s playing.

i tonya harding headlines

Robbie did a few press interviews in the last couple weeks but most of the coverage wound up revolving around questions about her future as Harley Quinn in various DC Cinematic Universe films. Either that or the stories focused on her fashion and glamour, not really talking about the movie itself. Just look at the headlines to the right, a screenshot pulled from Google News.

She also showed up on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” just last night, interviewed by guest host Chris Pratt.


I think my favorite part of this campaign is that there’s no attempt to make a feel-good Lifetime story out of it. There’s attitude and swagger to spare throughout the marketing, which matches the public persona many of us associate with the real-life Harding. It’s clear the filmmakers aren’t glossing over anything. While they may present a slightly more relatable picture of Harding than was evident 20+ years ago, she’s still not a warm, fuzzy personality. And Robbie sells all that with conviction, a testament to her acting chops.

The marketing probably won’t make that much of a dent in audience desire to see the film, though. This is very much the kind of film that will skate under most people’s radar until it’s available on Amazon Prime or Netflix in eight months, at which point they’ll kind of remember seeing a trailer for it and decide it’s worth checking out. That’s not the fault of the campaign itself, which sizzles and pops and makes a strong impression, just the reality of the current theatrical marketplace.


The movie has come under an increasing amount of criticism since it was released, both for its depiction of domestic abuse and for how it plays fast and loose with the truth, the latter centered around an account from a sports writer who covered the events of the film in real-time.


A bit more advertising has been done in response to the movie’s early awards season wins, including 15-second pre-roll spots on YouTube that call out how insane this true story is.
While it’s not directly tied to this movie, the interest and attention it received presumably lead NEON to acquire the old documentary “Sharp Edges” about Tonya Harding prior to her gaining national notoriety. Still, it’s somewhat surprising given the backlash to the movie centered around the questionable decision to make the villain in the story sympathetic while almost completely ignoring the victim.

Beach Rats – Marketing Recap

In the new movie Beach Rats Harris Dickinson plays Frankie, an aimless teen in Brooklyn with no real goals or ambitions for how he spends his time. He’s got a sort-of-girlfriend in Simone (Madeline Weinstein) but nothing serious. He’s also spending as much time as he can out of the house to escape the intrusions of his family.

His rebellion and questions about his own identity lead him into a lifestyle of visiting websites to arrange hookups with older men. That behavior becomes increasingly dangerous and erratic and winds up having consequences for his relationship with Simone and his life in general.

The Posters

There’s not much to the first and only poster. It just shows Frankie and a group of guys, apparently on the beach because they’re all shirtless and one has a towel across his shoulders. The movie’s festival credentials are above the title and below it are a couple of quotes from critics praising the film. The audience can certainly get the gist of the kind of lifestyle Frankie is leading but there aren’t a lot of details on display here.

The Trailers

There’s not too much going on in the first teaser. It’s mostly just shots of a young shirtless man taking a mirror selfie, which we see only sporadically as text cards come on screen. At the end we see three guys standing on the beach, looking out over the ocean.

So it’s not so much about selling the story as it is making it clear what the subject matter is, which is that it’s about young men. That’s all that’s going on here.

The full trailer starts out by showing us how Frankie is just kind of messing around with life, hanging out with his friends and meeting girls. But there’s a secret he has, namely that he’s attracted to men and engages in all kinds of cruising and other activities that are becoming increasingly dangerous.

That’s about it for the trailer, which is more about setting the tone than fully explaining the story. There’s enough there for the audience to get the general sense of but the focus is on Dickinson’s performance as Frankie.

Online and Social

Full screen video of clips pulled from the trailer greet you as you load the movie’s official website. There’s not a whole lot of material here, though. Outside of the “Get Tickets” prompt and the encouragement to “Share” the site on social networks, there’s just “Videos” with the trailer and a clip and the “Synopsis” with a quick write-up of the story and a cast and crew list. There are also links to the movie’s own Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing in this category that I’m aware of. It’s too small to have warranted a big paid advertising spend of any sort or attracted any corporate partners.

Media and Publicity

The movie got pretty good buzz coming out of its premiere at Sundance. A few months after that screenwriter Eliza Hittman talked about the journey she took in creating the story.

Most of the press in the subsequent months has come from the release of marketing assets like trailers and clips, not from any concerted publicity activity.


Without a lot of activity in the months between Sundance and release, NEON is obviously putting a lot of weight on that festival buzz. It’s even been a while since the most recent trailer or poster were released, so there hasn’t been much of anything recently to keep the movie at the top of the audience’s mind. Without a big competing release this weekend it might be enough to succeed in whatever limited release window the studio has planned, but odds are good the vast majority of filmgoers aren’t aware this is coming out.

That being said, the small-scale campaign that’s been mounted isn’t bad. The focus seems to be on making the audience connect with Frankie and his atmosphere more than anything else. So we’re shown how his behavior changes depending on the situation he’s in and how that impacts some of the people around him. It’s not overt, preferring to establish mood than create strong personal connections, though. That may come off as cold to some, particularly without a familiar face to latch onto.