the harder they fall – marketing recap

How Netflix has sold a high-octane and star-studded Western.

The Harder They Fall poster

Regina King, Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Lakeith Stanfield, Zazie Beetz and Delroy Lindo are just a few of the big names in this week’s new Netflix feature The Harder They Fall.

In the film, labeled as based on a true story, Majors plays Nat Love, a former enslaved person who, once free, moved from Tennessee to Kansas to find work as a cowboy. One day he finds out his nemesis Rufus Buck (Elba) has escaped imprisonment he gathers those loyal to him to set out and find Buck and bring him back to justice, or exact revenge himself. But Buck has his own gang and the two groups are fated to face off against each other.

With a solid cast and the promise of a new-fangled Western, Netflix’s campaign has been slick and action-packed, even if it hasn’t been particularly sizable.

announcement and casting

The movie was announced in mid-2019 with Majors and first-time director Jeymes Samuel attached at that time. Elba joined later that year with others added over the course of 2019 and into 2020.

Production started in mid-2020 but, like many other films, had to be suspended because of a Covid case in October.

The first footage came in January, part of Netflix’s announcement of its ambitious 2021 feature film slate.

the marketing campaign

The first trailer (3.1m YouTube views) came out in late June, starting off with the outlaws robbing a train to free one of their number. But there are those who preferred Buck remain in jail, leading to a good old-fashioned showdown in a small town. It looks like a great, stylized Western with lots of action and humor and a fantastic cast.

Two posters that show the two different sides of the law that are presented in the story also came out in June.

Netflix announced in August that the movie would open the London Film Festival.

It was August when the official trailer (1.1m YouTube views) was released. There’s more footage than was included in the first one but the same message is being sent here: That the film is violent and funny, with a story about warring outlaw gangs each determined to get what they feel is theirs. Most of all it looks like a lot of fun, with some great actors playing Old West for a while.

Short promos like this also began appearing at this time that play up the splashy visuals and high-energy tone of the film.

Another poster came out in September that combines elements from the previous two, bringing the main four characters into a single one-sheet.

At the London Film Festival there were a number of interviews with the cast and crew where they talked about discarding stereotypes of the Western genre, how this film broadens the scope of the kinds of stories that can be told of that era and more.

Similar themes were covered in an interview with Samuel.

Majors stopped by “Kimmel” recently to talk about this movie as well as other upcoming projects.

At the movie’s L.A. premiere event Majors again pointed out that this isn’t an alternative history of the Old West so much as it was an additional chapter of that era that hasn’t been widely told.


The 83% Fresh rating the film currently has on Rotten Tomatoes represents it’s been received more positively than some of the other recent Netflix titles, and even more positively than many other recent releases regardless of platform.

Aside from that, the marketing has been solidly consistent through what is admittedly its short life span. It sells the movie as being a Western, yes, but one with a more modern sensibility and tone despite the frequent assertions by Samuel and others that this isn’t an alternate history or revisionist take on the genre.

It also puts its all-star cast right at the front with an especially strong focus on Majors, who could use this and a couple other high-profile roles to break out into the big-time.

One Night In Miami – Marketing Recap

How Amazon Studios sold a fictional story involving some of the 20th century’s most important individuals.

The new movie One Night In Miami, the directorial debut for Regina King, is one of my favorite kinds of stories, the hypothetical confluence of several historical individuals. In this case the movie focuses on the fictional meeting of Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) at a Miami hotel room in early 1964. The four men, some with their wives, take the opportunity of their meeting to discuss their various roles in the civil rights movement as well as the rest of what’s happening in the early 60s.

With an all-star cast and a well-regarded actor making her first foray behind the camera, the movie has a lot going for it in this unusual awards season. As such, Amazon Studios has mounted a campaign pulling heavily from history, even if the events of the film itself are largely fictitious.

The Posters

Released in mid-November, the first poster (by marketing agency The Refinery) presents a very simple message to the audience by showcasing the four leads, all standing in front of the Miami hotel where most of the action takes place. It’s a very good, simple poster that highlights the movie’s main selling point, which is the cast and the characters they play.

Character posters showcasing the four leads came out in early January.

The Trailers

The first trailer (9.7 million views on YouTube) came out in mid-November and opens by immediately establishing the premise, that the film follows what happens when four icons of the civil rights movement and the 20th century as a whole come together one night following a fight between Ali and Sonny Liston. There’s lots of scenes of the four of them engaged in deep discussions, thoughtful prayer, righteous outrage and more, basically presenting the film as a showcase for the performances from the four leads.

A second trailer (131k views on YouTube) came out earlier in January and takes a bit more in-depth approach, offering the same value proposition to the audience but showing more details about the conversations that happen between the four men and what sort of dynamic is in play. It also notably differs in that it uses Odom Jr. ‘s performance of a couple of Cooke’s songs as the background music instead of something more contemporary.

Online and Social

There were standalone social profiles for the film that ran through part of last year, but which were eventually shuttered in advance of the new year. Amazon Studios did support it substantially on its brand social accounts, though.

Advertising and Promotions

Amazon Studios acquired the film in July, 2020. Shortly thereafter it was announced in the lineup for the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Its debut was scheduled for the Venice Film Festival in mid-September. That screening generated such positive word of mouth it seemed to jump right into Oscar contention, specifically for King.

It was then announced as the closing night feature for the Hamptons Film Festival and added to October’s London Film Festival. In September it was announced it would close the Montclair Film Festival while news later added it to AFI Fest. Reichart and costume designer Francine Jamison-Tanchuk were awarded the Golden Key Award at the Key West Film Festival.

A clip released in September, about the same time as the festival screenings, shows many of the main characters coming together for a big night out.

Eventually a release plan was announced, with the plan being for the movie to open in limited theaters on Christmas Day before being available via Amazon Prime streaming three weeks later.

EW debuted footage of Odom Jr. performing Sam Cooke’s “Speak Now” and another clip shows the main characters heading out for the night as Malcolm X reflects on the danger he’s in from many hostile parties.

Online ads used the key art to link to Amazon Video’s play page for the movie. The studio also sponsored a playlist of R&B tunes on Spotify.

Media and Press

Some of the first publicity for the movie came in an extended profile of King where she talked about making her directorial debut and lots more. Later on she offered a first look at the film along with comments about her experience making it and more.

During the Venice festival King was interviewed about the relevancy of the story, dealing with such iconic historic figures and more. She also talked about how she sees the film’s fate greatly impacting what kind of opportunities black women are given as filmmakers in the future. In another interview she discussed how she and the cast kept going during the Covid-19 pandemic, driven largely by the desire to get this story out there immediately.

The topic of so many well known real life individuals came up in another interview with King, a later interview with Ben-Adir and another one with Odom Jr. and Hodge.

She joined many members of the cast for a conversation about the timeliness of the story and got a feature profile of her own later in the year.

Screenwriter Kemp Powers got a substantial profile that focused on his part in making this film as well as Soul, also coming out in the same time period. He talked more about adapting the play for the screen here and later received another feature profile about his career to date.

King also offered more thoughts on why she was a good fit for this project and once again about what it was like to direct for the first time.

An interview with Ben-Adir had him talking about the research he did to play Malcolm X and how King was instrumental to that process. He went even more in-depth on that process in another feature profile.

Of course King not only commented on this movie but also on the race-related happenings in the current world when she appeared on “Kimmel.” She also had to weigh in on criticisms of Ben-Adir, a British actor, playing a well-known American figure like X.


It’s quite a good campaign, one that’s rooted in the performances of Odom Jrl, Goree, Ben-Adir and Jim Brown. All four of them are the real selling point to the public here, with those who are a bit more in-the-weeds also getting plenty of reminders of King’s involvement. Also good to see is the attention given to Kemp, who is having a moment with a number of projects hitting right about now.

This is, I think, the perfect example of the kind of movie that benefits from a streaming debut in that the opportunity cost of trying it out is so much lower than it would be in theaters. And the campaign has made the point repeatedly, to great effect.

Picking Up the Spare

Amazon released a “Meet The Characters” featurette to inform the audience who it is they’re following in the story. 

More interviews with King had her praising her production crew and speaking about the societal and political ramifications of her work on this film. There was also another profile of Hodge and an interview with Odom, who also appeared on “Kimmel.” King then appeared on “The Daily Show” and then on “PBS Newshour.”

If Beale Street Could Talk – Marketing Recap

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

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

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

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

The Posters

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

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

The Trailers

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

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

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

Online and Social

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

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

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

Media and Publicity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Picking Up the Spare

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

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