Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot – Marketing Recap

The marketing of DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT consistently misses some opportunities to make the story much more interesting.

dont worry he wont get far on foot posterJoaquin Phoenix reteams with director Gus Van Sant for this week’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot. In the movie, based on a true story, Phoenix plays John Callahan, a man who one night gets in a car accident that puts him to a wheelchair. Despite this, he’s reluctant to seek help for the alcohol abuse that lead to that accident and only enters treatment at the behest of his girlfriend Annu (Rooney Mara).

When he does finally begin a program he meets Donny (Jonah Hill) and the two form a bond despite John’s bad attitude toward the whole affair. Along the way, though, he realizes he has a knack for drawing edgy satirical cartoons that soon spread across the country, bringing him some amount of recognition.

The Posters

The first and only poster wants to sell you mostly on the ensemble and so uses photos of the four main players – Phoenix, Hill, Mara and Black – placed within a frame to show you who’s involved in the story. It’s clear from the hair and clothes that the action takes place in the 70s or thereabouts, or at least that that’s the kind of vibe everyone’s going for. Not much else here except for an illustration at the top like those created by John and the inclusion of the Sundance logo to let everyone know it was screened there.

The Trailers

We’re introduced to John as the trailer opens with him explaining how he has been drinking since a very young age. Left unsaid is where he is or how he wound up in the wheelchair, but it can be safely assumed he’s in rehab and that the drinking resulted in some sort of accident. John is obviously still angry about things and isn’t thrilled to be where he is. There are brief flashes to scenes that offer bits and pieces of backstory but nothing really that fleshes out the situations significantly for the audience.

That makes Phoenix’s performance – as well as Hill’s – the main value proposition for the audience. We’re asked to get on board with another fully immersive performance from the former, something that has been his go-to for several years now, the hook on which many of his film’s campaigns have been hung on. Unfortunately that comes at the expense of Mara, who’s barely seen here at all.

In the second trailer John is recounting his last day of being able to walk, a day that ended with the accident that paralyzed him. Most of what comes next is John interacting with Donny and the rest of his support group as well as him finding the inspiration to continue on as an artist. Mara gets a little more to do here, but not much. It’s a bit more upbeat and lighthearted than the first trailer, which is nice as well.

Online and Social

There’s not much on the barebones official website from Amazon Studios, just the usual sorts of information that takes a backseat to the desire to sell tickets. The one exception is an “Illustration Contest” encouraging people to submit artwork inspired by Callahan’s for the chance to win a movie-themed prize pack. Links to the movie’s Instagram, Twitter and Facebook profiles are at the bottom of the page.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Not much that I’ve seen outside of some promoted posts on social media to help spread the trailers.

Media and Publicity

A first look still from the film was shared at the same time it was announced it would premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, appearing on quite a few “must see” lists before the festival began. It was soon after given a release date of May, just a few months following that premiere.

Later on Van Sant spoke about why he didn’t cast a quadriplegic actor in the lead role. While the “he’s not in the wheelchair the whole story” perspective makes sense, it’s less believable that he simply couldn’t find someone else. Later on the director would talk about how this movie fits into some themes he’s hit many times over the course of his career.

A promo video from Amazon Studios acknowledged the fact this was one of two films starring Phoenix it’s putting out this year.

Overall

I don’t have anything objective to point to about the campaign that doesn’t work or which shouldn’t bring in audiences who are fans of Phoenix, Van Sant and the rest of the cast. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some bones to pick, though:

  • Why, as we collectively chastise Scarlett Johansson for taking on roles meant for minorities and other groups, are we not similarly taking Phoenix down several pegs for playing a quadriplegic? I understand he’s not in that condition for the whole story, but surely there was some workaround available. Phoenix and Van Sant have both made movies that pushed the realms of storytelling before, why are they being given a pass for not doing so now?
  • Why can’t Hollywood figure out what to do with Rooney Mara – as well as several other actresses – other than cast her as the supportive girlfriend to a self-destructive and troubled man?
  • Why is Phoenix so reliably uninteresting in everything he does?
  • Why were there no better options chosen for a poster? This is a movie about an artist and they used a photo montage.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Another substantive feature interview with director Gus Van Sant here about how the film fits into his overall body of work.

 

Amazon released a bunch of new posters on Twitter that are much better than the low-effort theatrical one-sheet.

 

Jonah Hill showed up on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and working with Phoenix.

 

Una – Marketing Recap

“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” has become a Netflix hit with a lead character whose personality and optimism was undiminished by years spent as the captive of a criminal passing himself off as a religious leader. This week’s new movie Una presents a much more dramatic – and realistic – about the toll sexual abuse of minors takes on someone throughout their life.

Rooney Mara plays the title character, a grown woman still dealing with the emotional scars left by an affair she had with a much older man (Ben Mendelsohn) when she was just 13. Seeking answers as to why he did it, she searches for him. Eventually she finds him, but the confrontation opens wounds and leads to revelations that neither anticipated.

The Posters

The first poster, released before the movie had a U.S. distributor, places Mara and Mendelsohn next to each other, both of them simply looking at the camera relatively impassively. The only nod to the story is the explanation below the title that this is based on the play that apparently “shocked the world.”

“Absence makes the hurt grow stronger” is the copy that’s written on Mara’s cheek as we see a close-up of her face looking sadly slightly to the side of the camera. Those two elements are about all the hint we get about the story, but it’s clear it’s going to deal with some emotional trauma.

The Trailers

The first domestic U.S. trailer starts off with Una, still a child, testifying at the trial of the man who abducted her. Cut to her as an adult on the search for Ray and finding him living under a new name. She’s looking to confront him about what he did all those years ago and get some answers about why he did it. There’s obviously a lot of anger that she wants to get off her chest.

This is a much better effort than some of the earlier foreign release trailers, though they served to create awareness and keep the movie top of mind in the audience. Mendelsohn and Mara are both giving emotional performances, though hers is a bit more external than the internalized fear and regret he’s showing. The subject matter is, of course, disturbing, but it looks like a compelling and gripping story.

Online and Social

I couldn’t find a website for the movie, either on its own or on the sites for Swen or any other company involved in its U.S. release. There were a couple social profiles, but both seemed questionable for various reasons. Barring any other evidence, I’m saying there’s no official online presence for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve come across.

Media and Publicity

Photos appeared in Entertainment Weekly ahead of the movie’s Toronto Film Festival debut that provided the first glimpses at both Mara and Mendelsohn. The movie was also among those selected for the Telluride Film Festival.

While that Toronto appearance didn’t get universally positive reviews it did highlight the impressively deep cast that had been collected, something that Andrews talked about since it was quite a feat, especially since most of these actors are at the height of their buzz at the moment.

While the movie wasn’t screening at Sundance, it did get picked up by Swen during that festival in what was seen as the distributor’s first big move into the U.S. market. Swen eventually agreed to release it in the U.S. and gave it a fall premiere.

Mara was the feature of a Vanity Fair cover story where she talked extensively about the movie as well as her career in general and her overall outlook on life.

Overall

It’s not easy selling a story involving predatory sexual assault, which is absolutely the term to use when an older man preys on a teenage girl. Usually these stories involve dramatic quests for revenge or justice denied someone by the courts. Any story is going to come under fire for presenting a single point of view, one that may not be shared by all survivors of such trauma.

What the campaign does well is keep the focus on Mara’s Una. That seems commonsensical, of course, but it’s nonetheless notable for having actually been executed. It’s clear that she’s not only on a journey seeking answers but that she’s not sure what to expect when she reaches its end. Mendelsohn’s Ray, for his part, isn’t presented as a cipher for all that’s bad and creepy about men but about someone who did a very bad thing and has tried to pick up his life in the wake of that. Such an approach may seem like cheap rehabilitation of a sexual predator, but it’s likely the movie itself has angles that aren’t apparent in the marketing.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

A Ghost Story – Marketing Recap

A Ghost Story sees writer/director David Lowery returning to his indie-film roots after taking his turn at a big studio movie with last year’s Pete’s Dragon adaptation. The movie reunites him with the cast of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, both Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck.

It’s a simple story: Affleck plays the ghost of a man who has recently passed away, returning to try to connect with his still-living wife (Mara) in their home. But, floating around like a cliched ghost in a white sheet, he finds he’s not in one time or place, instead floating throughout his own timeline as he’s forced to grapple with some of life’s most serious questions.

The Posters

The first poster uses one of the key images of the movie to stark, simple effect. So aside from the title, a short pull quote and the cast list, the only thing here is a photo of someone standing there in a bedsheet with the eyes cut out. “It’s all about time” we’re told in the copy toward the bottom of the design. The whole thing looks like it’s in black and white and the starry background that’s shown gives it a weird, mysterious scope, which is cool.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens with the sheet-covered figure standing in what looks to be a quarry before we get shots of M and C in bed and generally being a cute couple. She’s telling him about the notes she used to leave in an old house so she’d have something to come back to. When we see that he’s died she becomes depressed and through the rest of the trailer we see the ghost lingering on the edges of the action of M and others.

I’m not sure what exactly is going on here but I’m on board. The performances from Mara and Affleck look great and this seems like a mysterious, twisty story that really has to be seen to be fully understood or believed. It certainly lives up to the hype that came out of festival screenings.

Online and Social

The official website is wholly unique. First of all, the URL ends in .store and the point here is – or at least was – to get you to “buy” a sheet like the one worn by Affleck in the movie. There are prompts to enter to redeem a code or you can hold down your mouse button and watch a 9-minute long video of scenes from the movie with text like “Why are you here?” and “Are you feeling infinite?” over them before you’re given the chance to order your own. Unfortunately they’re all out of stock but the site still looks like it’s selling them, with promotional copy akin to what you’d find on the site of Land’s End or something. There’s even a link to a store in New York where you can, or could, get your own.

Aside from that there’s a “Synopsis,” the “Trailer” and links to the Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve been able to find. The movie isn’t big enough to get a huge ad spend so while there may be some targeted ads in select cities, there’s nothing to my knowledge that’s run nationwide.

Media and Publicity

The movie got some early votes of confidence when A24 picked up distribution rights before it even premiered at Sundance. It was there that Lowery talked about the emotional journey of making the movie and Affleck and Mara talked about working together again and what it was like to take on such a gut-wrenching story.

There were a few other interviews by Lowery, Mara or Affleck to talk about similar subjects. And there was some coverage of the small storefront A24 set up to sell sheets and the whole experience the studio created for that.

Overall

I’m intrigued by how A24 has set out to sell this as something very, very different. It’s not Ghost, with its swooning love story about eternal love. But it’s also not a story of overtly trying to set things right or come to terms with the life you lived while you were here. Instead it’s being sold as a mysterious love story that is more about the rubble one leaves behind in a life than an effort to pick up that rubble.

The campaign really has to be divided into two halves: First, the poster and trailer are nicely consistent in how they present a strange, unusual story about a man wearing a white sheet and kinda sorta haunting his widow; Second, the website and the experiential element of actually having people being able to to order and buy the sheets shows the studio having a bit of fun with the concept. That’s great, but it’s doubtful that’s going to do much to reach more than a small subset of the audience outside of film press and those who hang on their every word. Still, it’s a fun execution and deserves some kudos.