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.

Overall

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.

Little Women – Marketing Recap

How Sony is selling the latest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel.

little women poster 9The story of Little Women is one that’s been told on film a number of times over the decades. Now writer/director Greta Gerwig is bringing her own interpretation of the material to screens with an all-star cast and a modern sensibility that still retains the story’s original setting.

As always, the story revolves around the women of the March family, with matriarch Marmee (Laura Dern) and daughters Beth (Eliza Scanlen), Amy (Florence Pugh), Meg (Emma Watson) and Jo (Saoirse Ronan). With the men all gone fighting the Civil War they have to make it on their own and count on each other. All four have their own dreams and desires but come up against the standards of the time, which don’t let a woman claim her independence or make her own way in the world.

In marketing the film, Columbia Pictures/Sony has relied on audience’s familiarity with the source material while also promoting the presence of some of today’s most buzzed-about young actors.

The Posters

Jo is shown running toward the camera on the first poster (by marketing agency Works Adv) from October. The other main characters are relegated to horizontal photo strips off to the side, there to be shown off to the audience but clearly not the focus of the movie. “Own your story” conveys the take-charge attitude audiences will encounter when they see it.

A series of character posters that offer fuller looks at the cast came out shortly after that.

One final poster shows the four March sisters looking anxiously out the window anxiously, emphasizing one more time the weight of the cast on display here.

The Trailers

It’s very much the classic story we’re all familiar with being shown in the first trailer (7.6 million views on YouTube), released in early August. While the characters and plot may be largely known to us, the selling point then becomes the cast that’s been assembled by Gerwig, one that includes some of the most buzzed-about talent working today. Aside from that, the message sent to the audience is that women can do whatever it is they want and should be allowed to do so my men and society as a whole, which still remains an important one.

Online and Social

There’s actually some good stuff on the movie’s official website, including a “March Sisters Quiz” to help you determine which one you’re the most like.

Advertising and Publicity

The movie gained significant awards season momentum following a press/SAG/DGA screening in October.

Laurie asks Jo to dance in the first clip, released in early November. A second clip released a bit later has the two discussing the economic realities of love and marriage in the era. Additional clips had Auntie Marsh talking about Jo’s need to be married and her frustration at the whole of patriarchal society.

An extended TV commercial came out in late November that offered a recap of the story, focusing on Jo’s special place in the family and her unwillingness to accept the fate that awaits her as a woman in that era.

The movie’s premiere was held last week, with Gerwig and the cast all showing up to chat about the production and more.

Little Free Libraries was the only promotional partner for the film, putting movie-branded boxes of books in select cities across the country. Sony donated 2,000 copies of Little Women to be stocked in those and other locations as well.

Most of the cast participated in a “Tiny Kitchen” vignette, watching as a movie-themed tiny kitchen was assembled.

Media and Press

While also talking about other projects, Ronan spoke on what it was like to reunite with her Lady Bird director. Pugh commented on the movie and its story while she was in Sundance earlier this year promoting other projects. Reports circulated in April that this was the second choice Sony had in mind if Once Upon a Time In Hollywood, the new movie from Quentin Tarantino, wasn’t ready for screening at Cannes.

Vanity Fair offered a first look at the pairing of Ronan and Chalamet in mid-June. Interviews with Pugh while she was promoting Midsomer earlier this year often included comments about transitioning from that production to this one and what a welcome relief the change was.

An interview with Gerwig from about the same time the trailer was released has her sharing her thoughts on assembling the powerful cast and making the most of their talents.

A brief Chalamet profile came out that touched only on very high-level topics and only briefly mentioned this movie. That came at about the same time as an EW cover story featuring both Chalamet and Ronan where they talked about working together again and the natural chemistry they enjoy on screen as well as an interview with Pugh where she shared her approach to her character and attachment to the material.

The October screening included a Q&A with Gerwig and the cast where they talked about the story and how they got into character.

What drew her to offer yet another take on the familiar story and how she assembled the impressive cast were covered by Gerwig in another interview where she talked about the research she did in preparation for production. The ways in which she and the cast updated that material were the topic of a joint profile with her and Pugh.

While the focus was on other things, costar Tracy Letts briefly commented on his enthusiasm for working with Gerwig again after getting to know her while filming Lady Bird.

Chalamet spoke about the movie when he appeared on “Late Night” several weeks ago.

A profile of Ronan had her acknowledging the likely importance of this role in her career while also emphasizing how committed she was to getting that role while Gerwig talked about how she approached Jo and working with the actor.

In a nice touch, the movie was endorsed by Gillian Armstrong, who directed the much-loved 1994 version.

How cast and crew assembled to make the very old novel interesting and relevant to the modern times was the subject of an extended feature profile that encompassed comments from many of those involved.

Gerwig’s influence on the story and her ability to manage the cast were all commented on by those involved at the film’s premiere a few weeks ago.

Members of the cast made a major foray into the late night talk show arena beginning a couple weeks ago. “The Tonight Show” hosted Chalamet, “The Late Show” featured Ronan and Pugh.

The stars of the film expressed their collective dismay at Gerwig’s being overlooked for a Golden Globes director nomination.

The movie’s release allowed for a new conversation about the source book and its rightful place in the American literary canon and the reasons it might not be currently occupying that position.

Gerwig spoke about how long she’s had the ending of the movie in mind and what it took for her to get it made.

Overall

Selling an all-female drama set in during the Civil War should be a hard task, but by selling it as a piece of modern filmmaking with whipsmart dialogue uttered by some of the most critically-praised actors in recent years is a solid way around that problem.

A movie like this should be benefitting from all sorts of awards season buzz, but as many people have noted it’s oddly not. The reasons why are unknown (though plenty of speculation has been bandied about) but whatever they are it means a crucial part of the hype cycle is missing, which could impact its chances for success at the box office as well.

Despite that, what’s sold here is all manner of enticing. Throughout the campaign Gerwig has promised anything but a staid period drama. Instead what audiences are offered is a vital, fresh, energetic take on the material that reflects both the past and the present.

Picking Up the Spare

A new behind the scenes featurette has been released along with another that focused on Gerwig’s direction.

Gerwig started making a few late night appearances along with participating in a number of additional interviews on the inspirations for the story, her work building the world of the film, her long personal journey with the story. She also appeared on “Kimmel” to talk about the movie and her early awards season snubs.

Also getting some attention was the film’s costume and production designers.

Another profile of Pugh here that talked about this movie and her career as a whole. She also appeared on late night to promote the movie and talk about the various Oscar snubs.

The movie has increased interest in and attendance at the Alcott family home in Massachusetts.

Mary Queen of Scots – Marketing Recap

mary queen of scots poster 4Mary Queen of Scots is the second movie, following Outlaw King on Netflix, to bring audiences a story of Scottish history and nobility. And once more the focus of the story is on the conflict that’s part of that history, particularly the tension between Scotland and England and the former’s desire to be free and independent from its larger cousin.

In this case that’s very literally the case. Saoirse Ronan plays Mary Stuart, who became queen of Scotland when she was just six days old. Forced to abdicate the throne, Mary eventually winds up seeking the protection of her cousin, Queen Victoria I (Margot Robbie), in England. The two are divided on many fronts, though, including Mary’s claim that she is the rightful English monarch, leading to backstabbing, confrontations and rivalry between the two.

The Posters

Two character posters, one with each of the lead characters, lead things off at the same time the first trailer was released. As many people pointed out, though, the placement of “Born to power” on Elizabeth’s poster and “Born to fight” on Mary’s was kind of backwards when you consider their actual circumstances. This seems like the studio ignoring history in order to position the characters more squarely as rivals, with Elizabeth the one grasping to the throne and Mary the one willing to take up arms to claim what she feels is hers.

The next two posters show the two women in various poses in relation to each other, each highlighting both the friendship and the conflict between the two.

The Trailers

As the trailer opens Mary has returned home to England from Scotland. She wants to make sure she and her cousin Elizabeth rule side-by-side as equals, not competitors or with one subservient to the other. Things quickly become competitive though as Elizabeth’s advisors position them against each other, something Mary keeps trying to avoid but which eventually leads to a clash of armies.

A second short trailer was released just earlier this week that positioned the story as “the epic clash of queens,” showing the two women maneuvering against each other while including blurbs and quotes from some of the positive reviews the movie has already accumulated.

Online and Social

The second trailer opens Focus Features’ official website for the movie, which seems to just offer visitors the two trailers and a brief “About” synopsis. There were also Twitter, Facebook and Instagram profiles for people to connect with.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I’m not aware of any TV spots, but online ads have used some of the key art to show off the glamour of the costumes as well as the actors involved.

Media and Publicity

First look photos of Robbie and Ronan in character appeared in EW along with brief details on the story. Ronan was part of Focus’ CinemaCon presentation, where she talked about working with Robbie and what story they were trying to tell while the studio showed off a bit of footage. The movie was also part of the later CineEurope presentation from the studio.

A new interview with Ronan and another new still were part of EW’s Fall Movie Preview issue. It was later announced as the closing night feature at the AFI Film Fest. Later on Ronan, Robbie and director Josie Rourke were interviewed together about the production, the nature of the characters and more. Another later feature focused on the same material, including how the two costars worked to stay apart on set to better get in the mood of being rivals.

Robbie appeared on “The Tonight Show” to joke around and show off the look of the movie, with Ronan showing up just a couple days later to talk about the movie, her costra and more. Robbie also stopped in to “Good Morning America” and other shows.

Ronan was also interviewed about the characters and story and again about working with Robbie and more. The two were also jointly interviewed about the production and the political relevance of a story that pits two powerful women against each other, something Robbie also touched on here.

Chateau Marmont in Hollywood hosted a display of costumes from the movie presented by both Vanity Fair and Focus. Those costumes, and the work put into creating them, were the focus of a few stories and interviews with the designers while the sets also got some attention.

Costar Gemma Chan got a bit of attention later on in the campaign, including a short interview and a few TV appearances where she talked about being part of the cast and more.

Overall

What strikes me most strongly about the campaign is that on most every front, particularly in the publicity, it acknowledges that a lot of the rivalry and fighting between the two women is the fault of them needing to prove themselves in what is otherwise a man’s world. They’ve been controlled by advisors and regents and so are paranoid when they see any threat to their position, even if it comes from someone who should otherwise be a friend and ally.

That aside, the marketing has focused strongly on the two costars, which isn’t surprising. The story is there, of course, but it’s all about seeing these two actors go up against each other on screen in a period drama. That’s been the topic of the interviews they’ve done while the rest of the media push has played up the design of the set and costumes, offering audiences a spectacle along with the story.

Picking Up The Spare

Robbie spoke more here about the nerves she had in taking on the role of Queen Elizabeth.

The process of developing the story was covered in a profile of screenwriter Beau Willimon and historian Jon Guy.

Ronan made another appearance on “Late Night” to talk about the costumes and story of the movie.

Another featurette on the royal story of the movie as well as a clip showing some of the planning going on.

On Chesil Beach – Marketing Recap

on chesil beach posterAnother novel by Ian McEwan comes to the big screen in this week’s adaptation of On Chesil Beach. In the movie, Saoirse Ronan plays Florence Ponting, a young woman from an upper-class family in the 1960s who begins a relationship with Edward Mayhew (Billy Howle), a young man from a more working-class background. The two fall in love and get married.

The story is focused on the events leading up to, on and following their wedding night. Florence, for whatever reason, has no interest in consummating the marriage and is repulsed and panicked at the idea of doing so, something that frustrates and alienates Edward. How the two of them navigate this essential issue within the confines of societal norms at the time – including dark secrets that are never to be spoken of – creates the drama of the story.

The Posters

Ronan and Howle are shown on the poster sitting or standing on a seaside beach, each looking in opposite directions, perhaps showing their diverging thoughts and paths. The dramatic nature of the landscape behind them as well as the period clothing tell the audience this is a big drama set sometime in the mid-20th century that’s focused on the two characters, who appear to be close yet heading for a confrontation that will be as turbulent as the sea.

The Trailers

Florence and Edward are newly-married – like, just earlier that day – as the trailer opens, both surprised it actually came out without problems. We then flashback to how they first met and began seeing each other, each attracted by elements of the other and talking about the little things they noticed. Florence is shown to be unsure about consummating the marriage, something we see she’s been struggling with for a while. That structure – cutting between the present day tension in the hotel room and scenes from their shared past – compliment each other and show what kind of story to expect.

That structure works really well and I hope it’s maintained in the film itself. By showing the issues or questions Florence has along with Edward’s attitudes both in the past and present we can see how expectations are set, how some people are encouraged to not ask questions but accept their roles and more. It’s an interesting story that seems very timely for 2018 despite being set 50-odd years ago.

Online and Social

There’s not a whole lot happening on the film’s single-page web presence, but what is there is alright. There’s a trailer, synopsis, cast list and other details. Also, a collection of both original content and links to features published elsewhere, which is a nice touch.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen, but it’s likely there were some online ads at least that appeared.

Media and Publicity

One of the biggest publicity beats for the movie came in the form of a profile of McEwan, who on this film was actually brought on the set to answer questions from the director and cast as to character backgrounds and motivations, something that’s fairly unusual.

Ronan spoke about how this isn’t her first McEwan adaptation here, with McEwan also commenting on how much he enjoys the actress appearing a number of his stories. That was also the subject of this feature. There probably would have been more of a concerted push around Ronan but she just did this a few months ago for Lady Bird.

Overall

Another example of what seems to be a movie with a very timely story, even if it’s set in a different era. The conversation around sexuality and consent is more pitched than it ever has been, so a story about a woman who simply isn’t interested in sex – for whatever reason – seems relevant. And viewing that conversation through the filter of a time when “asexual” wasn’t a thing and a woman freely expressing her desires, or lack thereof, wasn’t common allows a different perspective on current climates.

The focus is, of course, on Ronan as she continues a years-long hot streak as one of the most in-demand actors around, always taking on challenging and interesting roles. As stated, her back-to-back publicity schedules seem to have resulted in a less concerted push this time around, but she’s still front-and-center. To compensate somewhat for that, McEwan was brought out more, which should help attract fans of the author along with fans of period dramas.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

More here about how this isn’t the first time Saoirse Ronan has shown up in a movie based on an Ian McEwan book as the two talk about finding themselves on the same project again.

The Seagull – Marketing Recap

seagull posterBased on the Anton Chekov play of the same name, The Seagull is a drama about love, expectations and realizing your potential. Set in the late 1800s, the story follows Irina (Annette Bening), an actress who takes a summer trip to the estate of her brother Sorin (Brian Dennehy), where her son Konstantin (Billy Howie) is also staying. With her she brings an author named Trigorin (Corey Stoll), a decision that has ramifications for everyone.

Nina (Saoirse Ronan), who lives on the estate next to Sorin’s, falls in love with Trigorin. But Konstanin is in love with Nina. Irina has been having an affair with Trigorin herself. Also getting involved with the complicated interminglings is Masha (Elisabeth Moss), who has held an unrequited love for Konstantin herself. So the stage is set for all sorts of heartbreak and problems as the upper crust of society deals lightly with love and other emotions.

The Posters

There’s not much to the one poster for the movie, which places a literal seagull in the middle of the design for reasons that aren’t immediately clear. The best explanation may be that trying to prioritize the cast, which is shown in smaller headshots along the bottom of the poster, was going to be too difficult.

The Trailers

The trailer presents the movie as a relationship drama steeped in class warfare. Nina and Konstantin are obviously madly in love but society’s expectations don’t seem to be aligned with their mutual interest. The presence of Trigorin and the machinations of Irina complicate matters by presenting a suitor more appropriate than the humble young man from the neighboring estate. Everyone is dealing in manners and rules while trying to both suppress and express their true feelings and emotions, which come bubbling to the surface regardless.

The movie itself looks plenty interesting and it’s hard to argue with the cast. The trailer is cut, though, a bit oddly and doesn’t really flow in a coherent narrative, which is a bit of a problem. More of a problem is the criminal underuse of Elizabeth Moss, who looks like a caustic wit that will just throw grenades in the story from time to time and that’s what I *really* want to watch.

Online and Social

The single-page website has some basic information about the film, including a “Synopsis,” cast list and more. There’s nothing to keep you on the site or really engage your interest and, notably, nothing that offers further information about where and when you can actually see the film.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

No paid efforts I’ve seen or am aware of.

Media and Publicity

A handful of stills along with the first trailer debuted at EW along with comments from director Michael Mayer about the story, working with this group of actors and more. The movie was later announced as one of those scheduled to screen at the Tribeca Film Festival, where the cast talked about working with a Chekhov story and each other. An interview with Mayer in EW’s summer movie preview issue allowed him to talk about casting Benning and why she was his first and last choice for the role. There were other mini-features on Bening, Ronan and others as well along the way.

Overall

This looks fine and may well be worthy of the positive buzz that’s built up around it as a result of the festival and other screenings. But there’s a spark missing from the campaign that seems significant. The trailer never really pops with the power of the words and the poster looks like every third Miramax ensemble drama from the mid-90s on. Nothing particularly wrong here, just nothing that really helps the campaign stand out, likely an indication of a belief it’s not going to bring in a lot of converts.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Star Annette Bening and production designer Jane Musky walk through the house that serves as the main setting of the story.

Lady Bird – Marketing Recap

Greta Gerwig has been a force in filmmaking for a number of years now as both an actor and writer. With this week’s Lady Bird she expands into directing as she tells the story of a young woman in 2002 trying to figure out who she is and be true to that.

Satires Ronan stars as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson. She and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) are too alike to ever really agree on anything. Christine is going through the usual uncertainty about identity, maturity and religion that are common to young adulthood as she butts heads with her mom, deals with her father’s job loss and more.

The Posters

The first poster doesn’t feature any of the cast, at least not their pictures. All their names are here to show off the strength of the ensemble, those names appearing between a cross with a bird perched on the top and the title treatment that’s shown in a very stylized font. Those elements – the title, the cross and the stained-glass border around the whole thing convey that religion will likely play a big role in the story.

The second poster puts Ronan in profile. The same sort of emphasis on religion is made both through the continued use of the stained glass border seen on the first poster and the cross that hangs on the wall in the background of the photo.

The Trailers

The mother/daughter dynamic is what opens the first trailer, which shows just how much Lady Bird wants to accomplish and how she’s trying to create a unique identity for herself. She’s rebelling against the ideas her mom has for her and clashes between the two is a constant theme. They love each other and can’t stand each other, which makes the usual drama of growing up just a bit more difficult.

Well that’s just fantastic. It looks like Gerwig has crafted a strong story of family dynamics that has a sensitive touch and characters you want to succeed who are brought to life with a couple great performances.

Online and Social

The official website opens with a bit of video that, when clicked, plays the trailer, which is absolutely worth watching again. That’s actually about it on the site with the exception of links to the movie’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles. A24’s page about the film has a synopsis and the theatrical poster, but even with that there’s not a whole lot going on online.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve come across, though there may have been some targeted advertising done in New York and L.A. in advance of the movie releasing there.

Media and Publicity

The first real news of the movie came when A24 picked it up and announced intentions to give it an awards season release. The movie was announced as one of those that would screen at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the New York Film Festival and Telluride. A little while later EW shared the first photos from the film.

Those Telluride screenings created a lot of positive buzz for just about everyone involved, from Gerwig to Metcalf to Ronan, all of whom were praised for their contributions and/or performances. While there Gerwig talked about not only stepping behind the camera for the first time but the process of casting just the right people to tell a story that has more than a few personal connections. She also joked about the backstory of Dave Matthews Band’s inclusion in the movie. The positive buzz kept growing in the wake of its NYFF screenings, which were very successful.

Gerwig was given the ability to program a series of films at NYC’s Quad Cinema that made up her inspiration for this story and more. She was also the subject of another in-depth profile that covered not only her career to date and the controversy and buzz that’s followed her over the years but also her personal beliefs, her confidence in taking on the role of director and much more.

Overall

It’s obvious that A24 has let Gerwig take the lead in the publicity and press aspect of the campaign, likely because she’s almost completely absent from the official marketing elements. That’s a strong decision because of her charm and respect among filmgoers who have found many of her performances to be among the best of whatever year they were released. This is a big moment in her career and so she’s been given the spotlight.

As for the movie itself, it looks funny and heartwarming and insightful, all traits it’s easy to associate with Gerwig. Ronan seems to be giving a strong and grounded performance as a young woman who doesn’t know when to push away from her family and when to pull them closer and, from a general audience point of view, provides a strong reason to see the film. Metcalf can’t go unmentioned either as the mother who just wants to help her daughter succeed. If this can find the right people it’s easy to see this becoming a crossover mainstream word-of-mouth hit.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

Amazon promoted the movie’s availability on its streaming service with a Father’s Day clip featuring some of Tracy Letts’ wonderfully-delivered lines from the movie.