French Exit – Marketing Recap

How Sony Pictures Classics has sold a movie about falling from the 1 percent.

“Schitt’s Creek” became a TV sensation for a number of reasons, including its heartwarming story of a family that finds itself suddenly losing its fortune and having to do without in new surroundings. French Exit, now out nationwide after a limited release in mid-February, covers similar ground but in a slightly different setting.

Michelle Pfieffer stars as Frances Price, a Manhattan socialite who has led a comfortable lifestyle thanks to the sizable inheritance from her late husband Franklin (Tracy Letts). When she finds that the money she’s counted on has been almost completely exhausted, she decides to move from New York to Paris with her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges). The two try to make a new life there in an apartment borrowed from a friend, with new acquaintances, experiences and more coming along the way.

The studio’s campaign has focused on Pfeiffer (never a bad idea) and sold a family drama about finding a new way after what’s familiar disappears.

The Posters

Frances and Malcolm – as well as their cat that may or may not be the reincarnation of the late Franklin – are shown on the one and only poster, released in December. The two/three are sitting in the back of a town car, but what they’re doing there is unclear as there’s no other context given, including a lack of copy or tagline. Instead most of the poster’s real estate is devoted to pull quotes from positive reviews, largely coming out of festivals and other screenings, to help make the case to the audience.

The Trailers

Frances is being informed, as the first trailer (861k views on YouTube) from early December opens, that the money she inherited and has been living on has run out. When a friend offers her an empty apartment in Paris she takes her grown adult son with her and moves across the ocean. That offers Frances plenty of new opportunities to create uncomfortable situations, be rude (either intentionally or unintentionally) to new acquaintances and otherwise continue on with her odd and unusual life.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website has the basic marketing materials, including trailers and a synopsis, but it’s mostly about selling tickets. Sony Classics’ page for the film has that as well as a gallery of stills.

Advertising and Promotions

Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film in September of 2019. About a year later, in August 2020, it was announced the movie would close the New York Film Festival, which was going to be structured differently because of the Covid-19 pandemic. That NYFF screening was followed by a number of positive reviews, especially for Pfeiffer’s performance.

The first official clip, released in early February, shows the moment Frances finds out she’s broke.

Commercials like this were used online as well as presumably as TV spots.

Media and Press

An interview with Pfieffer and Hess had them talking about getting involved with the film, how they worked with Jacobs and more during NYFF. Pfieffer again talked about being given the opportunity to get weird in her performance.

A later interview with Pfieffer had her talking about how she approached playing her character and working with Hedges. Similar ground was covered in another conversation that also reflected on her place among Hollywood royalty.

Pfieffer talked about shooting the film in France when she appeared on “Kimmel” in January and about her trepidation in taking on the role when she appeared on “Late Night.” Hedges later appeared on “Kimmel” as well.

She and Hedges were interviewed jointly about working together and shooting in Paris and Pfieffer spoke about her career in general and how this film fits into that here.


Two important points come to me when reviewing the campaign from top to bottom.

First, It’s surprising in some regards that the marketing effectively ended (save for a few additional social media updates from SPC) in mid-February, when the movie’s limited release began. That leaves a long time for people to think about other movies, but given how the press has been dominated by bigger releases, the studio may have been banking on all the oxygen in the room being taken up. And it doesn’t seem it’s making a big awards push, or there would have been more.

Second, this feels like another step in the revitalization of Pfeiffer, a process that began a few years ago with mother!. And I for one am here for it.

Michelle Pfeiffer Mother Movie GIF by mother! - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Burnt Orange Heresy – Marketing Recap

How Sony Pictures Classics is selling a heist story set in the art world.

burnt orange heresy posterThe Burnt Orange Heresy, opening this weekend in limited release, is one of a series of recent films set in the world of high art and about those most mercurial of creatures, the artist, as well as those around them.

The story focuses on an art critic named James Figueras (Claes Bang). Seeking to restore his tarnished reputation he brings his girlfriend Bernice (Elizabeth Debicki) on a trip to Italy to meet Joseph Cassidy (Mick Jagger), an art dealer with a mysterious offer to make to Figueras. Cassidy wants Figueras to use his position to steal a new work from Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland), a legendary but reclusive artist who hasn’t put out anything new in years. Accepting the offer takes Figueras down a dark road that leads to more and more problems, both personal and professional.

SPC has used the positive buzz coming out of festival screenings to mount a campaign positioning the movie as a high-end heist with moral complications for all the characters involved.

The Posters

It’s a great aesthetic on the movie’s one poster, which has all four of the main characters standing in front of the camera, the Italian villa where much of the action takes place at the bottom of the image. Everyone’s faces appear more or less as photographs but a paint-like veneer is added further down to lend the poster a more artistic feel. A positive pull quote from an early review is shared at the top, just above the names of previous successful films the producers have been involved in. Toward the bottom the tagline tells the audience “You can’t paint over the truth,” hinting that there’s more than a little deception happening in the movie.

The Trailers

Late January brought the release of the first trailer (131,000 views on YouTube). It opens with Hollis questioning Figueras about his background and childhood, with him doing a bit of deflecting. The two begin a relationship, and when they’re invited to Cassidy’s estate, on which lives the reclusive Debney. Cassidy offers to help Figueras work with Debney, but on the condition the dealer steal a valuable painting for him. Agreeing to do so takes Figueras down a dark path that threatens everything about his life.

Online and Social

There’s not much aside from the option to buy tickets and view the basic marketing materials on the official website. It hasn’t received a lot of support on SPC’s brand social channels, either.

Advertising and Publicity

It was announced in late July that the movie would be the closing night feature at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. That screening resulted in mixed reviews for the film as a whole though the performances by the leads were readily praised.

Sony Pictures Classics acquired the film shortly after that. It then screened at the Toronto Film Festival where it picked up additional accolades. In 2020 the movie was announced as the opening feature at the Miami Film Festival.

Media and Press

More than one story like this ran during the movie’s festival appearances, calling out Jagger’s role in the film. There were also interviews with Bang about the nature of his character. Oddly, there doesn’t seem to have been a major press push closer to release.


Like many such releases, the campaign here is reminiscent of the kind of movies that used to be sold to the public with some regularity in the mid-90s, when the art house really exploded. It sells a character-driven drama with plenty of twists and turns and characters making poor ethical choices, all taken very seriously amidst lush and expensive settings.

The buzz generated by festival screenings was mostly positive but hasn’t really been built upon in the bridge leading up to theatrical release. That’s a missed opportunity, but the campaign still works on most levels. While the story may not be upfront in the campaign, which is an issue, the focus on selling the classy vibe of the story and in that respect it more or less succeeds.

Picking Up The Spare

Debicki appeared on late night to talk about the movie and more.

Sony Pictures Classics tried to get another bite at the apple by scheduling another theatrical release for the film since the initial one had been cut prematurely short by the Covid-19 pandemic. That push included a new trailer, which was actually just the old one with the date attached, and poster. 

That effort included another interview with Jagger about his return to acting after a few decades. Later on there was an interview with Sutherland about the reclusive artist he plays. 

An extended preview was released as the movie was coming to digital and blu-ray.

Greed – Marketing Recap

How Sony Pictures Classics is selling a story of hubris among the obscenely rich.

greed poster

Director Michael Winterbottom has worked with Steve Coogan on a number of occasions, notably The Trip series, which has a fourth entry coming later in the year. This week sees the release of Greed. In the movie Coogan stars as Sir Richard McCreadie, a billionaire who made his fortune in the fashion industry. McCreadle is about to celebrate his 60th birthday and wants to do so in a suitably opulent manner.

Part of that includes a profile being written about him by Nick (David Mitchell), who has been assigned the story by his editor. Nick is then witness to both the disaster that is the planning of the party, much of which is supervised by Richard’s wife Samantha (Isla Fisher) and to the fact that such gaudy displays of wealth are in stark contrast to the conditions of the workers in McCreadle’s empire.

The marketing for the movie has been relatively short but certainly sells a dry comedy of class warfare and the bubble that comes with success.

The Posters

“The devil is in the retail” says the copy on the one poster, hoping to emphasize the story’s setting in the retail industry as well as the fact that McCreadle isn’t a good guy. He’s shown smiling broadly, his golden tanned skin and sunglasses making it clear he’s lounging somewhere luxurious. It’s an utterly ridiculous picture of someone blissfully unaware of how he looks.

The Trailers

January’s first trailer (4,300 views on YouTube) opens by introducing us to McCreadie, an obscenely rich individual who is having his life chronicled by Nick. McCreadie’s fortune, we see, wasn’t made in what could be considered consistently ethical ways, though, and he and his family are preparing for some image rehabilitation. Some bad press means that isn’t going to go according to plan, but he thinks the bigger the show the less such things will matter. It’s a clear satire of the super-rich and looks hilarious.

Online and Social

The page for the movie on Sony Classics’ site is just a placeholder, a place for the studio to have the trailer, since that’s about it.

Advertising and Promotions

The movie was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics in September, right around the time it was debuting at last year’s Toronto Film Festival.

Media and Press

There were some interviews with Coogan where he talked about the story of the movie and more, but many of those went off-topic and started getting into updates on The Trip and so on.

Exclusive clips offered to Empire and Yahoo Entertainment provided looks at select scenes to show more of the story.


I want more. That’s my main takeaway from the campaign: that it’s not enough.

What is there, though, is clearly designed to appeal to fans of Coogan’s, especially his previous collaborations with Winterbottom. The story is relevant to today’s news as we debate income inequality and other topics, but viewed through the lens of dry satire.

That’s going to be very attractive for some in the audience, myself included.

Picking Up The Spare

Missed this clip of the family at the center of the story having a very privileged conversation.

An interview with Coogan had him dismissing concerns that the real life subject being parodied might be offended by his portrayal. An appearance on “The Tonight Show” covered the movie as well as Coogan’s knack for impressions.

greed online ad.png

Additional online ads have been run that use the key art image of Coogan’s bronzed and smiling face.

Sony put out an  extended preview shortly after the movie was in theaters. 

The Wife – Marketing Recap

the wife posterIn the new movie The Wife coming to limited release this week, Glenn Close plays Joan Castleman, the wife of Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce), a well-regarded author who one day learns he’s been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. A wonderful honor, of course, the two are feted at parties and galas where his genius is celebrated.

Through all that she is standing by his side, as she has been for decades. Finally it’s too much and the dreams she herself fostered of becoming a renowned writer come boiling to the surface, causing tension and turmoil that he doesn’t understand but which have been festering in her for a long, long time.

The Posters

There’s no copy on the poster, just the close-up faces of Close and Pryce, both in elegant evening wear, conveying the status of the characters and that we’re in thin air with the story.

The Trailers

Joe immediately does not come off as a warm, sensitive individual in the trailer, shown right off the bat as someone obsessed more with how his family’s behavior reflects on his image than anything else. When he’s notified he’s been awarded a Nobel Prize it sets off a series of events that creates more and more tension in his marriage to Joan, who it turns out is a frustrated writer herself. Her own writing was stifled by Joe so she wouldn’t compete with him for the spotlight, part of his overall dismissal of her as a person. She’s at the breaking point and is done with the facade of her life and her position alongside Joe.

Yes Glenn Close. Yes. Jonathan Pryce. Both look great here, but it’s Close that really comes through as the star, conveying all the years of dutiful obedient and subservient behavior and the resentment and anger that has been building, only to be unleashed by one dismissive comment too many. Also, it’s good to see Christian Slater again.

Online and Social

In addition to the usual material such as trailers, a gallery and more, the movie’s official website does offer some information on Meg Wolitzer, the author of the source novel.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen.

Media and Publicity

After receiving strong reviews and word of mouth at the Toronto Film Festival, the movie was picked up by Sony Classics.

At the movie’s premiere in late July, Close offered her comments on why it took so long for the movie, which has been circulating around for a while, to finally come to the screen. Pryce and Slater also spoke about what motivates their characters. Later on Close was profiled as someone who’s never taken the easy path in her career but has never been uninteresting.

A couple weeks ago a clip showing a young Joan still driven by ambition was released.

Close made the media rounds, showing up on “Today,” “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night” to talk about the movie and its journey to the screen, also the subject of another story here. Also frequently mentioned was that her own daughter plays the younger version of her character in the film. Christian Slater also made a few appearances.


By focusing not just on Close but on the story of how Hollywood has effectively kept this out of production for a number of years the campaign makes the movie seem even more timely than it already was. It becomes an example of how women are kept to the side of society on a number of fronts and is all the more powerful for it.

Aside from that you can’t argue with anything featuring Close going all-out like this. She’s the focal point of the campaign, which is always welcome as it brings one of the best actresses around back to the forefront of the conversation.


Another profile of star Glenn Close and her impressive career here.

Good interview here with the movie’s screenwriter.

Boundaries – Marketing Recap

boundaries posterThe great Christopher Plummer plays Jack, an eternally-chill pot dealer in the new movie Boundaries. Jack’s activities and his generally ornery personality have gotten him kicked out of yet another nursing home and so it’s up to his estranged daughter Laura (Vera Farmiga), along with her son Henry (Lewis MacDougall) to drive him cross-country so he can stay with his other daughter JoJo (Kristen Schaal).

The road-trip means a lot of close-quarters interaction time, which allows Jack a chance to really get to know his grandson and teach the kid to loosen up and break the rules every once in a while. Laura isn’t thrilled with this but, of course, the time together – aided by the diversions Jack insists on taking along the way – means the father and daughter come to understand each other a bit better as well.

The Posters

Laura, Jack and Henry are all shown riding in the car on the poster, laughing about something. That and the copy “With every road trip comes baggage” explains as best it can that this is a family trip that will likely involve some reopening of old wounds as well as fresh discoveries, revelations and acceptance amongst the travelers.

The Trailers

Laura is in therapy talking about the issues she has with her father when the trailer opens. Jack, it turns out, likes his weed, something that’s caused issues in the family for a while. He’s been kicked out of his community home and it’s up to Laura to take him cross-country to stay with her sister. Along the way Jack enlists Henry’s help to unload the massive amount of pot that’s ready for sale, which involves making some changes to the planned route, including seeing Laura’s ex-husband and Henry’s father. That’s just one of the colorful characters they cross paths with.

It all looks very charming, with loose and energetic performances from both Farmiga and Plummer. Interesting that it’s one of a few movies recently involving young kids taking up weed selling as a side hustle, but these are the times we’re living in, right?

Online and Social

There’s some decent information on the official website from Sony Classics. It opens with the trailer but once you get past that you can scroll down and read more about the story, the cast and the crew. There’s also a decent collection of stills. The only stand-alone social profile created for the movie was on Facebook.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I don’t think Sony’s done any paid promotion for the movie, though there may have been some geo-specific ads run to help drive awareness in the areas it’s being released.

Media and Publicity

The movie was one of those announced to be screened at the SXSW Film Festival. Sony Classics released a clip around the time of that screening that provided a look at the basic premise of the story. An interview with Farmiga where she talked about the story and what it was like to work with Plummer accompanied the release of the first trailer on EW.

There were a few more interviews closer to release, but not anything that amounted to a significant push of any sort.


We’ve seen this movie plenty of times before, so the real value proposition is in the performances of the leads, as well as in the promise that there’s some new perspective being taken on familiar tropes. The former seems much more readily apparent in the marketing materials than the ladder, as the combination of Farmiga and Plummer is well worth checking out while “lessons learned on a road trip” is well-worn territory.


OK, I’ll grant you that co-star Peter Fonda’s Tweet about Bannon Trump was in poor taste, but right now the last person who should be asserting any sort of moral highground on literally any issue at all is Donald Trump Jr. Indiewire has the whole recap, including Sony Classics’ position on the matter.


Christopher Plummer’s character was based in part on the real life grandfather of director Shana Feste.
More from director Shana Feste as well as star Vera Farmiga about the genesis of the story, shooting the movie with so many dogs, the relationships each have with their fathers and thoughts on the current conversation around the demographic representation of the film critic community.

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.


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.


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

The Leisure Seeker – Marketing Recap

leisure seeker poster 1Two Hollywood giants coming together on the big screen is always a treat and that’s what we’re getting this week with the release of The Leisure Seeker. Helen Mirren plays Ella Spencer, a woman dealng with a lot of issues in her advanced years, including her own terminal cancer and the dementia and forgetfulness of her long-time husband John (Donald Sutherland). The two have been together forever and Ella is feeling confined by the reality of their circumstances and so decides to do something about it.

Defying the advice and wishes of both medical professionals and concerned grown adult children, the two set off on one last trip in their RV, nicknamed The Leisure Seeker. Their destination is Ernest Hemingway’s home in Key West, FL, chosen because of John’s love of literature. Along the way, they get into awkward situations and have to deal with problems that come up, but the trip is a final act of stubborn freedom before Ella is gone physically and John is gone mentally.

Continue reading “The Leisure Seeker – Marketing Recap”

Call Me By Your Name – Marketing Recap

call me by your name posterSet in 1983, Call Me By Your Name tells an uncomfortable story, one made all the more so by the news dominating the headlines at this very moment. Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is in Italy with his father, a prominent professor on a research trip. Elio is a bright and outgoing 17- year-old who spends his time in a variety of intellectual pursuits, as well as hanging out with is friend Marzia (Esther Garell).

Joining them on the trip is Oliver (Armie Hammer), the professor’s research assistant. Oliver and Elio become fast friends and bond over shared backgrounds and interests. Eventually that turns into something else as the closeness with Oliver seems to bring Elio’s own sexuality and identity more to the forefront. The seven years between them – Oliver is 24 – remains a problem, though, given that Elio is still young and figuring out who he is.

The Posters

The first and only poster was pretty simple, just showing Elio and Oliver sitting together and looking up to the clear blue sky, the younger’s head resting on the shoulder of the older’s. Aside from that p, oto the primary element is all the quotes from early screenings conveying how incredible the movie is.

The Trailers

The first trailer, which debuted on Vulture, opens by introducing us to Elio, who soon meets the visiting American Oliver. The boy offers to show him around and they begin to hang out more, Elio both attracted to the mature Oliver and his girlfriend Esther. Things progress on both fronts and Elio isn’t sure what to do.

The goal here is to offer the audience the barest outline of the story, instead focusing on the attitude and emotions of the characters. Elio is, of course, the primary focus and we see him go through all the usual stages of doubt and insecurity that are common with his age. This is designed to show everyone what festival goers were buzzing about and succeeds on that front.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website opens with the trailer playing against a cropped version of the key art. Once that’s over the past has links to get tickets as well as for the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles Sony Classics has created.

Scroll down the page or use the menu on the right and the first section you come across is the “Synopsis,” which has a brief writeup of the story, followed by “Cast” and then “Filmmakers,” both of which feature bios and histories of those involved in making the movie.

The “Gallery” has 14 stills from the production. There’s a section for “Reviews” but you can also read pull quotes from select reviews scattered throughout the site in the breaks between sections. Finally, “Links” has links to the source novel, the soundtrack and the Facebook page.

One social media promotion in particular didn’t go over very well. The studio’s UK account Tweeted an image of Elio and Marzia looking fondly at each other with copy touting the intensity of the romance in the story. The implication being that this is the romance that’s depicted and not the one between Elio and Oliver.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There didn’t seem to be any TV advertising done but there was this 30-second spot shared by Landmark Theaters that hits a coupe of the high points in terms of the angst being shared, the beautiful locations of the story and the dynamic between at least some of the characters. While I didn’t see any, I’m sure some online advertising was done as well, particularly in the select markets the film opens in this weekend.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. A first look still from the movie came out around that same time. It was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics before that screening, which garnered almost universal praise and a whole cottage industry of positive word-of-mouth. Sony then scheduled it to screen at the New York Film Festival. It also screened on the opening night of the Toronto Film Festival, where it continued racking up significant positive buzz.

A substantial profile of Hammer allowed the actor to talk about the unexpected and unconventional path his career has taken, his initial reaction to reading the script for this movie and much more. That was also the focus of this profile which talked about his career and personal life and how despite a series of setbacks on both fronts, this seems to be the year things are coming together for him.

There was also attention paid to Chalamet, who’s having quite the year himself in both this movie and the recent indie smash Lady Bird. In that extended interview he talks about how he’s gotten to this point in his career along with how he balances the personal and professional.

Hammer did some publicity and media rounds, as did Chalamet, to talk up the movie. There was even a profile of the sets of the film and how the designer recreated a very specific look for the story.


Sony has put together a nice campaign for the movie that emphasizes not only the emotions felt by Elio and Oliver but, of course, the gorgeous locations in which the story takes place. This *looks* like a high-end art film that is going to have limited appeal in the mainstream audience. At a time when not only homophobia but nativism and anti-intellectualism are all rampant, making a movie about two gay men visiting Italy because of their work or relation to a history professor means some people will reject the story on its face.

To counter that there’s been a strong word of mouth campaign resulting from festival screenings that has sold the movie to the niche audience it seems meant to reach and resonate with. The focus on Hammer is particularly notable since for a few years now Hollywood has tried to turn him into a marquee star but here he’s clearly more comfortable in the role of character actor, presenting a more human front when selling the film as opposed to being overshadowed by the stunts and more.


Sony Pictures Classics has come under fire by those who don’t feel it supported the film adequately or did enough to raise its profile to a mainstream audience. Tom Brueggmann at IndieWire pushes back against some of the main arguments and finds them all wanting, bringing receipts to support his case.
Breakout star Timothée Chalamet has been getting a lot of attention during awards season and that includes this much-shared GQ profile on the young actor.

Novitiate – Marketing Recap

Issues of faith dominate in this week’s new release Novitiate. The title is derived from the term for the time someone is training in a religious order under the Catholic Church before he or she takes their vows. It’s the training period, meant to determine whether someone is truly called by God before making a lifetime commitment.

The story follows Cathleen (Margaret Qualley), a young woman who feels just that sort of call. She enters a convent overseen by a Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo) who comes from the old school of doing things. Unfortunately, the story takes place during the time of Vatican II, when many of those old ways were being rethought and overturned. Cathleen and the Reverend Mother, then, represent the end of one era and the beginning of another.

The Posters

It’s the relationship between Reverend Mother and Cathleen that forms the core of the message conveyed on the theatrical posters. The two are situated one in front of the other as they stand in front of an elaborate stained glass window that, in combination with their habits, clearly establishes the setting of the story. Cathleen is looking in one direction while the older nun is looking in the other, communicating how they find themselves going in opposite directions.

Notable here is the naming of writer/director Maggie Betts. This is Betts’ debut feature, so giving her such prominent placement on the one-sheet is a nice move by Sony Pictures Classics.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts just as Kathleen is explaining she’s decided she’s been called to become a nun. She enters the convent and begins her training in her new life, which is lead by a Mother who is strict and unforgiving and beholden to the old ways. That includes punishments she’s urged to stop handing out. Kathleen struggles through the process just as the Mother struggles with a world that’s changing around her, specifically the changes dictated in Vatican II.

It’s a decently emotional trailer that sells the story as a crisis of identity. While religion, of course, is central to what’s happening it’s not used as a cheap excuse for anything. It’s simply the hook on which the exploration of a changing world and worldview is hung. Leo looks incredible as a woman who doesn’t know who she is without the structure and strictures provided by the system she’s always leaned on.

Online and Social

As you load the movie’s official website the trailer plays, which when closed gives way to the key art as a background to the splash page. At the bottom are links to Sony’s social media profiles, though there is a Facebook page specifically for the movie you’ll find eventually. It seems the studio has been emphasizing other releases recently, especially the upcoming Call Me By Your Name, so this movie hasn’t gotten much love on those brand channels.

As you scroll down the page, the first section you come across is the “Synopsis,” which gives you a brief overview of the movie’s story. You can meet the people who made it in the “Cast” and “Filmmakers” sections. Finally other’s a “Gallery” of stills followed by another link to the “Trailer” and “#Novitiate” link to encourage you to share the site on social media.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen here.

Media and Publicity

While the movie premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, it doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on those in attendance.

Early on in the promotion cycle there was a profile of Rebecca Dayan, who plays one of the other young women coming to the convent at the same time as Cathleen. There were also a few interviews like this one with Leo where she talked about the movie, how she makes choices about the roles she takes on and more. Qualley and others from the cast also talked here about the story and their own relationship with religion.


I like a lot of things about the campaign, particularly the focus on Leo as the emotional core of the story, even as Qualley’s Cathleen is the “new blood” who represents change. It’s Leo’s Reverend Mother who’s positioned as the one who has the more dramatic arc over the course of the story as she grapples with a world that’s changing too suddenly and in too many ways around her. This could easily have been sold as a youngs-vs-olds story, but that’s thankfully not the angle taken.

That being said, this isn’t an easy story to sell. A period piece set largely in a convent isn’t going to ring too many bells. I also would have liked to have seen Betts, as a black woman, get more of the publicity spotlight since it’s so important to highlight voices like hers. My hope is that more interviews and profiles of her show up in the near future as the movie expands beyond New York and Los Angeles.

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

Brigsby Bear – Marketing Recap

I’m not going to offer my usual plot recap for Brigsby Bear here because, quite frankly, it’s too insane. Let’s just say that it involves a man named James (Kyle Mooney) who has been obsessed since childhood with a single TV show, the only one he’s been lead to believe exists. One day his world is upended and he has to not only cope but find a way to take control of his life.

That’s it. That’s all I’m saying. We now take you to the review of the marketing of Brigsby Bear. which also costars Mark Hamill.

The Posters

You’re not going to divine any clear story from the first poster, which puts Brigsby Bear and James toward the bottom, shaking hands under the watchful face in the sun or moon or whatever that is. It’s just as trippy as the rest of the marketing and just as likely to simultaneously turn off any casual moviegoers that happen across it and attract anyone looking for eccentric, offbeat stories.

The Trailers

Ummm…what the heck is going on in this first trailer? It looks like we’re following a small family that lives in some sort of remote environmental bubble and only watches a kids show that seems like a cross between Teletubbbies and Barney. Yep, barring any additional information that’s what I’m going with. Whatever the case, I’m on board.

The second trailer, released right before Comic-Con, has James and his father (?) talking about who else might be out there in the world and how important imagination is. We see he’s eventually brought into the bigger world and everyone is trying to help him but he doesn’t have the tools to do that without Brigsby. So all his interactions are very awkward and uncomfortable. There’s certainly more of the story here, which is helpful.

Online and Social

The second trailer plays when you load the movie’s official website. Watch it again if you want to get all trippy or just enjoy the creativity on display.

Once that closes we get a splash page that features a variation on the key art of James and Brigsby shaking hands under the evening sky. Down at the bottom are links to the Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr profiles for Sony Classics. They’re not linked (oddly) but there are also at least Facebook and Twitter accounts for the movie itself.

The first section of content is the “Synopsis” but be warned that it offers a lot of details about the story that haven’t been shared in other parts of the campaign. So proceed at your own level of comfort with spoilers. After that is “Cast,” which gives you good bios about the major players. “Filmmakers” does likewise for those behind the scenes.

“Gallery” is where you’ll find seven stills from the movie and a behind the scenes pic. Finally “Trailer” has the second trailer for you to watch again if you want.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some online advertising was done, mostly involving the key art of the creepy face in the moon. That’s about the extent of what I’m aware of, though.

Media and Publicity

The movie had a big panel at San Diego Comic-Con with the cast and crew where Hamill urged all the Star Wars fans out there to check it out and give its quirkiness a try.

Outside of that Mooney was the focus of much of the press, which makes sense since he’s one of the creators. He was interviewed about what movies inspired him and co-writer Kevin Costello as they worked on the script, about the pair’s unique comedic sensibilities and history doing both YouTube videos and a stint on “SNL,” about keeping the story a secret as much as possible and jumping from the web and TV into the world of feature film production. Mooney also did a few appearances on daytime and late night talk shows to promote the movie and cover similar topics of conversation.


Usually I’m not overly concerned with spoilers. If a movie can’t still stand on its own even if I know some important plot points, then it may not be that great to begin with. My enjoyment isn’t often impacted by knowledge. This is, then, a rare case where I feel like I already know too much. So my advice is to turn back from anything you feel might offer story details because this appears to be one of the most creative, original movies in recent years. At least that’s how it’s being sold and much of the campaign supports that claim.

The secrecy of the story is sometimes overt in the marketing – Hamill repeatedly talked about how much he wasn’t going to say, as did Mooney – and sometimes more subtle. To that last point, much of the press with Mooney wasn’t necessarily directly about the movie but more about his comedic stylings in general and place as a young creative person. That, combined with the official marketing elements, worked to sell something pretty unique.