How Netflix has sold a magical YA story of friendship and destiny
The School for Good and Evil comes out this week on Netflix. Based on the 2013 novel of the same name, the movie is directed by Paul Feig, who cowrote the screenplay with David Magee.
Sofia Wylie and Anne Caruso play, respectively, Agatha and Sophie, two friends who one day are suddenly whisked away to The School for Good and Evil, a mysterious place where one half teaches students how to be heroic and good while the other half teaches its students to be villainous and evil. While there, Sophie and Agatha find their friendship tested as they are thrust into a world of fairy tales and powers prompting them to question who they were meant to be.
An impressive roster of actors has been assembled to play the instructors and others at the school, including Michelle Yeoh, Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Rob Delaney and others.
announcements and casting
The movie was announced with Feig attached as director in late May 2020. Several months later Feig revealed much of the main cast, with Washington and Theron joining in February of the next year.
Chiani met some of the cast for the first time and interviewed them about their impressions of the book and story in a first look featurette released in early June as part of Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign.
A brief video was shared at the end of July to announce the end of production.
Bloom, Kingsley and a host of others were added to the cast in November, 2021.
Footage from the film was included in Netflix’s 2022 feature film preview.
Fieg then revealed Blanchett had been cast as the story’s narrator in June.
the marketing campaign
“There are two sides to every story” the first poster, released in June, declares. Two figures are seen in the distance on the bridge connecting the two schools, showing that the conflict between those schools will be embodied by a couple specific characters.
The first teaser (1.9m YouTube views) came out at that time as well. It’s a very good teaser, primarily focusing on vague imagery of the school as Theron’s Lady Lesso introduces the concept of the school to students as well as the audience. Toward the end we see Sophie and Agatha as they’re plucked from the woods by a giant bird and transported toward their destiny.
Those both appeared during Netflix’s “Geeked Week” campaign, which included a featurette interview with Wylie and Caruso as well as Soman Chainani, the author of the original book. Those two stars also appeared in a trailer reaction video.
July brought a second poster. This time the schools are used as background to the four main characters, now front and center.
The first trailer (3.1m views on YouTube) came out in mid-September. As it begins Agatha and Sophie have been selected to join the school and learn it plays a role in teaching those who go on to live the lives others only read about. The two friends have very different experiences at the school, though, as Sophie sees it as a path to power and respect while Agatha isn’t convinced this is what she wants. So a confrontation is set between them.
A clip showing new students being tested for their magic potential before Sophie interrupts and begins to embrace her new status and powers was released later in September as part of Netflix’s Tudum promotional event. A couple character posters came out at about the same time.
The original song “Who Do You Think You Are” from Kiana Lede came out earlier this month.
The dynamics of the school and how Agatha and Sophie adjust to being on opposite sides of the spectrum are on display in an extended spot/trailer released a week before the movie came out. Sophie is convinced she was sent to the wrong school before embracing the darkness despite Agatha’s attempts to “save” her, making it clear what conflict will be driving the story.
It doesn’t break any new ground or give the impression of being wholly unique, but there’s a fun vibe to the campaign that makes it seem like it will be a fun time to watch. And we certainly need a new “kids learning to harness their powers at a mysterious magical school” franchise these days.
What stands out to me as the biggest question here is whether the campaign has been strong enough or achieved a wide enough reach to challenge the two big releases hitting theaters this week: Black Adam and Ticket to Paradise.