Stowaway – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling a movie about a space mission gone unexpectedly wrong.

Stowaway, out this week on Netflix, tells a different type of story about a potential way a mission to Mars can go sideways quickly. Shamier Anderson plays Michael Adams, an engineer that’s part of the team preparing to launch three astronauts (played by Anna Kendrick, Daniel Dae Kim and Toni Collette) on a trip to Mars. After an accident, Adams goes missing from his crew, eventually turning up on the spacecraft after it’s already irrevocably hurtling toward its destination. That creates a major problem in that the ship is only stocked for a three-person crew, meaning they have to decide whether to adjust for the stowaway or make a dark and terrible decision to survive.

Directed by Joe Penna, who also cowrote it with Ryan Morrison, Netflix has given the movie a short campaign that emphasizes the drama of the situation the astronauts find themselves in.

The Posters

It’s important that the poster, released in March, shows Levenson (Kendrick) talking with Adams is important, in that she’s the only member of the crew who feels they shouldn’t kill their unexpected passenger in the name of saving the mission as a whole. The two are seen having a conversation in front of a window showing how far away they are from the world while the tagline explains the story, saying “Millions of miles from home, survival comes with sacrifice.”

A set of posters, each featuring one of the four main characters, came out just days before the film was released.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.8 million views on YouTube), released toward the end of March, opens by showing how the crew of the ship initially reacts to the discovery Adams is on board and work to assess the situation. They do their best to make him part of the mission to help ease his (understandable) anxiety and fear, but an unexpected problem puts everyone in danger, leading them to take big risks just to survive.

Online and Social

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix announced it had acquired the film in early December.

An exclusive clip was shared with Yahoo showing the moment Adams’ presence on the ship is discovered.

Scott Manley, a physicist and astronomer who consulted on the film, released a video explaining the design of the ship in the movie and more.

Media and Press

A batch of stills that came with comments from most of the primary cast as well as Penna were released last month.

Kendrick and Kim were interviewed about the logistics of filming while wearing bulky spacesuits in confined quarters.

Overall

Movies that ask interesting moral questions of its characters – and by extension its audience – are inherently more interesting to me than ones that just present a dramatic story of some sort. So this campaign has my attention on that front.

But as with many recent Netflix marketing pushes, there’s just not a lot going on here. It would have been great to see another featurette or two in advance of release or more of a presence by the actors on the publicity circuit. But those are missing, so here we are.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Marketing Recap

How Netflix is selling the latest surreal dramady from an important filmmaker.

Based on the book of the same name by author Ian Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things has the basic premise of any other relationship comedy or drama. When a young woman (Jessie Buckley) accompanies her boyfriend Jake (Jesse Plemons) to visit his parents, she begins to question not only their relationship but also whether she ever really knew him at all, partly because of the unusual connection he has with his parents (Toni Collette and David Thewlis).

But because the movie comes from writer/director Charlie Kaufman, the execution on that premise is anything but ordinary. When the couple arrive in the remote area Jake’s parents live in, The Young Woman begins experiencing a number of strange events. Time moves out of order, strangers seem to hint at something strange about to happen and more. Making matters more difficult, a snowstorm has trapped them in town, meaning she has nowhere to go.

With a filmmaker like Kaufman who has a strong reputation based on his previous films, it’s no surprise Netflix has leaned into the quirkiness of the movie to sell it to the audience. A number of good reviews has earned it a solid 86 percent “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Posters

The single poster for the film helps establish the visual tone of the film as well as the minimalist approach to character and story. The Young Woman is shown on her own in a heavy sweater, drinking a glass of wine at the dinner table in front of what can best be described as old-fashioned wallpaper and drapes. The cast’s names as well as Kaufman’s appear at the top, along with the title treatment which suspiciously italicized the “of”.

The Trailers

The first trailer (1.7 million views on YouTube) came out in early August, not long after Netflix picked the film up. Girlfriend is meeting Jake’s parents for the first time, but the trip there is filled with unusual happenings, including the odd behavior of those parents. On top of everything else, time seems to be moving in odd ways, giving Girlfriend glimpses of the future and alternate pasts as she keeps wondering what’s happening and why.

Online and Social

No website, but the movie did get some support on Netflix’s brand social media profiles.

Advertising and Promotions

Netflix acquired the film earlier this year, announcing in July that it would get a September release.

Media and Press

While it was mainly about other projects he had at the moment, an interview in late 2019 with Plemmons had him commenting on how Kaufman had adapted the novel and what it was like to work with the director. A first look still came out in July of 2020.

An interview with Kaufmann allowed the director to explain he’s not trying to just mess with people for the fun of it but instead provoke an emotional response and get them to think about what they’re watching.

Overall

One has to judge the marketing of a Charlie Kaufman movie on its own scale of sorts. His movies are unlike those coming from most any other filmmaker, and the campaigns have by and large matched that uniqueness. There’s simply no other way to sell them, and to not embrace the unusual nature of his style and structure would be to set the audience up for disappointment, either by making something look too mainstream for hardcare fans to be interested in or enticing casual moviegoers by misrepresenting what they’re about to sign up for.

So while there may not be a whole lot of clear details about who the characters are, what’s happening to them and other aspects of the film, that’s to be expected here and adds to the movie’s allure. Kaufman is known for pushing the boundaries of film and story, and this looks like no exception to that rule.

Fun Mom Dinner – Marketing Recap

Fun Mom Dinner, opening this weekend, offers audiences at least the third opportunity just this summer to come and see what happens when a bunch of otherwise responsible ladies cut a bit loose. This time it’s not about a bachelorette weekend or a raucous weekend in New Orleans, it’s just about a group of moms getting together for what should be a nice dinner.

The moms in question are Kate (Toni Collette), Jamie (Molly Shannon), Emily (Katie Aselton) and Melanie (Bridget Everett). The four are connected by a class all their toddlers are in, but not everyone gets along with each other. That means the evening starts off rough but as the alcohol (and more) flows things loosen up and the ladies begin seeing what they have in common. Meanwhile, the clueless husbands are left to their own devices, which isn’t great and which shows how much they depend on the women in their lives.

The Posters

Looks like there was just one poster for the movie, but it pretty clearly explains the premise to the audience. All four ladies are shown and it’s apparent we’re catching them well into the evening here. Not only are they all smiling, but Melanie is carrying Emily on her back and wearing a blue unicorn onesie. So…yeah. While Jamie still looks pretty put-together (still carrying a box of crackers), Kate is a bit the worse for wear, her outfit smudged and dirty. They all look like they’re having a good time, an impression reinforced by the copy declaring “Every mom needs a time out.” The movie’s comedic credentials are explained not only by that photo but by the cast list at the top, which includes the four leads along with names like Adam Scott, Rob Huebel and others people will recognize.

The Trailers

We’re immediately introduced to the frustrating, poop-filled lives of the moms we’re following in the first trailer. They’re just trying to get out for a fun dinner by themselves. Soon the drinking begins and that leads to other drug use and they’re off to the races, engaging in all kinds of hijinks and shenanigans while the dads and kids are left to their own devices.

This is largely the same territory mined by last year’s Bad Moms as well as Rough Night and other movies, showing the people who are supposed to be responsible for everyone going a bit off the reservation. The cast is likable enough and there are a few laughs here, but it can’t help but seem overly familiar.

Online and Social

There wasn’t much of an official web presence for the movie, it seems. There were only two things I could find: A page on the Momentum Pictures website that has a synopsis, the poster, the trailer and a list of theaters it’s opening soon at and a Facebook page.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing I’ve seen or am aware of. I’d wager there’s been some online advertising done, particularly since it’s available via VOD as well as in select theaters, and those ads may be driving to one or another download service.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. It was quickly picked up, before it even screened even, by Momentum Pictures and Netflix.

The cast all did the talk show rounds in the weeks leading up to release. All four ladies made various appearance, either on their own or in some combination, on late night and daytime shows to talk about making the movie, working with the other actresses and more.

Overall

I’m going to try really hard not to sound sexist here. It’s hard to see this campaign being a huge success in getting people’s attention and interest not just because of its relatively small scale but because it’s selling territory that’s been well-trod in the last three months. That’s not to say that we can’t handle more than one story that’s focused on the outrageous antics a group of ladies get up to because they’re women. If this was the third movie in a short period of time where guys were acting out and cutting loose it would seem just as tired.

That being said, the biggest asset the marketing has is the charm and talent of the four leads. Collette is always very good (love her in The Way Way Back) and Shannon is riding a wave of resurgence thanks to last year’s Other People. Aselton has some name recognition thanks to “The League” and more and Everett, who I’m not as familiar with, has some solid comedy credentials including Trainwreck, “Difficult People” and more. It’s not clear if that will be enough to activate the audience to check it out, but it’s the strongest hand the campaign has to play.

One surprising thing is that there isn’t a stronger call to action to find the movie on VOD, which seems like the primary release platform. That’s not mentioned in the trailer, nor are there links to make the purchase on any of the web profiles. Seems leaving immediate conversions out of the content mix is a missed opportunity.