Waves – Marketing Recap

A family chafes under the weight of its bonds in the new movie from the writer/director of It Comes at Night.

waves poster

Sterling K. Brown stars as Ronald in Waves, the new movie from writer/director Trey Edward Shults. Ronald is a loving father to Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) and Emily (Taylor Russell), a man who is holding his family together through sheer force of will. In the wake of a powerful and emotional loss, Ronald’s domineering style seems more harsh as his grown children seek to spread out and lead their own lives.

The story is one of heartache, love and drama and those themes have come through in A24’s marketing campaign.

The Posters

Tyler and his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) are shown on the poster (by marketing agency InSync Plus) embracing on a park bench. It looks at first as if they’re sitting on the beach with the Florida coast in front of them until you realize ocean waves are lapping on both sides of the bench, including that closest to the camera. That they are in the middle of the churning ocean is a much different message than it would be otherwise, one that hints at the kind of emotional turmoil the story contains.

The Trailers

The first trailer (549,000 views on YouTube) released in September just as the movie was generating headlines from festival appearances, is focused on Ronald. The other characters around him are all influenced by his actions, the lessons he shares, the decisions he makes and the way he lives his life. That influence is sometimes for good and sometimes not, as we’re shown an incredibly intense emotional drama about how we live our lives and relate to other people.

How strongly Ronald is trying to push and hold together his family is the focus of the second trailer, released in late October. Roughly the same message is conveyed as the first one, but the shorter running time here consolidates the pitch while quotes from reviews praising the movie are featured on-screen.

Online and Social

Just the very basics – the trailer, poster and synopsis – on the studio’s page for the movie.

Advertising and Promotions

A24 planned to bring the movie to the Toronto Film Festival. Shortly before that happened the studio scheduled the early November release date. It was later added to the docket of the Telluride Film Festival, securing its status as a likely awards nominee.

There doesn’t seem to have been much more in the way of active marketing since then.

Media and Press

While in Toronto the cast spoke about how the story deals with the dynamics of black families and how they bonded on the set during production.

Brown and the rest of the cast and crew spoke about how unique and special they felt the film and its story were at the Atlanta premiere. Most of the cast was featured in a joint profile where they talked about making the movie and what it meant to them. Meanwhile Brown was interviewed about his character and how it differs from other recent roles. He also appeared recently on “Kimmel” to promote the movie.

Shults and the rest of the cast talked about the themes of the movie and what motivations they brought to their characters.


Of all the movies that seem to have received an undeserved short shrift recently, this one really stands out. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive as critics praise all the performances and other reactions have been upbeat as well. So where is the more full-throated marketing support? It’s surprising to not even see more being done on the promotional front, something A24 is well known for. Instead the studio still seems to be paying most of its attention to The Lighthouse.

While Brown in particular was out there doing a number of interviews and appearances, too often this movie was given secondary billing to Frozen 2, in which he also stars. The proximity of those two releases may be working against him being even more involved here, contributing to a campaign that is heavy emotionally even if there isn’t a lot of heft to it.

Picking Up the Spare

A new joint interview with Harrison Jr. and Russell, who play one of the story’s key pairings. And Shults was giving another feature profile here while Brown got another profile as well. Brown made an appearance on “Late Night.”

There were a handful of additional profiles of Brown that allowed him to discuss his role and how it reflects the state of black masculinity.

How the filmmakers secured the rights to songs by Kanye West and others was the subject of this feature.

Cinematographer Drew Daniels discussed his work creating the visual style of the film here. There was also another interview with Harrison Jr. about his experience.