crimes of the future – marketing recap

How NEON sold a unique film from a unique filmmaker

[editor’s note: Yeah, this came out last week. I know…]

Crimes of the Future movie poster from NEON
Crimes of the Future movie poster from NEON

Crimes of the Future is the latest film from writer/director David Cronenberg. The movie, in theaters now, stars Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser, a man who in the near future has developed the ability to grow vestigial organs inside his body. He and his partner Caprice (Léa Seydoux) remove those organs as part of their performance art while also working with the anti-evolution government. That brings them in contact with an investigator named Timlin (Kristen Stewart).

The story crafted by Cronenberg is one of government surveillance, environmental catastrophe and more. Tanaya Beatty, Scott Speedman and others also star, so let’s take a look at how NEON sold the film.

announcement and casting

Cronenberg has been working on the project for roughly a decade, though nothing ever came of it.

It wasn’t until early 2021 that things seemed to be picking up, with Mortensen saying he was reuniting with the director he’d worked with on three previous films. With it officially underway, Stewart and Seydoux were cast.

Stewart spoke briefly about the movie and its futuristic setting while doing press for Spencer toward the end of 2021.

the marketing campaign

The campaign kicked off with the release of the first trailer (586,000 YouTube views) in mid-April. It’s full of disturbing images of a young boy eating a plastic garbage can, various things being inserted or removed from people’s bodies and so on, all of coming off as extremely off-putting but intriguing.

The poster released at the same time offers little additional context, just showing Tenser in his special bed and just making it clear that this movie comes “From the mind of David Cronenberg”, a statement that should immediately either attract or repel audiences.

It was then that the Cannes Film Festival revealed the movie would make its premiere in competition at the event.

Cronenberg made his first-ever appearance at CinemaCon in 2022 to tout the film and show distributors and others the first trailer.

A week or so later NEON announced an early June release date.

That announcement was accompanied by a new red-band trailer (1.6m YouTube views) that’s even more weird and disturbing than the first. We get a bit more background about how the changes happening in Tenser’s body are a danger to the government, all while seeing the kind of surgeries that take place to unlock these new organs he and others are developing. Then there’s the line that got everyone’s attention, Timlin whispering “Surgery is the new sex.”

The poster that dropped at the same time upped the creepiness factor with an image of a human torso with multiple incisions or other entry points cut into it.

A profile of Seydoux allowed the actor to talk about her experiences at previous Cannes festivals, her career to date and how all of that led her to work with Cronenberg on this film.

How the project took so long to develop, the changes that came about because of shooting during the pandemic and more were covered in an interview with Cronenberg just ahead of Cannes.

A third poster has all three leads shown in three giant slashes that trail down to the bed Tenser uses to manage his pain.

TIFF announced its Bell Lightbox event at the end of May would host the movie’s North American premiere.

A series of clips showing a moment between Tenser and Timlin, a tense conversation between Tensor and Caprice and the much-noted “surgery is the new sex” scene came out in the middle of May. Another shows the bed-aided surgery performance Tenser undergoes.

Those were followed by character posters of Tenser, Caprice and Timlin.

Short promo clips/TV spots/streaming ads came out at that time that offer cutdown versions of the trailers, but without some of the more disconcerting elements.

At this point the cast and crew all assembled in Cannes for the red carpet event, with the subsequent screening generating rapturous applause and a standing ovation from the audience. There were also much-reported walkouts from those apparently disgusted by what they were seeing.

Additional interviews with Cronenberg and Stewart had both of them talking about the themes of the story, working with each other and more.

More commercials kept coming out that chopped up the same handful of clips in various ways.

The TIFF screening included a Q&A with the cast and crew about making the movie and exploring disfigurement and other body-related topics.

Three additional screenings in Los Angeles were scheduled for the week leading up to the movie’s opening to get people buzzing about the film.

Mortensen and Cronenberg talked about the film’s production in a joint interview while the director explained that sometimes the cast didn’t even fully understand what was going on during filming.

There were occasional graphics like this that featured additional imagery accompanied by a positive comment from a critic or fellow high-profile filmmaker.

overall

As stated before, much of the campaign will almost immediately either make people immediately put it on their list of movies they must watch or make sure they avoid anything and everything related to it. The repeated use of “Earman” in much of the campaign in the last few weeks likely only reinforced that.

But it’s the talent that forms the crux of the marketing’s appeal. Seydoux, Stewart and Mortensen are all major assets here, bringing their own reputations with them. And the marketing shows off their performances to increase whatever attraction the audience might already have.

Falling – Marketing Recap

How Quiver has sold a drama about making peace with those who don’t understand you.

Not only does Viggo Mortensen star in Falling, the movie marks the actor’s directorial debut. Mortensen plays John Peterson, who lives with his partner Eric (Terry Chen) and their children. John’s father Willis (Lance Henriksen) is getting older and showing signs of dementia so comes to live with John and his family. That situation creates tension between the father and son, the latter having never accepted the former for who he is. But it also creates an opportunity for everyone, including John’s sister Sarah (Laura Linney) to come to terms with each other and start a new chapter together.

The movie, out this week from Quiver Distribution, has a solid 72% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and has gotten a campaign that represents the story in all its messiness.

The Posters

There were a few posters that came out last year but the official release one-sheet was released in mid-January. It shows the core relationship and drama of the story, with John and Willis having what looks to be a heated conversation. It’s a simple message on display here, which is complimented by the icons for the festivals it’s appeared at on the bottom of the layout.

The Trailers

John has brought his father home to live with him as the first trailer (11k views on YouTube), released in mid-January, opens. Willis is having memory problems and can’t handle living on his own, but the two fall into conflict frequently as the elder man disapproves of his son’s life while also struggling with his own problems. The story seems to slip between time periods, intermingling the past with the present to show how the relationships in the family have or haven’t changed, adding to the poignancy of what’s presented here.

Online and Social

The only web presence I can find for the movie is a single page on Quiver’s site that has some elementary information but not the trailer or other marketing materials.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The movie was announced as among those screening at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It was also selected as a Cannes feature, despite that event happening virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It was also chosen for the San Sebastian Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival.

Media and Publicity

While Mortensen was promoting Green Book this film was announced as his directorial debut.

In an interview at Sundance, Mortensen talked about drawing on his family for inspiration, even if the story isn’t actually about them. Similar themes were the subject of another interview with the actor, who commented on what is or isn’t real in the film. A video conversation with the cast touched on the same subject matter.

Later on Mortensen again talked about preparing for the film and working out the story. He also addressed the topic of him, a non-gay man, playing a gay character. Other interviews with the actor/director covered similar ground, especially focusing on his experience behind the camera for the first time.

Mortensen appeared on “The Late Show” to talk about the movie.

Overall

I’m not qualified to speak to whether or not the story is a positive portrayal of a gay man and his partner or related issues. But the campaign does show a good story with good performances from all the leads. Obviously the focus is on Mortensen and Henriksen, but there’s no bad that’s going to come from showing the two of them going head-to-head in some highly-charged scenes.