sunshine_cleaningThe idea of people doing whatever needs to be done in order to make money and provide for their families is a common trope in novels, television and movies. Usually, though, this takes the form of someone entering into prostitution, selling drugs or doing something else that’s illegal/unethical because we need to see just how darn conflicted the protagonist is about the levels they need to go to in order to put food on the table. It’s an easy hook that allows for some powerful emotions but which ultimately allows the audience member to feel good about what they’ve just read/watched because, hey, at least they don’t have to do *that.*

Sunshine Cleaning uses a similar setup but puts its characters into somewhat less morally ambiguous territory. Two sisters, played by Emily Blunt and Amy Adams, create their own cleaning business that specializes in crime-scene clean up. By working together under such extreme – and sometimes disgusting – conditions, the two finally wind up bonding in a way they always wanted to and finding some professional happiness along the way.

The Posters

I really love the one poster for the movie since I think it does a great job of encapsulating the film’s story and tone in a singular image. The two actresses are lugging a very couch-like title treatment past a stretch of crime-scene tape, both with looks on their faces that convey a sort of “What are you doing?” attitude at the other one. Where Blunt, though, looks exasperated – like she can’t believe what she’s been dragged into – Adams has a “What, why are you mad at me” expression that goes a long way to communicating that these two are, indeed, sisters.

I also really like that the poster isn’t cluttered visually. It would have been easy to show them moving through an actual crime scene like environment but instead the very plain background conveys an “indie quirk” sensibility that should connect with fans of this type of film easily. More general audiences may be intrigued but find the lack of visual cues don’t spell the movie out clearly enough for them. That’s alright, though, since it’s probably not going to be widely released enough for lack of interest among the masses to be a problem.

The Trailers

The movie’s one trailer opens by showing Adams’ character already runs her own cleaning service, something that sometimes puts her in the awkward situation of cleaning the house of someone she went to high school with. It also lays out her the rest of her life is more or less a mess, with a sister that still lives with dad, a boyfriend who’s married and other complications. It’s that married boyfriend, though, that points her in the direction of getting into the crime-scene clean-up business. The rest of family joins in that ride, with dad creating a slogan and of course the sister joining her in the work.

As the trailer plays out, though, it’s clear that the high emotions that come through at crime scenes are going to impact the main characters in a variety of ways. Adams’ character realizes she’s leading an otherwise unfulfilled life with her love affair and the sisters realizing they can get along better than they ever have by working together.

It’s an enormously effective trailer that shows the movie is full of comedy and tragedy and interesting characters. The performances are given a chance to really come out and it’s not filled with mock emotions or anything, but instead gives what seems to be a fully rounded portrait of the movie that should be attractive to fans of offbeat but still generally accessible movies.


The movie’s official website opens with the trailer (interestingly presented as a Brightcove embedded video – smart move that saves on server bandwidth costs, I’d imagine).

The first section is “About the Film” and is sub-divided into four parts.

  • Story contains a Synopsis and a bit of background About the Story, which basically tells about how the idea for the movie was generated, how it found producers and basically how it came to fruition from concept to finished product.
  • Cast has most of the main cast listed with their professional background and other biographical details.
  • Crew has the same information for those behind the camera.
  • Production Notes goes into a bit more detail than what was found in the About the Story section on the movie’s setting and the casting of the lead roles.

“Photo Gallery” is next and has 15 stills from the film you can scroll through, though unfortunately you can’t download them from the site. There are some Desktop Wallpapers and a few AIM Icons to grab within “Downloads.”

You’ll find the movie’s trailer (again) and four clips from the film inside “Video Clips.” As with most character-driven, independent films the marketing is always enhanced with these extended clips, which give you a bit more of a peek at the interactions between those characters so this is a great move.

Finally, there are places for you to sign up for Email Updates, find “Theaters and Showtimes” and check out the promotional partners for the movie, something I wasn’t expecting to see and which I’ll go into more detail on below.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

OK, so let’s look at those cross-promotions.

There are links on the official site for four partners: Citi, Method cleaning products, Salon Wish and French Connection. Unfortunately I can’t find details on any of those partnerships and there’s nothing on any of their respective sites about the movie – not even a trailer or anything – so I’m not sure what the deals entail.

Not aware of much, if any, advertising that’s been done by Overture for the movie. If I’m missing something let me know but I haven’t seen any TV spots, not encountered any online advertising and haven’t come across any outdoor ads or anything.

Media and Publicity

Sunshine Cleaning has gotten a fair amount of favorable publicity and media coverage, beginning with a well-received debut at Sundance 2008 and subsequent festival appearances and more. It’s not clear why it’s not getting more of a media push, especially since it comes from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, but I guess it’s fallen victim to the generally lackluster indie sales market and everything that’s gone along with that shift.

I did get a great CD press kit from Overture that contained dozens of stills from the movie as well as a ton more great information


While certainly small-scaled (especially compared to some other campaigns I’ve looked at recently) I really like the consistent branding and overally feel of the marketing push for Sunshine Cleaning. It’s fresh, it’s funny and it’s well presented by the studio as an alternative to the oppressive feel of some recent big studio releases.

The campaign conveys a light-hearted tone even among serious life lessons and that’s very much an attractive presentation. This is one of those movies that, like Once or Little Miss Sunshine, could wind up going from from niche to mass appeal based largely on word-of-mouth among those who find the movie early and begin to tell their friends about it. If I were Overture I’d use every tool at my disposal to facilitate just that sort of WOM transaction and try to give the movie some legs at the box-office, something to reach those turned off by the offerings currently clogging up theater screens.


  • 4/3/09: I’m not going to link to them simply because they’re more or less all expired, but I did get a note from some of the publicity guys working on the movie with links to the various contests and promotions they had set up with some blogs and other online outlets.

2 thoughts on “Movie Marketing Madness: Sunshine Cleaning

  1. Funny how Emily Blunt’s Golden Globe isn’t good enough to make the poster. I hope that’s an early print.

    Otherwise, someone’s agent is making making some phone calls.


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