Movie Marketing Madness: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

What’s your way of dealing with the world when it all just gets too much? Do you turn off the phone, close the computer and escape with a good book or movie? Do you reach for a drink and settle in for a bit of artificial numbing? Do you drop to your knees and pray for days straight?

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is the tale of how one teenager, Craig (Kier Gilchrist), deals with the stresses of being a 16-year old boy. Tired of the pressures that he’s under he checks himself in to a mental health clinic but, because the youth wing is closed, he’s put in with general population.

There he meets Bobby (Zack Galifianakis), an older patient who takes Craig under his wing and becomes his closest friend in the instituion. Craig also meets someone who inspires him in other ways, the lovely young Noelle (Emma Roberts), whose emotional walls he must first break down on the way to winning her heart.

The Posters

The first poster released is, unfortunately, not that great. Galifianakis, Gilchrist and Roberts are places extremely awkwardly on a plain white background, all wearing very stereotypical psych-ward outfits. The only other element on the poster other than the bright red border – meant to offset the starkness of the white – is the copy “Sometimes what’s in your head isn’t as crazy as you think.”

That’s a halfway decent tagline but it can’t negate the fact that just throwing full body images of the three leads in the middle of the poster makes it look like it has more in common with one of the National Lampoons direct-to-video films from the last decade than anything else. I also think it’s a mistake to sell Galifianakis as the lead here since it risks over-exposing him and killing the good will he has right now.

The second poster was much better and more traditional. Again it focuses on the three main actors, Roberts, Galifianakis and Gichrist but this time it just has their headshots placed around the story treatment, all of which is placed above a photo of Roberts and Gilchrist having a tender moment presumably on the hospital’s roof as they look over the city. The tagline comes off as much stronger because the overall design of the poster is stronger and this makes it look like less of a Caddyshack-esque screwball comedy and more of an emotion-centered comedy.

The Trailers

The trailer starts out with Galifianakis meeting Gilchrist in an ER and the two have a brief conversation about why the latter is there, which leads to a montage of clips ranging from parents to nuclear war, making it clear that his character is over-stressed about all sorts of things. Once he’s admitted to the psychiatric wing he realizes that Galifianakis isn’t a doctor but also a mental patient along with a handful of other colorful characters. That includes Roberts, a teen who’s also in the adult ward and who he tries to woo with, as we’ll see later in the trailer, successful results.

Aside from the romance between Gilchrist and Roberts, the trailer shows the relationship between Galifianakis and Gilchrist as being the primary one in the movie as the younger helps the older sort out his life even as he’s sorting out his own. Whether or not that winds up being accurate for the larger movie or an attempt to capitalize on Galifianakis’ new popularity remains to be seen, but it’s a funny trailer and presents the promise of a potentially interesting movie.

Online

The movie’s official website opens up with a slight recreation of the poster key art, but with photos that fade in and out featuring the ensemble cast.

The main content menu that’s below that header starts off with “Story” which has a pretty good Synopsis of the film’s story, including highlights of the cast. Those profiles are extended in the “Cast & Crew” section, which gives bios and filmographies on those folks.

“Photos” has 15 stills from the movie while “Videos” has the Trailer, a few extended Clips and even three TV Spots.

The “In Depth” section allows you to really get to know the actors and creators of the movie. So if you click in to any of the actors profiles you’ll see not only a brief interview but also photos from some of their previous work, links to their IMDb profile and other interviews and even a shopping component where you can buy some of their previous films or TV shows on DVD.

“News” is a blog about the movie with updates on various promotional activities and more. So there’s information here on the soundtrack, video of some of the cast’s publicity appearances and more. It’s pretty well done and feels very natural, though of course there are a few things I might do differently, but that’s just because that’s what I do.

The “Partners” section rounds-up some of the various other things that are found on the site, including a prompt to Demand It and bring the author of the book, Ned Vizzini, to your high school for a talk, a content where you can submit your story-telling artwork and a link to check out the Focus Features catalog on iTunes.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates on new photos, cast press and other promotional material. There are also some good questions asked by the studio of the audience. Also there you can vote on the artwork that was submitted to the contest and listen to some songs from the soundtrack.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There were, as previously mentioned, at least three TV spots created for the movie, most of which focus on the friendship between Gilchrist and Galifianakis in a similar way the trailer does, though there’s also plenty of time devoted to the romance between Gilchrist and Roberts.

One promotional partner is listed, Diesel, which gave away passes to advanced screenings of the movie at select locations as well as making the source book and soundtrack available.

Media and Publicity

The movie got some cred when it was announced it would appear at the Toronto International Film Festival. That appearance got the movie some positive word of mouth going, especially for Gilchrist, who was pegged as one of the hot young actors (Los Angeles Times, 9/20/10) to come out of the festival.

There was also a concerted effort (New York Times, (9/24/10) to position the movie as an homage to the late John Hughes and the heartfelt, touching films he made, including a scene or two that’s a direct tribute to some of his iconic scenes.

Overall

It’s a pretty decent campaign that, while there were a few missteps (that first awful poster) eventually found a brand identity that worked for it and stuck with it. The emphasis on the relationships between the three characters helps to sell the movie as one that’s very accessible to the audience, with some charm and awkwardness and the promise of some funny lines.

The two best bits here are the trailer, which gives all the things I just mentioned a chance to shine and the website, which really helps to expand the audience’s understanding of the movie’s story and gives a lot of good background information on not only the movie as a whole but also the actors and other talent involved. The fact that it also contains all the video content is a plus since this is an area that is usually overlooked.

All in all a good marketing push for a movie that appears funny, charming and heart-felt.

Author: Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.