Movie Marketing Madness: Take Shelter

take_shelterAsk any decent father what he would do to protect his family and the answer would likely be “anything,” “whatever I needed to” or some variation thereof. We are hard-wired with the capacity to love boundlessly and to take whatever actions are necessary to make sure our wife and children are safe from whatever dangers we can see or imagine.

That word “imagine” is especially relevant for the new film Take Shelter. Curtis (Michael Shannon) is a husband to Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and father to Hannah (Tovah Stewart). He works construction in a small town and one day begins to see and hear strange things. Coming to believe some sort of horrible and dangerous events are in the future he begins, without his wife’s knowledge at first, to construct an underground shelter in their backyard. While those around him see him as acting strangely at best he thinks it’s all very reasonable based on the signs he’s seeing. But the key to whether he’s acting rationally or not may be held by his own mother, who has long suffered from paranoia and mental illness.

The Posters

The first poster was pretty creeper. Shannon and his family are standing outside an underground storm/bomb shelter (which looks kind of like jaws ready to devour them in the context) on a sunny day, but with a whole swarm of insects buzzing around above them in the sky. It definitely conveys a sense of impending troubles as the family looks like their on the verge of a breakdown standing there preparing to go into shelter.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie made it seem appropriately mysterious. LaForche, seems to have a good life but then explains that he’s been having odd dreams about apocalyptic dreams about severe storms. He begins acting strangely and starts to build an emergency shelter in his family’s backyard. We learn that his mother has a history of paranoid delusions and things quickly take a turn for the worse as his family and friends begin to turn on him because of his odd behavior, with his visions becoming more and more distinct and frightening.

It’s a tight, interesting trailer that not only sets up the premise of the film well but also gives us one possible solution, though my guess is that’s just a red herring for the real conclusion. It’s clear Shannon gives a powerhouse performance here and he’s in just about every shot of the trailer. It comes off as a little bit like something akin to Signs or similar movies but, based on the buzz that had accumulated before this trailer debuted, hopes are high that it’s more original.


The movie’s official website starts off by playing the trailer, which is absolutely worth watching again.

After you close that the first section of content is “Synopsis” which is is exactly what it sounds like. After that is a “Director’s Statement” that allows Jeff Nichols to talk briefly about what prompted him to write the movie and tell this particular story.

“The Cast” and “Filmmakers” sections allow you to dive into the career histories of the major players on the film.

The “Gallery” has 14 production stills. “Reviews” pulls quotes from some of the festival screening-based reviews though there aren’t links to the full pieces, which is unfortunate. “Links” will send you to the IMDb or Wikipedia pages for the people involved in the movie and, finally, there’s the “Trailer” which just has that one video.

The movie’s Facebook page is pretty standard, with photos and videos and updates with links to press stories and other things to try and get people excited for the film.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There may have been a little bit of online advertising done but that’s about it that I’m even marginally aware of.

Media and Publicity

The made its first public appearance at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival as one of a few (Los Angeles Times, 1/29/11) that used extended metaphors to look at the difficulties being faced by society today, in this case the endless preparation for some coming disaster. Director Nichols offered his thoughts on the movie (Filmmaker Magazine, 1/29/11) as part of the press there. Even before Sundance, though, the buzz was good after it picked up an early distribution deal from Sony Pictures Classic.


The marketing stuff itself is pretty good but the strongest thing this campaign has going for it is the word of mouth that’s come out of festival screenings. But as usual, there’s been little effort – at least publicly – to capitalize on that conversation. There may have been things happening behind the scenes but without something public, it’s impossible to fully utilize that.

The campaign, though, makes a compelling case for a movie that looks very good and which promises to have some strong performances in an interesting story. There’s a lot of good stuff here for an audience that might be ready for something more serious after a summer of cheese.

Movie Marketing Madness: Margaret

How much responsibility do we shoulder for the actions of others? A strict moral code would say that whenever we see someone do something wrong it’s our job to first confront them, ask them to confess their actions and deal with the consequences. But what if, in doing so, we would cause another, equally bad outcome? Does the first point take precedence or should we remain mum under the belief that by being more bold we’re only serving to cause more problems than we solve?

That’s the dilemma faced by the title character in Margaret. Played by Anna Paquin, Margaret one day witnesses a bus driver (Mark Ruffalo) hit a woman and her child in a crosswalk while he’s not paying attention to what’s around him. But when she’s questioned about the accident she says the driver was not at fault. When she considers telling the authorities the truth he pressures her to remain silent because the truth could cost him his job and his family their only means of support. But the burden of keeping the secret starts to impact Margaret’s relationships with the other people in her life.

The movie is finally being released after five or six years on the shelf. Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, who made a big splash with 2002’s You Can Count On Me, the film has floundered in search of a release based largely, according to the press, on Lonergan’s inability and unwillingness to edit the film down to less than three hours. Now, having finally reached a reasonable (as defined by studios) feature length, the film is hitting screens.

The Posters

The movie’s one and only poster simply shows a blurry image of Paquin hustling down a sidewalk, kind of a panicked look in her eye. There’s a bus in the background but I’m honestly not sure if that’s on purpose to tie into the plot of just a happenstance of design but if you’re hip to the story then that’s a nice touch.

Other than that it’s just the cast list – which is formidable – and the promise that the film comes from the director of You Can Count On Me, which is going to carry a lot of weight with people who still fondly remember that film but won’t have much meaning or appeal for those who don’t.

The Trailers

The one trailer – released just a week or two before the movie hit theaters – tells the story of the film rather well. We meet Margaret as an awkward teen who winds up witnessing an accident where a bus hits a mom and her baby. That naturally messes her up but she’s hesitant to tell anyone the truth because doing so will mean the driver of the bus gets fired. Her grief and problems impact the people around her and even lead her to have some sort of fling with a teacher of hers.

It’s a good trailer that certainly shows what the movie is about, even if what it’s about might be a little uncomfortable in parts. It’s kind of like watching a news reel at times because the actors are all five or six years younger than they are now (more on this below) but that’s not enough to pull you out of the story and, while you can see what the broad strokes are going to be, fans of Lonergan’s previous work will likely have faith that there are lots of grace notes that make the film unique.


While the official website for the film would usually be notable if for no other reason than it came from Fox Searchlight this one shows the rushed nature of the release and the manner in which the studio sees the movie. So there are a couple stories and a Synopsis and a Trailer along with some stills but that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here.

Media and Publicity

The movie has been bouncing around unreleased for almost five years, having been completed in 2006. But then a series of disagreements between Lonergan and the studio over the film’s final running time, with the director insisting on a three-hour cut and the studio insisting on a two-hour version. Many directors and editors tried to step in and resolve the dispute, with Martin Scorcese finally coming in to work things out, something that led to a release eventually being scheduled.


There’s some good stuff here but, as I’ve pointed out a couple times, it’s just not quite as full-throated as you would expect it to be, even from the point of view of a movie that’s presumed to have limited appeal outside fans of certain arthouse films. The trailer is pretty good as is the poster but then the official site is barebones even by independent film standards. And it’s disappointing to see that the publicity efforts didn’t seem to try to pick up the slack a bit. But what is there is pretty good and should appeal to a certain audience, especially those who have been eagerly anticipating another film from Lonergan.

Movie Marketing Madness: Dream House

Sometimes the house you live in starts to feel like an actual member of the family. Much like only family members know certain secrets or other facts about others they also know the secrets of the house. The particular way to unjam that one door, how the downstairs sink needs to be turned all the way to the left to even get lukewarm water and so on. And if you live in one place long enough you can’t help but feel the house knows your secrets as well since the walls are all that are there to witness some moments or listen to some frustration venting.

A house that is most definitely associated with one family is at the core of the new movie Dream House. The movie stars Daniel Craig as Will Atenton and Rachel Weisz as his wife Libby. It’s difficult to talk too much about the plot without getting into spoiler territory (despite the fact that the campaign does just that) but the essence of is that Craig is on a quest to find out what happened to his family inside the house they used to live in. But he may or may not have played a role in the events he’s trying to uncover, though what role that is exactly isn’t clear.

The Posters

The first poster certainly makes it clear we’re on freaky ground here. Two girls stand in front of a wall while holding hands, their dresses blending into the wallpaper they’re in front of and making them almost transparent. The only copy on the one-sheet, “Once upon a time there were two little girls lived in a house” is appropriately creepy and tells us we’re on horrific ground here. It’s also more than a little evocative of an iconic image from The Shining, which is probably the point.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie starts out by showing us the idyllic life that Peter is leading with his loving wife and two beautiful girls. But when they find some remnants of the family that used to live there things start going a little freaky as messages begin appearing in mirrors and teenagers start warning the house has an ominous past. But then as Peter tries to investigate the family that used to live there he finds out that, well, it’s him. Turns out he’s been in jail after a breakdown following the murder of his family. He goes back to the house to try and sort out what’s real and what’s not but the continued apparitions plague him and make him unsure he can trust his own senses.


The splash page of the movie’s official website is just a repurposing of the poster key art and an opportunity to watch the trailer as well as connect with the movie’s social network profiles.

Once you Enter the Site and view the main menu navigation the first section there is “The Film.” That has subsections including Story, which is a decent synopsis of the film without spoiling any more than the trailer is as well as Production Notes you can download for more information and Cast and Crew profiles where you can check out their film backgrounds.

The “Gallery” has 10 production stills you can view while “Video” has the Trailer as well as two TV Spots to watch. “Downloads” then has Wallpapers and AIM Icons available.

The Facebook page is pretty standard, with videos and photos and updates with press story links and such.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV commercials began running earlier this month that weren’t nearly as explicit about showing some of the twists and turns that the story takes but still show clearly that there are creepy things about. The emphasis is clearly on selling a series of jump-cut filled “moments” though my suspicion is that the movie is a little more deliberately dramatic than that. But it actually winds up selling the movie a tad more strongly than the trailer does, possibly because it has to rely on showing the actors having “moments” as opposed to laying out the story quite as clearly.

Media and Publicity

Surprisingly nothing here that I’ve seen. There’s been some general buzz around the movie and conversations when new marketing material is released but that’s about it and nothing in the way of major industry press, at least none that’s crossed my radar.


It’s not bad and, even as a confirmed non-horror guy I’m kind of intrigued by the campaign, at least enough to be curious about the movie itself. The hope, I’m guessing, is that the majority of the general audience – who also might not be such confirmed horror fans – feel likewise and give the movie a chance during its early fall release.

As I’ve mentioned a couple times the trailer and the rest of the materials kind of lean into spoiler territory but there’s been some conversations about how even the trailer doesn’t really show the movie’s biggest twist, and what is shown happens fairly early. But it still *feels* like there’s a lot given away here in an effort to bring people into a movie they might otherwise not be interested in. How much of all that is true remains to be seen.

Movie Marketing Madness: Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

tucker_and_dale_vs_evil_ver5What’s the biggest misunderstanding you’ve been involved in recently? Did you tell your spouse that you wanted a Whopper Jr. when they brought dinner home one evening only to be presented with a Whopper, only to laugh about how that’s just too much Whopper? Did the Russian agency misread your application and send you a dude and not a woman despite the fact that the online form isn’t clear and you thought you were marking your own gender and not the gender you were requesting and how dare they take the position that this is your fault? Are a bunch of college co-eds under the belief you’ve kidnapped and are going to murder their friend when in reality you and your friend rescued her and are trying to help?

That last one is the premise of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil. Likely every bit as corny as it sounds, the movie stars Alan Tudyk (Wash from “Firefly”) as Tucker and Tyler Labine as Dale, two hillbilly types who have a very bad day. One night they spy a group of young people skinny dipping in the same bayou they’re fishing in. When one of the young ladies (Katrina Bowden) hurts herself they fish her out of the water and save her life. But her friends think they’ve kidnapped her and try to rescue her. But all their attempts end badly and the body count grows and grows, despite Tucker and Dale’s best intentions.

The Posters

The one official release poster (there were some early promotional ones and such) is pretty simple. It just shows Tucker and Dale looking unintentionally menacing while wielding a chainsaw and an axe while a scantily clad Bowden is off to the side looking scared. There’s a hidden figure in the background and a beer hanging off the title by its plastic ring. It’s clearly tongue-in-cheek but might not actually go far enough in selling the comedy here, even with the “Evil just messed with the wrong hillbillies” copy at the top.

The Trailers

Around the time of its Sundance 2010 debut a production trailer of sorts was released that laid out the basic idea of the plot and the story. We see just what kind of antics the characters get in to and it certainly conveys the off-kilter sense of humor that the movie has.

The first official trailer was a red-band version that hit some of the same notes as the previous footage. We start off very much like a stereotypical horror movie, as a band of teens drives through the woods and goes skinny-dipping. When Tucker and Dale try to save one of the girls that fell in the water and was hurt things start to go wrong, though. Each kid who tries to “rescue” the girl from what they assume to be the evil clutches of the two guys winds up getting accidentally killed in some outrageous fashion, from shooting themselves in the head to accidentally jumping into a wood chipper. Tucker and Dale are just trying to help them, but all their actions are misinterpreted, leading a series of craziness that pokes holes in many of the horror genre’s standard plot points. It’s funny, it’s crazy and it’s obvious that Tudyk continues to rule just about anything he does.

An all ages version that was 99.5 similar to that red-band one was released a short time later.


The movie’s official website isn’t exactly a huge effort but does get the point across alright. The main attraction here is the trailer, which plays in the middle of the page. The Red Band Trailer is also available as a choice along the top menu bar along with a Photo Gallery, Press Kit and plenty of options to find Theaters and Buy Tickets.

Below the video player is a brief synopsis of the movie’s story and a list of the primary cast and crew.

The movie’s Facebook page has updates on the limited publicity and press the movie achieved along with photos, videos and more. That includes encouragement to watch the movie on VOD, use the “Demand It” feature to try and get it to your town and a GetGlue check-in app that shows who has or wants to see the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here. I don’t think I even saw any online advertising.

Media and Publicity

The movie, as mentioned above, had its coming out at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival where it received a lot of praise for its zany attitude and original story. But unfortunately it then languished for over a year and a half without a deal before Magnet Releasing finally picked it up for distribution and announced a VOD/theatrical release plan for the film.

It then had a small appearance at Comic-Con 2011, where some of the cast appeared and the red-band trailer mentioned above was shown.


Like I said when discussing the poster, I kind of think the ridiculousness isn’t pushed quite far enough in the campaign. The red band trailer comes close, as does some of the festival-related material. But most everything else seems to not push the boundaries and instead makes it seem like just a funny take on an actual horror movie instead of an out and out spoof and over-the-top comedy, which I think is what the movie actually is. There’s good stuff here but it all doesn’t come together in a full and complete way like I’d kind of hoped it would.

Movie Marketing Madness: 50/50

“Gallows humor” sometimes gets an unfair knock. Someone’s decision to laugh in the face of hardship or even their own mortality is sometimes seen as a sigh that they don’t really get the seriousness of a situation or are making light of something that really shouldn’t be laughed at. Most often reality is far from that, with the decision to laugh at a situation an indicator that they actually *do* understand how serious that situation is but have chosen to bear that burden lightly instead of being weighed down by it.

That ability to laugh at a situation as a way to deal with it is at the core of the new movie 50/50. Written by Will Reiser the movie is more or less about him and the diagnosis of cancer he received while still in his 20s when he was given even odds that he would or would not beat the disease. Starring as Reiser’s stand-in is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, with Seth Rogen playing the friend who helps him deal with this new situation in life. The movie also features Anna Kendrick as Reiser’s comely young therapist who he develops a crush on and the whole thing is basically Reiser working out a good cathartic rage-filled laugh at his life and the situation he found himself in.

The Posters

The first – and only – poster for the movie was basically a repurposed still of a shot that was glimpsed in the trailer released well before this. It shows Gordon-Levitt shaving his head in the mirror while Rogen stands behind him with a slightly weirded-out look on his face. The copy “It takes a pair to beat the odds” is well aware of how clever it is, referring both to the pair of friends that will stick together as one goes through his illness as well as to a portion of the male anatomy that’s usually associated with fortitude and bravery. Pretty simple but nicely done.

The Trailers

When the movie’s first trailer debuted on Apple’s Trailers site it was preceded by an introduction from Rogen, Goldberg and Reiser that explained what the movie was about and what the title meant. Considering the changes that had taken place with that title and the generic nature of what was finally picked this was both funny and useful.

The trailer itself starts out showing Reiser shaving his own head, something he’s doing as a way to cope with his diagnosis of cancer. We see him throughout the trailer try various ways of coming to terms with his situation and deal with it in the best way he can. He’s in therapy with a lovely young therapist and has a friend who’s encouraging him to look on the bright side of his situation.

A blow by blow description of the trailer is kind of pointless since it doesn’t do justice to just how good it is. It’s funny and poignant and gives off a very real and understandable vibe. The interplay between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen is fantastic and while there are some things that you can probably predict about the story based on what’s shown here it also promises a whole lot more in terms of genuine laughs and other emotions.

The second trailer is just as good, showing more of the interplay between Gordon-Levitt and Rogen, most of which is the latter encouraging the former. We get a lot of the same scenes we saw in the first one but they’re rearranged a bit with a few new shots added in. So it winds up working just as well, though in a slightly different way than the first one did because it’s more concerned with some of the relationship comedy and less about the pathos.


The movie’s official website opens with a lot going on right on the front page. There’s a rotating series of images accompanied by quotes from critics behind the trailer that starts playing. Above that is a stream of Twitter updates from people about the movie along with encouragement to use the #beattheodds tag to “join the conversation” about the movie and its story.

The first sort of traditional section is the “Story” where there’s a very nice write up of the film’s plot as well as the story of how it was conceived and written.

“Videos” has both Trailers as well as a clip from the film called the “50/50 Conversation” and a “Cast and Writer Chat” that allows some of the folks involved to talk a little bit about making it.

Finally the “Gallery” has six stills in it featuring the main cast.

There’s also a link below all that to watch restricted clips on YouTube and then one more to find out, using Facebook of course, who you’re go-to friend is.

Speaking of Facebook, the official page for the movie has lots of video and updates about news from the film and questions to the audience about how or when they beat the odds or other things along those lines.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one start off by setting up the cancer story but then mostly sold the movie as a Seth Rogen comedy with him reacting to all sorts of situation in big and outrageous ways. It then comes back around to the cancer story but still with heavy Rogen overtones.

Some online advertising was done as well that used the same image of Rogen and Gordon-Levitt as the latter is shaving his head or used headshots of all the main cast members.

Media and Publicity

The movie was included on a list of those that would debut (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.

Much of the pre-release publicity focused on how Reiser was writing what he knew about (LAT, 8/27/11) as he put together the script for the movie and dealt with the problems facing him with the support of Rogen and other friends, who urged him to write about what he was going through.

More press was earned around the time of its Toronto Film Festival debut, where it was one of many films (LAT, 9/7/11) to seek out the refined audience and awards expectations that accompany movies shown there. That strategy seems to have worked, with reports of a standing ovation (LAT 9/12/11) after its first showing.


I don’t think there’s any question that the best part of the campaign is the trailers. While everything else is still pretty good it’s there that the beats – both dramatic and comedic – really come through. There’s a slight risk that this is being oversold as a Rogen vehicle when that might not be fully the case but since downplaying that angle has been a major effort of the publicity campaign but it’s also something the studio might be counting on to get people in to the theaters.

Movie Marketing Madness: Moneyball

Growing up a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan I have a…skewed perspective on baseball. My formative years (read: up until the age of 34) were during the ownership of the club by Tribune Co., meaning if I had a nickel for every conversation that included the phrase “…well they’re making plenty of money even by losing so they don’t *have* to spend more to field a winning team…” I’d no longer need to work but would be sitting on a beach earning 20 percent. My reality is and has always been being a live or die fan of a club that has one of the top five payrolls in the major leagues and only avoids the basement most years only for the grace of, in this year’s case, the Houston Astros.

The size of a payroll, though, doesn’t always automatically correspond to a winning team. A half dozen years ago author Michael Lewis made that point when he wrote a book that’s now the subject of the new movie Moneyball. The book told the story of Billy Beane (portrayed here by Brad Pitt) and his efforts to field a winning team for the Oakland A’s with a budget that hovered somewhere below the bottom of the major leagues. To do that he shook up the organization by trying to move it away from the hunches and instincts that dominated player recruitment and instead focus on statistics and percentages. He’s aided by Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) and the two set off to turn coal into diamonds.

The Posters

The first poster certainly defines the movie’s setting and the central conflict of the story. Pitt stands all alone in the outfield of an empty baseball field, the grass nicely mowed and all that. So we get that it’s a story about baseball and that Bean is feeling all alone in what he’s trying to do. It’s simple, it’s slick and works pretty well.

The next poster also featured Pitt solo, this time sitting in the box seats of a baseball field and looking back over his shoulder towards – but not at – the camera. Again, we get the clear message that this is a baseball movie and that Pitt’s character is sort of out on his own in some way. I can’t say it’s exceptionally original or anything but it does continue to convey a slickness about the movie and is notable at least for the lack of Photoshop hackery that is unfortunately on too many one-sheets. So it works.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie was remarkably well put together. We meet Pitt’s Beane as he’s hitting brick walls with the Oakland A’s as he attempts to take almost no money and buy a contending team. He’s frustrated by scouts and intuition and all that until he meets Hill’s Brand, who convinces him that by looking at statistics and filling specific needs they can field a winning club. But the trailer shows things aren’t exactly a smooth ride as Beane’s efforts upset a lot of established apple carts and honk off a lot of people who have vested interests in maintaining the way things have always been done, at least until things start to turn around.

Let’s just be honest and admit that part of the reason (the other is the music that swells at all the right moments) is the charm of Pitt, who glides through his scenes with a cocky sureness and who spouts the snappy dialogue (a rewrite of the script was done by Aaron Sorkin) with ease. Again, this works extremely well and takes what was by all accounts a pretty dry, if very influential book and turns it into a compelling film drama.

A second trailer wasn’t all that much different from the first. A few different scenes here and there, particularly of the insiders whose apple carts Bean is upsetting, but other than that it was basically the same thing we saw before.


The movie’s official website opens by presenting a wall full of pictures from the movie, some of which take you into various content areas and some of which just open up production stills. First, though, let’s work down the menu that’s off to the left of the screen.

First up is “Cast & Filmmakers”, which nicely carries over the design theme from the main page. Unfortunately all you get when you mouse over one of the cast’s photos is the name of the person they play, with no other information available.

“Videos” has just the Trailer and a TV Spot. There are about two dozen stills in the “Gallery” and “Downloads” has five Wallpapers and a Twitter Skin for you to grab. The “Soundtrack” site lets you preview the film’s score.

“Play the Game” pits your decision-making abilities against those of Beane (hypothetically or not I’m not sure) by presenting you with a series of choices to make where you have to weigh a series of factors to make the best and most efficient decision.

The movie’s Facebook page opens with some video options to choose from, ranging from the trailer to various TV spots. There are also photos and such, including lots of updates to the Wall that point to and mention press coverage.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV commercials started running surprisingly early and touched on the same points as the first trailer, with Pitt’s character being told that he can’t have more money and has to do with what he has, then turning to a stats wizard to help him turn things around. It works on the same level as the trailer as well and makes a good case for the movie as a populist drama more than a wonky discussion of statistics.

Spots that featured longer running times – up to two minutes in some cases – ran on MLB Network (Los Angeles Times, 7/28/11) in an effort to reach the older guys who watched that channel and present something almost on par with the theatrical trailer to help motivate them to actually make a trip to the movie theater.

Media and Publicity

After so much news about pre-production and who would or wouldn’t be directing, the first bit of publicity about the finished movie came when the first trailer was teased on “Entertainment Tonight” just before it was released.

The film was then announced (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) as one of those appearing at the Toronto Film Festival, where the story (for some unknown reason) was on how it managed to appeal to women without there being a major female role (LAT, 9/10/11). I’m not sure how the answer to that isn’t “It stars a charming Brad Pitt” but whatever.

Being a Pitt movie there was plenty of other coverage from publications as diverse as Entertainment Weekly to Sports Illustrated that let him talk about his love of baseball and other topics.


The campaign is slick and professionally done, the same impression that’s given of the movie that it’s trying to sell. Everything about it is slick and done very well and charming, something that is helped largely by Pitt, who appears to glide through his performance with a layer of Teflon. The trailer sells good chemistry between him and Hill, nice interactions with him and his daughter and more. It’s all packaged as an entertaining drama that has lighthearted moments and a hoo-rah uplifting ending. It’s good stuff.

Movie Marketing Madness: Straw Dogs

“A man’s home is his castle” is shopworn cliche that is more than a few years old and more than a little outdated on multiple levels. While the sentiment is notable and understandable – that a guy should be comfortable and in charge of his household and be the protector of that household, shielding his wife and children from harm and danger.

Few movies were more visceral about the invasion of a home by outlaw forces than Straw Dogs form director Sam Peckinpah. Featuring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George as a young married couple who have their vacation home raided by local ruffians it showed just how far a nice guy can be pushed before he fights back. Now Straw Dogs has been remade by director Rod Lurie. This time the couple, David and Amy Summer are played by James Marsden and Kate Bosworth, is returning from LA to her Southern hometown. There the couple are increasingly harassed by some tough guys looking to impress Amy and take David, who they see as a weak intellectual, out of the picture. But eventually his breaking point is found and things take a turn for the violent.

The Posters

The first poster was, unsurprisingly, an homage to the iconic one-sheet used for the original film. We see Marsden’s face wearing glasses, one eye of which is broken and shattered. In the place of that lens is the face of one attackers and the copy at the bottom reads “Everyone has a breaking point.” It’s a bit more on the nose than the original, which didn’t have any copy points or show any of the bad guys, but it works in its own way and, despite what some people felt at the time it was released, I think they would have done a disservice had they not tried to recreate such a well known poster in some manner.

A second version of this poster took out the color from the broken lens and replaced it with a more clear shot of Marsden’s eyeball along with the reflection of a bad guy who looks like he’s approaching with intentions that are less than peaceful.

After that there was a series of three character one-sheets released, one with Skarsgard, one with Marsden and one with Bosworth. Each one featured something he or she (presumably) says in the movie and is emblematic of that character. So Skarsgard’s says “We take care of our own,” Marsden’s “I will not allow violence against this house” and Bosworth’s “Don’t let them in.”

At the same time that set hit another one debuted that had Skarsgard’s face in sort of the reverse image of Marsden’s on the earlier posters. Only there’s no reflection and the copy here says “Don’t let them in,” this time it apparently being a description of them and not something that character says.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts off almost immediately with the invasion of the home David and Amy are living in and their panicked reactions to that. But then we stop and go backwards to when the couple moved to this house and how they met the five guys who will become their terrorizers, guys who have been hired to work on a building project. The tension grows as those five guys begin to get a little too envious of Amy and see David as an ineffectual wuss who’s easily taken out. But then we jump back to the night of the invasion and see how they push David to the breaking point.

It’s a pretty good trailer that might be a tad generic in nature – we’ve seen other home invasion movies like this recently – but it looks like Marsden might do a decent job as the husband who eventually decides to go beyond the realm of what he’s usually comfortable with to protect his wife and his home.


The official website opens with just a recreation of the movie’s key art and invites you to watch the trailer. Once you enter the site you get some full screen video that plays as each section load.

The first such section is “Synopsis” which has a very brief description of the film’s story. “Videos” just has the one trailer.

There are, by my rough count, over two dozen full screen stills in the “Gallery” and then “Downloads” has a Poster, some Wallpapers, a few AIM Icons and a Twitter Skin to grab. “Cast & Crew” is just a list of names without any further information available.

When you click the “What’s Your Breaking Point” copy you are taken to Facebook but I’m not sure what that does since I didn’t connect it with my account.

The movie’s Facebook page has photos, videos, links to publicity and marketing information and other conversations.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A variety of TV commercials were created and released in both 15 and 30 second flavors. The longer ones obviously have a little bit more time to tell more of the story but even there they include ones that alternate between telling the full story and focusing just on the climactic home invasion sequence. They all do, though, play up the violence that goes on between the characters.

There was also some online advertising done using a mix of the poster key art and some video.

Media and Publicity

While there wasn’t a ton of press about the movie (though there was plenty of buzz about the comparisons between this and the original) there was some discussion about how to portray rapists when they’re the antagonists of the story and especially when they’re played by rising stars with lots of sex appeal among the opposite gender.

Just before release there was some more press (Los Angeles Times, 9/11/11) wherein Lurie defended his decision to remake this story from his own point of view and talked about changing the setting from rural England to the American South.


What strikes me about the video component of the campaign – the trailer and the TV spots – is that there’s no shying away from the violence of the story here. It’s very clear that bad things happen to Bosworth’s character and that Marsden’s revisits that and more upon the guys who break into his home.

It’s clear, along those same lines, that this campaign is selling an adult drama that’s filled with very uncomfortable moments. There’s a little bit of emphasis on Skarsgard not just because he’s the main antagonist but because of his popularity from “True Blood” so that’s to be expected to some extent. But it all adds up to a pretty good marketing effort for this film.

Movie Marketing Madness: Restless

We all want to be loved for different reasons. For some it’s fun. For others it’s life-affirming. For others it’s more selfish, that they feel they deserve to be loved regardless of anything else. even if we are the most selfless, least arrogant people in the world there’s likely still a small part of us that wants love on our own terms. We want to be loved how we want to be loved and anything outside of that is completely unreasonable. Even the best of us will have to admit to feeling that way occasionally, though it may be just for a brief moment in time.

The new movie Restless is about two people who have their own reasons for why they want to be loved and how they are able to deal with that. Mia Wasikowska plays Annabel, a terminally ill young woman who is dealing with all the problems that come with her diagnosis. She has a habit of attending funerals of people she doesn’t know and it’s while doing so that she meets Enoch (Henry Hopper), a young man with some quirks of his own. See he’s not great socially, largely because he sees and interacts with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot. These two personalities find solace and even budding love in one another even for their own reason as the forces around them seek to keep them apart.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster was simple but managed to convey the spirit the film seems to have very nicely. All it shows is Wasikowska and Hopper laying on the ground looking at each other, with their bodies surrounded by chalk outlines. The top of the one-sheet makes sure to name-drop Van Sant since he’s sure to have plenty of appeal among independent movie fans while the “Who do you live for?” copy at the bottom plays it a bit coy as to the movie’s themes and subject matter. If you know what the plot of the film is you get the double meaning but if you don’t it still comes across as simply meaning these two characters become each other’s worlds.

The second one-sheet for the film was similarly simple, just showing the two characters off to the side and in a corner about to kiss, her red scarf blowing behind her in the wind. That’s a nice way to show they’re in love and that she’s kind of a free spirited character. Van Sant’s name gets dropped by association with a couple of his previous movies at the top and again we get some festival credits. It doesn’t work as hard to be as clever as the first one and comes off as more earnest but that’s alright since it still works quite nicely.

The Trailers

The first trailer, released early, presents the movie as a certainly quirky comedy. We meet Enoch, an unusual boy with a predilection for hanging out at funerals for people he does not know. At one of these he meets Annabelle and the two of them start a relationship on their own terms. It’s clear her sister isn’t thrilled with this situation, but the two of them have their own vibe and embrace the fact that they’re both unusual, him with his ghost friend and her with her terminal illness.

It’s a sweet trailer that highlights how Hopper and Wasikowska interact with each other. If anything the movie’s true quirkiness and off-beat nature is, I’m guessing, toned down a bit here in favor of a more relatable and mainstream vibe.

The second trailer hit many of the same notes but in different ways. We once again meet Enoch and his invisible Kamikaze friend and then Annabelle comes into the picture when he meets her at one of the random funerals he attends. The two hit it off and begin hanging out but things get serious when she tells him she only has three months to live. We get more, I think, of the interactions between Enoch and his ghost friend to the point that suspect based on this that that’s the primary relationship in the movie.


The movie’s official website opens with the trailer, which is worth watching since it’s pretty good. After you close that and Enter the Site you get a nice page that features a window frame type design, though that’s not used for any special reason.

The content menu is down at the bottom of the page and the first section there is “About” which features a nice synopsis of the story as well as write-ups of the Costuming of the characters (a nice touch considering the actors do sport some interesting styles) and the Production which goes into the story’s history as a series of short vignettes, then a play and ultimately a film.

“Cast & Crew” allows you to dive into the career histories of the principles involved in front of and behind the camera.

The “Photos” section finally puts that window pane look to some use, spreading a dozen stills that are a mix of production shots and behind the scenes photos into various windows and allowing you to click them to get a bigger look.

Finally “Videos” just has the second trailer, labeled here a Teaser for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me.

For any of a number of reasons the Facebook page’s Wall isn’t as full as other pages of videos and photos or even news stories. Instead it’s focused more on promoting screenings of the movie itself, which for a film like this is probably the stronger strategy.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

I think there’s been some online advertising done that’s used the key art from the poster but that’s about it.

Media and Publicity

The movie was originally on the list of those accepted to the 2011 Sundance Film Festival but was pulled by the studio the same day the rest of the film line-up was announced and also changed its release date, though the “Why” behind those moves wasn’t clear at the time. It later surfaced as potentially appearing (Hollywood Reporter, 3/16/11) at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, rumors that were later confirmed (THR, 4/13/11).

Eventually it was announced that, while it was developed and produced at Sony Pictures, the Sony Pictures Classic arm would eventually distribute the film (Los Angeles Times, 3/31/11).

The Cannes premiere was generally well received and, more than anything, provided a nice sense of closure for the filmmakers (LAT, 5/13/11) who were happy the movie was finally getting seen and that a release was imminent.


I feel like the campaign here never really had a chance to gain any sort of real momentum. Things were well done in spots but the constant shifts in who was distributing it means there isn’t one cohesive strategy that was developed and that, I think, is why you’re not seeing more press and more overall activity around the marketing.

What is there, though, is well done. I really like the trailers and think the final poster is just about as good as anyone could develop to sell the movie in a single image. I would have liked to have seen more of the reactions from Cannes worked into the campaign but that’s a constant shortcoming in many campaigns.

Contagion – Marketing Recap

Few things freak me out more than movies or stories about viruses. It’s not that I’m a germaphobe – though I do carry some sort of hand sanitizer bottle with me just about everywhere – it’s that the idea of an unstoppable pandemic that sweeps across borders in no time scares me on a fundamental level that even more straight-ahead horror flicks can’t even come close to.

So this week’s big release, Contagion, is likely going to have me reaching for the plastic and duct tape to seal up the windows. Telling a bunch of interconnected stories the movie is about how the world reacts when a virus that kills quickly starts sweeping through the population. While the CDC and government officials try to track down how it started and therefore how to cure it the camera also turns to how a single family deals with the death of a wife and mother. Directed by Steven Soderbergh – and therefore a safe bet to at the very least be well made – the film stars Matt Damon, Gwenyth Paltrow, Lawrence Fishburne, Jude Law and other high-name-recognition actors in what’s sure to be a terrifying story.

The Posters

The movie’s first poster is made to look like a biohazard sign and indeed a “Biohazard” piece of red tape is shown along the top of the design, holding up a sign that has the names of cities listed on it, presumably the ones that have been impacted. Spelled out vertically using random letters from those city names is the movie’s title, all of it adding up to a nice design that makes the movie seem very scary and very interesting.

After that came a series of six character-centric one-sheets, each of which featured an extreme close of the actor in some sort of action pose that was appropriate for their character.

So Damon looks like he’s freaking out, Paltrow looks like she’s dying, Fishburne looks like he’s having a stern phone conversation and so on. Not sure why Law looks like he’s been cast as Mr. Freeze, but what are you going to do.

All six of those images were later combined into one poster that continued to feature cracks, rips and fading that made it look like it had been hung out in the sun too long and in not a particularly good neighborhood. That, obviously, was done to convey the sense of danger that’s trying to be sold here. It doesn’t play up the fact that it comes from Soderbergh, which is either by design because he’s not a household name director yet or because he is but he’s too often associated with high-end experimental movies and his presence might be an impediment. Either way he’s just in the credits block and not called out within the design.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie was enough to freak just about anyone out. We see Paltrow’s character coming home from a trip a little under the weather. It’s nothing until she collapses in her kitchen and her husband has to rush her to the hospital, only to later be told she’s died. We also see officials of some sort (CDC?) discussing the spread of the disease she brought back with her, a disease that has no cure. We then back and forth between Damon and the events on the ground as cities are quarantined and emptied and Fishburne and his group of scientists and public health officials as they track the disease’s spread on multiple continents.

It’s enough to make you never want to go out of the house again.


As the official website loads you see the rising counts of the dead displayed across a map of the world, which is disconcerting in and of itself. If you can get past the trailer that attempts to auto-play after that countdown (I had to bypass it since it was not playing and keeping the site from loading behind it) you can access the main site content.

First up there is “About” which has a Synopsis that goes into a fair amount of detail about the film’s story as well as Cast and Filmmaker biographies and film histories. There are also Production Notes you can download for a deeper look at the movie and its making.

I’m honestly not sure what’s in the “Videos” section other than the one trailer since it, like the front page, just hung up and went nowhere for me. But the “Photos” section is so robust I stopped counting after 30 or so. I’m sure there are over 50 stills from the movie here. “Downloads” meanwhile has the teaser and theatrical Posters to grab in addition to Wallpapers and Buddy Icons. “Soundtrack” lets you listen to samples of the movie’s score. “Promotions” lists the sites that have participated in giveaways and such

“Are You Patient X?” is a Facebook-based tool that simulates what role you would have in spreading a global pandemic, which is probably as much fun as you would imagine it to be. Similarly, the “Nothing Spreads Like Fear” site that’s listed next is some sort of Facebook game that I didn’t play so can’t speak to authoritatively. Finally there’s an “Interactive Trailer” that lets you click on spots in the trailer to learn more about how viruses spread and other fun stuff.

The movie’s Facebook page has lots of updates on the marketing and promotional activities around the movie, including lots of video and more information on how diseases spread.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

The TV spots that began running in early August play like condensed versions of the first trailer, bouncing quickly between the individual story of Damon’s family and his journey and the broader story of what’s happening around the world as people work to fight the virus. There’s some new footage in some of them that hadn’t been seen previously that shows more of the same and, again, they’re very good and very frightening.

Media and Publicity

Some of the first publicity was in the form of a story (New York Times, 8/28/11) about how much the movie tried to create a realistic tone while at the same time attracting a high-profile cast that made a virus movie into more of an event.

The film was then scheduled to have its debut at the 2011 Venice Film Festival, something that some press (Los Angeles Times, 8/31/11) saw as a mimicking of the awards path taken last year by The Town.


One thing is for sure, at least in my opinion, and that’s that the campaign sells a slick, professionally made movie that’s sure to scare the bejeesus out of you and have you reaching for the Purell. Everything about the campaign is designed to emphasize the drama that can be wrenched (by a talented director working with a good script) from people either getting sick or trying to figure out why other people are getting sick.

Aside from that the audience is assured of seeing lots of big name stars working toward the top of their game, maybe not in material that’s award worthy but which has an interesting story to tell. The posters and trailers work nicely in tandem to sell it as a mainstream bit of scary entertainment and the website (overlooking the technical problems I kept having) is nicely consistent with those other two elements.