I’ve never really been a big fan of “kids go on an adventure” movies. They usually come off as a bit too precious and almost always necessitate the kids at the core of the action acting more adult and aware than they otherwise would be. I’ll admit I don’t even care all that much for Stand By Me as I find it cloy and annoying. I just have a problem buying into these stories on a fundamental level.
So I’m not exactly predisposed to Yosemite. Centered around the town of Palo Alto in 1985, the story follows three boys as they have experiences both apart and together dealing with reports of a mountain lion on the loose in the mountains near their town. Together they go on an adventure into the woods to hunt the mountain lion with all the assuredness and naivete of youth. James Franco stars as well as the father of one of the boys and the movie is based on his book, originally titled “A California Childhood.”
The poster does a good job of establishing the setting and the basic idea of the movie. The top of the one-sheet features an image of Franco standing in the woods alongside some critic quotes from festival screenings that appear to praise the movie, including one that draws a line between this and Stand By Me. Franco’s name appears both above the title treatment as the star and below as the author of the source material. The bottom half of the poster shows the three boys that drive the story walking across a field. Toward the very bottom there’s copy saying “Growing up is an adventure.”
So it shows the main characters and the setting for the movie as well as, thanks to the tagline, something about the story. It’s not bad but it certainly screams “indie” where much of the action is about character and takes place via dialogue as opposed to anything overt. It’s not bad, but the brown tones and other visual elements, including even the note about it being based on Franco’s previous work, make it clear this is for a limited audience.
We hear as the trailer starts about the mountain lions that will drive the crux of the story. We see Franco and his boys hiking through the woods before we find out some friend of the boys is missing, presumably killed by that mountain lion. There are lots of moments here of the three boys walking through the woods or doing something that speaks of childhood like playing with a spider or slicking back their hair, so it’s mostly about them finding their own identity as they get older.
Again, the movie that’s on display here is very much meant for a limited audience who enjoys small, character driven movies that probably feature lots of moments of characters staring into space as they consider life’s great mysteries. The trailer sets up most of the characters, the setting and more well and has a good flow to it, even if I have the sense it features scenes from all over the movie in non-chronological order.
Online and Social
The trailer will begin playing when you load the official website, which is just a page on the Monterey Media site. There’s a menu at the top of the page that will just take you down further on the page to get to all the content.
“Awards” has images from all the festivals the film played at and that’s followed by “Press,” which is where you can read excerpts from some of the coverage the film has already received from those festival appearances.
There’s a brief “Synopsis” of the story that appears before “Cast & Crew,” which has links to the IMDB pages for Franco and Henry Hopper but that’s it. There’s a whole section of “Poster Art & Stills” that has the poster (natch) along with over a dozen stills from the movie as well as some shots from festival Q&As with the cast and crew. “Press Clippings” has a link to a Variety piece on the film.
If you go back up to the top menu you can also find links that will take you to “Dates/Locations” where you can find where the film is playing and a link to the “Filmmaker Website,” which is a single page about the movie with a bit more detailed story synopsis and a carousel of images. I’m legitimately not sure what role this is meant to serve. It seems duplicative of what’s on the Monterey site, doesn’t contain a link back to that site and is otherwise just kind of…there. This may have been a vanity thing from the director or someone else but it’s not clear at all. And the site doesn’t show on first couple pages of Google search results. Seems like a weird offshoot.
The film also had a Facebook page but that was it off-domain.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’ve seen or been able to find through searches.
Media and Publicity
As stated above, the movie did appear at various festivals and garnered decent buzz from those screenings.
As those were happening and leading up to release director Gabrielle Demeestere would actually be the focal point of the press push. She talked about adapting Franco’s story and what she added to it as well as what it was liking shooting in the locations it’s set in and working with the child actors. In an op-ed in IndieWire she talked more about that latter topic with the added twist of what it was like doing so as a female filmmaker.
At the end of 2015 the movie also appeared on a number of lists of indie movies various writers were excited to see in the coming year.
It’s a decent campaign that has a lot of consistent elements including the overt attempts to position this as some sort of successor to Stand By Me as a “boys coming of age on an adventure” story as well as just the color palette and tone that’s on display. There’s an obvious focus on Franco here but it’s not clear because of the film’s structure how much he actually appears in the movie. But he’s a star so it makes a lot of sense to put him front and center.
The movie itself comes across as more of a tone poem than anything else. It looks like the kind of movie with minimal dialogue, most of which is direct and uncompromising from characters, including the kids, that’s preternaturally self-aware. The campaign doesn’t play up the triptych nature of the story almost at all, instead presenting it as if there’s one cohesive story being told, not a series of interconnected ones. Considering the more…discerning…nature of the audience being appealed to they’re more likely to go along with that – and to know about it outside of the campaign since it’s talked about in festival reviews – and not be turned off by a little sleight of hand.