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Movie Marketing Madness: Indignation

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Parents, as a general rule, want what’s best for their children. Sometimes, though, their view of what’s best can be very narrow. Look at the father in Dead Poet’s Society who wants his son to be a lawyer so badly he crushes his dream of acting, only to push him into such deep depression he commits suicide rather than live an unfulfilling life. That parental expectation, combined with the cultural norms of the time the story was set in, showed the world of the late 80s that the WASP ideal wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and that there were fissures just under what seemed to be a nicely ordered surface.

Based on the novel by Philip Roth, Indignation is about exposing the same sort of underlying faults. The story follows Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) as he’s sent to a prestigious college by his father, a working-class butcher who’s sacrificed to give his son something better. But once there Marcus begins to struggle and rebel under the stricture of the university as he grapples with the anti-Semitism that was rampant (and largely acceptable) at the time, a repressive environment and a confrontational administration. Adding to his issues is that he becomes infatuated and involved with Olivia (Sarah Gadon), a troubled girl who does nothing to help Marcus settle in and stop bucking the system.

The Posters

The first and only poster puts Lerman and Gadon together, having a lovely and chaste conversation on a window seat. That setting as well as their clothing makes it clear we’re dealing with a period piece here. Some positive critical quotes appear toward the top in one of the windows behind the stars and below the title we’re told this is both based on a Philip Roth novel and written and directed by Schamus.

The Trailers

The movie’s first trailer opens as Marcus is beginning his time at college. The interview with the dean that serves as the framing device for the trailer is used here to explain some of Marcus’ character traits, including his views in religion and more. He even asks about his romantic live, at which point we meet the girl he’s interested in, someone that no one else seems to think is good for him. She seems to have some sort of mental history that he doesn’t care about but everyone else is seriously concerned about. Something happens to her and he seems to be at the center of suspicion.

It’s a strong trailer that sells a stiff, formal movie. That’s not a bad thing, it’s in keeping with the tone of Roth’s book and the setting of the story as a whole. It looks like an emotional movie about someone who’s doing what he can to buck society’s norms while at the same time presenting to enter society. There’s also plenty of praise for the movie in the trailer itself, with quotes from festival reviews that talk about the film as a whole and Loman’s performance in particular.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website plays some lovely light orchestral music when you pull it up, the kind of stuff that used to be heard on the radio all the time via live broadcasts from NBC’s or another network’s New York studio. That plays over the key art that makes up the site’s background.

The first thing the site wants you to do is watch the “Trailer,” which you very much should. After that the “Synopsis” gives you a good, if brief, overview of the characters and their motivations, particularly Marcus’. Next up is the “Cast/Crew” section, which gives you headshots of the major players on both sides of the camera and offers a quick career overview of who they are and what else you’ve seen them in.

indignation pic 1

There’s a “Gallery” of four images from the movie and it all ends with “News,” which has quotes from early reviews of the movie along with links to go read the whole thing.

The movie’s Facebook and Twitter profiles share trailers, promotional images, short videos and more. Some made it to Twitter, but most of the press that was generated around the film is also linked to on Twitter, which shares those links or RTs them as appropriate.  

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nope, nothing I’ve seen. There may be some online ads out there and are likely to be more as the movie expands from its initial limited release but I’ve come across nothing so far.

Media and Publicity

Shortly after its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year the movie was bought by Lionsgate, at least partly because of the positive buzz that came out of the screenings.

Indignation pic 2

A big New York Times feature on Schamus covered how he was transitioning to a new phase of his filmmaking career, the potential pitfalls inherent in adapting Roth books and lots more. It’s meant to be kind of a coming-into-his-own story on Schamus, who’s been an insider for decades but is now taking a more active role in actually making the movies he used to just write or produce. There were also stories like this where Schamus in particular talks about the travails of trying to adapt Roth’s story and create something new while also remaining true to the original.

The cast and Schamus did limited media tours as well.

Overall

I can’t find any big problems with the campaign. It sells a good, dramatic movie that will appeal to a smaller demographic because of its tone and subject matter but it does so in a solid manner and in a way that should reach the target market. The press push in particular is really solid, playing up the unique artistic credentials on display here and selling it as an experience completely unlike what you’ll find in a super hero or other franchise movie.

Instead it sells a serious, understated drama that’s going to rely greatly on characters and moments that drive the story forward. There’s nothing flashy here, but what’s promised is a movie that will rely on writing and performances to keep audiences hooked.

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