Picking Up the Spare: Going In Style, Colossal, The Circle

Going in Style

  • I missed these in advance of release, but Warner Bros. created a bunch of posters that put the trio from this movie in shots reminiscent of the one-shots for the Fast and Furious movies. These aren’t great and fit into the basic idea of what I was talking about in my post on how movie marketing is becoming increasingly self-referential.

Colossal

  • It’s a bit late in the cycle, but Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway have been hitting the late night talk show circuit to talk up the movie.
  • Neon released a new trailer titled “Giant Robot” that spoils the climactic showdown that takes place toward the end of the movie. It sells the movie as a much more traditional monster movie, though the unique character-based sense of humor still shows through. Still, I’m glad this didn’t come out before the movie was released.

The Circle

  • I missed it at first but NowThis News created a video (possibly a series) about the real-world privacy issues that are amplified and at the core of the story in the movie.

MMM Recap: Buster’s Mal Heart, The Circle, How To Be A Latin Lover

Buster’s Mal Heart

…the main message of the campaign is that people should come and see the new movie from that TV show everyone at work has been telling them they need to binge and catch up on. There are a lot of elements of the marketing that will turn people off; Heck, many may turn away when they see a clock that’s all screwed up. Those that stick around are promised a twisty period piece that may not offer all the answers but will give them something to chew on after it’s over.

The Circle

Here’s what’s striking to me about the campaign: Emma Watson is right there front and center throughout all of it. In an age when we’re having endless (and still necessary) conversations about strong female characters and how female actors tend to get less attention than their male costars, it’s great to see STX has leaned into having her as the face of the campaign from beginning to end. Sure, Hanks is there, but he’s positioned (likely rightly) as the supporting character in the story. You can’t not put him in the marketing, but not only is he positioned as secondary, but it makes little effort to hide the fact that he’s playing kind of a conniving…if not bad guy at least someone who runs counter to the wonderfully nice guy the actor is usually known for. I want more of Hanks on the wrong side of the morality tale and more of Watson as the unquestioned lead in a movie.

How To Be A Latin Lover

The movie as a whole looks funny in an offbeat, slightly low key kind of way. That’s not unexpected considering Marino’s comedic history, especially with The State and as a collaborator of David Wain whose movies can generally best be described as “offbeat, slightly low key.” There’s certainly a funny movie being sold here, but it’s honestly going to be hard to sell a movie that’s half in Spanish and which doesn’t feature a big, mainstream name (other than Hayek) in the cast to the audience that keeps going to see The Fate of the Furious.

Making the Content

This, in case you were wondering, is the most frightening image I can conjure.

I’m no fan of snakes and can feel my skin sizzle while my brain fights the urge to run so fast I leave a Wily Coyote-esque hole in the nearest wall when I go into the reptile house at a zoo. But that, that blank page, that gaping maw yearning to be filled, sometimes scares the crap out of me to an extent that even the biggest, creepiest snake would be in awe of.

It’s intimidating, especially when you’ve set a goal for yourself to write every day and, more pragmatically, reach certain traffic goals you’ve established for a website. I want to do things, things that revolve around writing.

So I write. I stare down the maw once more and reach in, hoping to extract something of value, because that’s what the voices tell me to do. I write because my brain is full and the page is empty and the two need to come together. Not everything is golden and not everything will be the Most Insightful Thing On the Internet Today. That’s a high bar to clear.

But, I’ve found, it’s better to close the loop and get the ideas out of my head. Not doing so will cause them to continue to clatter around and distract me as I do nothing but add to them. I have a running list of topics to write on in a Google Doc and, if I were to actually finish them and publish one a day I’d have a new post every day for the rest of the year. And that doesn’t count Movie Marketing Madness or other regularly-scheduled posts. The list is a needle in my side, beckoning my attention and demanding time I just don’t have.

Tonight, I faced down the blank page. Tomorrow I’ll do the same. And the day after that, and the day after that. It’s not a game I can win – there are always new blank pages – but I’ll show up. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it and while I can talk about goals and what I want to achieve and add to the conversation and everything else, it just comes down to this: I’m my best self when I’m writing. That blank page might be intimidating and terrifying, but filling it is also what drives me.

Flashback MMM: Alien

This past Wednesday was #AlienDay, a day 20th Century Fox designated to celebrate the legacy of the franchise that started with 1979’s Ridley Scott-directed horror classic and which continues with the upcoming release of Alien: Covenant. It’s a publicity stunt, to be sure, and involved live events on the Fox lot with the cast of the upcoming movie and lots more. Unlike many current similar movies, Alien was not intended as the first in a series of movies. Indeed it was seven years before James Cameron directed the more action-oriented sequel.

The original Alien is, unlike most of its sequels, more concerned with tension and terror than with dramatic fights featuring huge robotic exoskeletons and the creepy crawly alpha predators that lurk in the far reaches of space. Sigourney Weaver stars as Ripley, one member of the crew of the Nostromo, a merchant ship that picks up a distress call emanating from a nearby moon. When they land to investigate they find the ship has been infiltrated by an alien lifeform that isn’t content to destroy but needs the people aboard the Nostromo to propagate and, hopefully, spread to other planets.

The theatrical poster has become so iconic it’s easy to overlook just how much is going on with its design. The title treatment is the lowest-key part of the poster, appearing in simple block letters at the top. The main element is in the middle, the rocky egg that is starting to split, a strange green light emanating from inside and a foggy smoke pouring out. “In space no one can hear you scream” we’re told in the copy that’s just below that. Finally, at the bottom, we see another soft green light just breaking over the horizon of a strange, hatched groundwork that’s clearly meant to look foreign or otherworldly.

It’s a great example of showing just enough to titillate or entice the audience without needing to show off the actual alien that will be hunting the human crew members. In fact not only is there little to nothing shown, there’s very little about the story here, but in a good way. It’s all about the suggestion of danger, of something that’s about to emerge. That’s very different – and much more effective – than those that just don’t show anything about the movie but also don’t leave any room for the audience to imagine what’s happening or what’s next.

The trailer starts off with a full 50 seconds of tracking shots that alternate between covering an alien terrain of some kind and showing the egg, all as the title is slowly unveiled. That helps to establish a sense of mystery as the audience is left wondering where we are and what’s going on with that egg, which eventually starts cracking as the same green light we saw on the trailer comes out. After it cracks we shift to footage from the movie, though there’s no clear story outlined other than “survival.” We see the cast of the Nostromo running through the ship, convulsing for unknown reasons and just trying to not die.

There are no names given here, no characters explained or backstories offered. There’s no synopsis of the story or other insights into what’s happening for the audience to latch on to. That all means it’s being sold as a horror film, not necessarily a science-fiction story. The H.R. Giger-inspired designs are shown prominently throughout the second half of the trailer, again giving people a clear sense that this is a dark, foreign place we’re visiting.

All in all The campaign was much more about selling a mystery and a horror film than anything else. While the series eventually veered into straightforward sci-fi (with the exception of Alien 3, the David Fincher-directed installment that reintroduced a sense of tension), taking the approach of hinting at and alluding to instead of showing outright. What’s unseen is often more terrifying than what’s shown, and the marketing for this 1979 classic embraces that wholeheartedly.

Turning My Brain Off and Disengaging From Work

I was never very good at not working. This isn’t a new development that’s emerged during my period of unemployment or underemployment. It’s not a new habit or quirk I’ve developed and I’m not just talking about not having work to do and feeling restless.

Instead I’m talking about turning the “work” part of my brain off when I’m not actually at work. I have a tendency to sit there watching TV at the end of the day or eating dinner and while I’m talking with my family part of my head is actually still back at work, trying to work out a solution to a problem or anticipating what’s pending tomorrow. And after everyone is in bed I will pull the computer back out and answer more emails or whatever instead of relaxing with a good book and going to bed at a decent hour.

Part of that has always been motivated out of guilt. In fact I’d say guilt is a primary factor in this attitude and behavior. When I was working for agencies I’d fear that the client was sending something through at any moment – likely as soon as I went to bed – that would need to be addressed immediately and the entire program was going to fall apart because I wasn’t responsive in a timely manner. Or that they were going to find my delay in response troubling and ask my bosses for someone more reliable, thank you very much.

Some of these fears were – and are – irrational, I know that. But they’re also borne out to some extent by actual events. Many are the nights when I was all set to turn in only to check my phone one last time and see that a request had been sent through that was urgent and couldn’t wait until I woke up at 6:00 the next morning. Usually it was because some bit of news was being announced at 7AM Central time the next day that necessitated my blowing up the editorial calendar, rearranging all the scheduled posts already in the queue and making other adjustments on the fly. So to some extent, this attitude was earned and warranted.

That doesn’t make it better, though. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to switch that off at the end of the day and engage with the rest of life.

In fact it’s at these moments, when things are at their most stressful, that it’s so very important to disengage and leave work alone for periods of time. When you know that every day is going to bring with it new challenges, stresses and problems, you need that time to recuperate, to give your brain time to decompress and do something other than react to the work-related stimuli that’s right in front of it.

That’s something I still struggle with, even during this phase of my life. I’m pounded by the voices in my head that say “No wonder nothing’s happening for you, you’d rather read and relax tonight than write that pitch that’s been unfinished for a month now.” Or “No wonder you’re not successful, you think you deserve downtime when in fact you do not.” I’m not being overly-dramatic here when I say these are the real thoughts that go through my head on the rare times I decide I’ve had enough, my fingers can’t handle any more and I’m done for the day. They haunt me.

To some that might be labeled as “a drive to succeed” but I think I’ve taken it too far into near-obsessive behavior. The world won’t fall apart because I didn’t get to an email or because it took me an extra day to write something. My supervisors would always tell me that I was under no obligation to answer late-night emails. If a problem cropped up, they’d say, then it’s mostly on the client for not telling us about a 5AM press release before 10PM the previous day. They had to bear some responsibility too.

But that’s not how my brain works. *I’m* always going to be the one at fault for these situations falling apart, for something not being done, for someone not being satisfied. I bear the burden of the success or failure of the company I work for on my shoulders. That’s what’s always been in mind as I flip open my computer at 9PM to “just take care of a few things.” It’s not the healthiest of attitudes and I’d discourage others from adopting it. It’s one I’m working hard to break myself.

Movie Marketing Madness: How To Be A Latin Lover

Let’s just be honest and admit that some people have few, if any, real-world survival skills. That’s not the case, though, for Maximo (Eugenio Derbez), the main character in the new movie How To Be A Latin Lover. Directed by Ken Marino, the movie is about Maximo, who early on in life discovered he had the ability to woo rich older women from whom he could mooch a luxurious lifestyle and a life of ease and relaxation.

That situation is upset when the older woman he’s been with for 25 years kicks him out and Maximo doesn’t know how to make it in the world. He tries moving in with his sister Sara (Salma Hayek) and nephew Hugo (Raphael Alejandro), but still needs to get a job. While he tries to return to his lothario ways, he finds that’s not so easy with a quarter century in the rear-view mirror. That readjustment to the real world is where the movie will find, it seems, much of its humor.

The Posters

The first poster wasn’t all that great, it was just a parody of one of the posters for Fifty Shades Darker, this time with a latin gentleman standing behind an older lady wearing the kind of mask that was featured in the marketing for that film. Another appeared later that parodied La La Land.

There’s not much to the theatrical poster. It just shows Derbez as the title character standing there holding a rose in his mouth and wearing nothing but a Speedo, pointing to the audience. The paunch of his belly shows we’re in satire territory here, aided by the copy “Watch and learn.” The rest of the cast appears in small photos below the title.

The Trailers

First up is a teaser trailer that opens with Maximo and Sara as children talking about what they want to be when they grow up, with Maximo pegging early on he wants to live a life of luxury. Some shots of that lifestyle are followed by Sara hitting him repeatedly for various reasons before we’re introduced to some of the supporting cast, including Rob Lowe and Kristen Bell. It all ends with Maximo beginning to instruct his nephew in the art of seduction.

This doesn’t work very well. The story isn’t presented all that clearly, the jokes aren’t given any chance to really breathe or land for the audience. You get the basic sense of what’s going on but it’s not the most effective teaser I’ve seen.

We meet a young Maximo in the first trailer as a young man looking for an older woman to mooch off of. Fast forward a number of years and he’s still living in her house and taking advantage of her wealth. When she throws him to the curb he has to get out and support himself. Instead of doing that, though, he moves in with his sister and nephew, where he gets into all kinds of trouble. Eventually he sets his sights on a new sugar momma, but he’s grown a bit rusty over the years even as he tries to teach his nephew how to woo a girl he likes.

It’s pretty funny and you can see Marino’s influence on the comedy here. It plays quite broadly but still looks pretty funny overall. It’s much better than the teaser in that the story is clearly on display and the jokes are given a bit of room to move around. Much more attractive movie on display here, even if the sense of humor still seems a bit off-kilter.

Online and Social

OK, I’m a little confused as to the movie’s online strategy. The official site features a modified version of the key art, with Derbez in his banana hammock and the smaller shots of the supporting cast. There’s a button in the top left to get tickets and beating heart graphic encourages you to watch the trailer. Below the cast photos are links to the movie’s Facebook and Instagram profiles as well as the studio’s Twitter. But there’s no other information about the movie.

If you click the “Get Tickets” button that site offers a bit more content, with a section of “Videos” that contains both trailers, some featurettes, a few clips from the publicity tour and more. There’s also a “Synopsis” that helps lay out the story of the movie. Also linked to from the main page is a Lionsgate publicity page that has the main trailer, both posters and fact sheets in both English and Spanish.

All that adds up to an odd and disparate strategy that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

If there’s been any TV advertising done I can’t find it. Some outdoor ads were placed, though, that used the key art to try and sell the movie as a sexy comedy. The message was hard to convey, though, since the tone of the movie doesn’t appear to be all that straightforward and easy to sell.

Media and Publicity

Derbez and Halek both made the media rounds in the weeks leading up to release, speaking to the press, appearing on late night talk shows and more. They talked about making the movie, working with each other and Marino and more.

What’s notable if you look at the Twitter profile for Pantelion Films is that there was a significant push into the Spanish-language media world. Both stars did lots of interviews for those outlets, either in print or on TV.

Overall

There are several things going on here that are of note. First off, the website strategy continues to make little sense to me. I’m not sure why the videos and other information aren’t on the official site but are relegated to the tickets site. And why push the posters to the Lionsgate page? That misstep is offset by the approach to the Spanish-language media, which makes a ton of sense considering stars and that much of the movie’s dialogue seems to be in Spanish. So that’s a smart play to an important demographic.

The movie as a whole looks funny in an offbeat, slightly low key kind of way. That’s not unexpected considering Marino’s comedic history, especially with The State and as a collaborator of David Wain whose movies can generally best be described as “offbeat, slightly low key.” There’s certainly a funny movie being sold here, but it’s honestly going to be hard to sell a movie that’s half in Spanish and which doesn’t feature a big, mainstream name (other than Hayek) in the cast to the audience that keeps going to see The Fate of the Furious.

Want to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

Stingers and Movie Marketing

My latest at Adfreak examines the ways in which those post-credits stingers have become an integral part of the movie marketing cycle, especially for franchise films:

In the last week, a rumor that had been bouncing around the internet was confirmed when director James Gunn revealed that, yes, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 would have an epic five post-credits scenes. For those of us who feel like most movies could easily lop off 20 minutes or so without losing anything meaningful from the story, it means we’re going to have to wait even longer to OMG get out of the way I need to go to the bathroom.

The number of post-credits sequences has steadily increased since Marvel Studios revitalized the concept with 2008’s Iron Man. That scene featured Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury emerging from the shadows of Tony Stark’s living room and introducing him—and the audience—to the reality that a wider world of superheroes existed, ultimately setting the stage for The Avengers four years later.

Source: Stay for the Credits: How Bonus Scenes Became a Crucial Part of Movie Marketing

From Cars to Family: How the Marketing of The Fast and the Furious Series Has Evolved

(Ed. Note: This was written a few weeks ago for another outlet. It never ran there but I liked it quite a bit so am publishing it here, though I know it’s a bit late. Indulge me, please.)

With the release of The Fate of the Furious, the franchise enters its 16th year, meaning it is finally old enough to drive itself. The series has undergone some big thematic changes over those years in how it’s sold itself to the audience, from one that was focused mostly just on outrageous stunts performed by cars to one that’s about, as we’ll see, espouses repeatedly the importance of and responsibility to family. To track that shift over time let’s look at the trailers for each of the eight, including this week’s, installments in the series. Specifically, let’s look at the two distinct phases to the approaches employed in selling these movies.

Phase One: It’s All About the Cars

The initial formulation here wasn’t complex: Create elaborate, often nonsensical scenarios under which cars are to be driven in extreme ways. It starts out with a story that’s essentially Point Break but with cars (undercover cop befriends bad guy thief, winds up respecting him more than anything) and progresses from there as the storytelling keeps needing to add additional elements to up the perceived danger, account for cast shifts and other factors.

The Fast and The Furious (2001)

It’s almost remarkable how little of the story is on display in the trailer for the first movie. Instead the marketing team identified early on what was going to bring people out to the theater: Fast cars, outrageous stunts and women in tight, revealing clothing. It starts out by promising a look at the world that comes up when the sun goes down and just gets more and more intense as things go on. There are title cards that talk about loyalty and other themes but that’s about it. The actual visuals are singularly focused on showing off the paces the cars (the real starts of the franchise) are put through. Aside from one random woman, the only dialogue spoken in the trailer comes from Vin Diesel’s Dominic, who says “Let’s go for a ride” and then explains to Paul Walker’s Brian why an extreme action had to be taken. There’s nothing here, though, about Brian being an undercover cop or really anything about the criminal organization Dominic and his partners operate. The studio just wants you to come see the car stunts.

 

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

The trailer starts in much the same way, showing an underground street race about to begin. Brian is clearly deeper in the organization now, but we don’t get much in the way of character development outside of a bit of flirting he does with Monica, played by Eva Mendes. There’s obviously some relationship with Roman, played by Tyrese Gibson, but it’s never explained what that is. We get some plot details from Roman, who declares “Guns, murderers and crooked cops? I was made for this, bro.” but that’s about the extent of it beyond generic dialogue like “You need to chill out. Again, the focus isn’t anywhere near the story as the studio just wants to sell us more fast cars and shady characters to root for. Walker is the only holdover from the first movie, but again there’s not much explanation here of why, where anyone else is, what his current situation is or any other plot points that might be useful for audiences of any kind.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

First off, let’s note that it was three years between the second and third installments of the franchise, indicating there was something that almost killed the series before it ever really got a chance to get out of hand. Also, aside from a brief cameo from Vin Diesel, no one from the original cast appears here, showing the studio was trying to keep it alive but go in a different direction. That’s also evident from the trailer, which shows the action is being transported to Tokyo as the audience gets a brief explanation about what “drifting” is. The characters are pretty disposable, though there’s obviously conflict between the sport’s established players and newcomer Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), an American who gets involved in the dangerous form of racing. That’s about the extent of the story exposition, though, as the rest of the trailer continues to show the new stunts drivers are being asked to pull off. There’s also no effort to connect this to the rest of the series with anything but the title.

Phase Two: The Family Years

From here on out there was a drastic shift in the production and marketing of these movies. Not only would they shift to a reliable two-year cycle but with the return of the original cast, the emphasis fell squarely on the theme of “family. That comes up over and over again in all these trailers, taking the place of the focus simply on fast cars and big stunts. There also begins to be more of an emphasis on the story of these movies, perhaps signaling that the marketplace was inundated with loud senseless action movies and the franchise needed to make a slightly more nuanced and fully-rounded value proposition to the audience.

Fast and Furious (2009)

Another three years go by before the fourth film arrives but this time we’re back into familiar franchise territory when the trailer begins. We see Dom, Letty and the crew executing a daring mid-road hijacking of a series of tanker trucks and soon see Walker’s Brian is back as well, but again that’s the extent of the story that’s offered here. Even the return of the original characters and cast seems kind of downplayed, an odd choice given how this was an attempt to basically get the franchise back up and running again. A later trailer makes those returns more of a focus and, importantly, begins to really introduce the concept of “family” to the series.

Fast Five (2011)

Now we’re getting somewhere. Characters from the whole series, including Tokyo Drift, are immediately introduced in the trailer as it’s shown Dom has assembled them all to execute a massive heist. This also introduces The Rock to the series as a federal marshall tasked with taking down Dom and his crew. It’s clear that at this point Dom and Brian are very much the “brothers” that they purport to be throughout the rest of the series. The big difference here is that there are some stakes provided for the actions of the criminals, that they are being targeted by law enforcement and will likely go to prison for a long time if they’re caught. That’s a big difference from the first four movies, which just wanted to sell the spectacle.

Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

As usual we start off with shiny cars and scantily-clad young ladies in the trailer, which shows Hobbs (The Rock) reaching out to Dom for his help in tracking down a team of high-tech bandits. Not everyone’s on board with this turn of events, but a deal is worked out and everyone comes around when they find out Letty might be alive. “You don’t turn your back on family” Dom intones just in case we weren’t clear as to everyone’s motivations. The stunts just get bigger here, including the main set piece that involves a tank being ejected from the trailer it’s being carried in and then rolling down the highway. This goes further than any of the previous trailers in emphasizing that this ragtag group of hard-driving thieves consider themselves a family that has to protect each other and do whatever is necessary.

Furious 7 (2015)

The trailer hits that “family” idea hard right from the outset as we have Dom narrating over shots of Brian, Letty and others enjoying time together. Dom gets a call that precedes his house blowing up. He and they are being hunted by an international assassin played by Jason Stratham and again we hear that this “family” will protect each other and take on this new threat. That involves lots of driving of insane vehicles in ridiculous ways. “One last ride” is what Dom promises as we see everything from standard street races to The Rock with a massive machine gun to a sports car flying from one high-rise to another. Everything about the marketing for this movie was tinged with a sense of emotion and melancholy as it was during the filming of this installment and Walker was tragically killed. To its credit, the studio never really overplayed this angle in the marketing, alluding to it around the edges of the campaign without doing anything overt to make “Come see the last Furious movie with Paul Walker” a core theme of the message to audiences.

Fate of the Furious (2017)

The trailer opens with Roman, Dom and everyone on the run after their latest heist, escaping with the help of a massive wrecking ball. Hobbs is now a full-on member of the team but we see Dom is, for some reason, turning on his family. Everyone then is determined to find out why that happened and the plan involves breaking Hobbs and Shaw out of prison to help. We skip everything else to see everyone driving various cars along a massive sheet of ice before Cipher (Charlize Theron), who’s working with Dom, has a submarine break through the ice and chase everyone. There are six or seven comments here about “family” from different characters, mostly in regards to Dom’s betrayal.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Circle

Based on Dave Eggers’ 2013 novel of the same name, The Circle opens in theaters this week and brings with it a story of how “change the world” technology companies aren’t always what they seem. Emma Watson stars as Mae, an eager young woman who’s hired at Circle, a fictional company that combines elements of Google, Facebook, Yelp and other real-life examples. She’s no one, just an entry-level customer service rep who’s there to help advertisers, but she soon skyrockets within the cult-like corporate culture.

Her ascendancy coincides with the growing influence Circle has in the world. The company is rolling out cameras that will be everywhere and expose everyone’s action to the judgment of the crowd, ostensibly to keep everyone honest. That effort is spearheaded by corporate head Bailey (Tom Hanks) but it’s not quite as altruistic as it seems. As Mae becomes more and more of an influence within the close-knit campus of Circle, the mysterious Ty (John Boyega) is determined to show her the seedy underbelly of how all the data being accumulated will be used. Mae is left as the fulcrum on which the company – and privacy itself – balances.

The Posters

The first poster presents the basic premise in an interesting way. The Circle’s logo is presented here as a maze of sorts with the copy “Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better” at the top hinting at the surveillance nature of the story. It’s simple but a good first effort.

That same copy point is used on the next poster, which this time puts the faces of Watson and Hanks in front of the Circle’s logo. There’s nothing all that interesting about it, both of them look like they’re squinting after being out in the sun for too long and there’s nothing else about the story or setting that’s conveyed here. It’s just about showing off the star power.

The Trailers

The first trailer opens with Mae’s interview at The Circle, which is filled with more questions about personality than job specifics. We then cut to Bailey giving an inspirational speech about the possibilities that exist in a world without secrets and that speech – or others like it – continues to frame the rest of the action. We see Mae led down a mysterious corridor and other hints that things are not as utopian at the company as they’d like everyone to believe. That’s emphasized by footage of people and drones forcing someone driving a truck eventually drive it off a bridge.

It’s a good first effort that lays out at least the bare outlines of the story. Anyone who’s read the book, which is referenced here, will recognize certain plot points. There’s a good amount of Hanks in here, which makes sense, but the overall goal seems to be to establish The Circle as a Google-like company whose motives are good but actions are disturbing from a privacy perspective.

The second trailer takes a much more linear approach to the story. We start out with Bailey once more talking about the potential for good that would come from a world with no secrets. Then we meet Mae just as she’s moving from her old life to a new job at The Circle. That quickly turns out to be more intense than she bargained for and she finds privacy to be a thing of the past. The stakes and tension only ramp up as her newfound celebrity increases, largely because she’s brought behind the curtain by a mysterious figure to be shown exactly what The Circle is capable of.

This one is quite a bit better than the first, largely because it explains more clearly the story and the stakes. Watson looks great here. There’s more of Hanks this time around, for obvious reasons, and it makes me want to see more roles by him where he subverts his charming nice-guy image.

Online and Social

“Knowing is good. Knowing everything is better.” appears on the front page of the official website as video from the trailers plays in the background. There are prompts in the upper right to get updates via email or to buy tickets while the middle of the page wants you to watch the trailer again. In the lower left are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram page as well as a reminder to use #TheCircle when discussing it on social media.

Moving over the content menu that’s in the dropdown on the left, the first section is “About” and is where you can read a brief synopsis of the story. “Cast & Crew” just has the names of those in front of an behind the camera without full bios or links to IMDb or anything.

Near as I can tell, “Video” just has the one trailer in it so at least it’s accurate and didn’t add an “s” to the end of the section head. The “Gallery” though has quite few stills showing Watson, Hanks, Boyega and Patton Oswalt, who also plays an executive at Circle.

“Inside the Circle” is a half-hearted attempt at an in-world web presence for the fictional company. So there’s a mission statement at the top, profiles of the three founders and some promotional artwork that can be shared on social media but that’s about it. A more full-throated effort would have been really interesting here.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running about a month out from release that starts off by selling the promise of The Circle’s mission but then shows the creepy side of the company. Hanks is the focal point here almost as much as Watson, which makes sense.

Outdoor and online ads used the key art showing both Watson and Hanks with a call to action to see the movie in theaters. At various times social ads have used the trailers or other short video to drive ticket sales as well.

Media and Publicity

Coverage of the various trailers and other marketing materials formed much of the first wave of publicity. That kicked into gear more fully with an interview with director James Ponsoldt where he talked about how this wasn’t just a movie warning of the dangers of technology and other related topics.

The movie’s premiere was announced as being at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, sure to give it a high-profile audience even if it was out of competition there.

Unfortunately the press activity was pretty limited in terms of star power. Watson was on the circuit just a month ago promoting Beauty & the Beast and while a few mentions of this movie snuck through, it’s awfully close to that for this to get a dedicated push of its own from her. Hanks didn’t get out too much either, for reasons that might run from not wanting him to be the face of the movie to just not having the time. For whatever reason, most of the publicity came when new trailers or clips were released.

Overall

Here’s what’s striking to me about the campaign: Emma Watson is right there front and center throughout all of it. In an age when we’re having endless (and still necessary) conversations about strong female characters and how female actors tend to get less attention than their male costars, it’s great to see STX has leaned into having her as the face of the campaign from beginning to end. Sure, Hanks is there, but he’s positioned (likely rightly) as the supporting character in the story. You can’t not put him in the marketing, but not only is he positioned as secondary, but it makes little effort to hide the fact that he’s playing kind of a conniving…if not bad guy at least someone who runs counter to the wonderfully nice guy the actor is usually known for. I want more of Hanks on the wrong side of the morality tale and more of Watson as the unquestioned lead in a movie.

As for the movie itself, what’s being sold here is a cautionary tale of the intrusive nature of technology. As we sign away our right to sue companies who will track us long after we delete their apps and sell our data to those who want to better target their ads at us, there’s a lot to the story that should make us want to, as one character in the story does, ditch everything and go live in the woods. That story of tech running rampant through our lives is sold alongside the more recognizable – and potentially more palatable – simple mystery. The campaign wants us to find out what The Circle is and it’s Mae’s eyes we’re going to be seeing that through. It’s strong mainstream appeal that, combined with two very likable and popular stars and a strong supporting cast – I haven’t even mentioned Karen Gillan – that should resonate with an audience that hopefully will all have already seen Fate of the Furious by now.

Want to get Movie Marketing Madness via email? Sign up here. Then connect with MMM on Twitter and Facebook.

Throw A Thousand Punches Today

There’s a new featurette for King Arthur, the Guy Ritchie-directed retelling of the Arthur legend, that highlights how star Charlie Hunnam’s training involved sometimes throwing 1,000 punches a day. It’s an interesting factoid and certainly shows how Warner Bros. is selling the movie as an intense action flick. But it also resonated with me as a writer.

Each word we put after the previous one, each sentence we string together and each paragraph we construct is a punch. We’re swinging left and right and just trying to connect. We’re hoping that this one is a little better than the ones that preceded it, that this one is going to connect with our audience in a way that previous ones might not have. We take stock of what’s before us, take aim and take our best shot, just hoping to make contact.

Some of us are better than others, to be sure. Most anyone can throw a punch, but only some have real talent to make that connection. It’s hard to really make an impact, though, and that’s where you can tell who really has the talent and who’s just throwing wild haymakers all around them with no rhyme, reason or training.

When a boxer enters the ring or a fighter enters the battle, the ideas is to hit the person in front of you. The best punches aren’t the ones that are thrown without care of where they land but the ones that are specifically directed to make the biggest impression. Similarly, the best writing has a very specific target in mind. I can say from experience that the best pieces I’ve ever written have been those where I had someone very specific in mind as the audience. I wanted it to connect with X person, or at least someone like them. Those are the punches that work best, not the ones launched indiscriminately into the world in the hope they land somewhere useful, though you’re not sure what that means.

The idea that repetition leads to improvement isn’t a new one. Malcolm Gladwell certainly didn’t invent the concept, though he popularized it for a bit. It’s more about doing the same thing over and over again, though. It’s about learning a little something from each punch you throw, each word you write, that makes the next one better. Reviewing old work is rarely a pleasant experience for any writer, but it’s a useful exercise just like reviewing tapes of past fights or games or whatever it is you’re doing. There’s something from the past that will help you tomorrow.

Go throw your (metaphorical) punches and make what you’re doing today better than what you did yesterday.