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Movie Marketing Madness: A Quiet Passion

A Quiet Passion, receiving a limited release this week from Music Box Films, tells the story of the life of renowned poet Emily Dickinson. Cynthia Nixon stars as Dickinson later in life, when she was set in her ways and strictly defiant of most of her era’s social mores and conventions, while Emma Bell plays her at a younger age.

Dickinson’s abrasive, steadfastly independent style brings her into conflict with many of those around in her life. Her father (Keith Carradine) is dismayed that she won’t be more religious. Others are shocked she won’t readily find a husband. But through this all, Dickinson finds solace and relief in the poetry she creates and which has lived on well past her.

The Posters

The poster makes the simple case for the movie as a period drama starring Nixon. She’s shown in character sitting in a chair in a pose that evokes the kind of stoic, formal portraits of the period. Director Terence Davies’ name is prominently displayed below the title. Behind Nixon on the window shade that’s drawn are some quotes and other review elements from some of the early screenings. It’s not very interesting or notable from a design point of view, but it conveys a couple key value propositions that are likely to appeal to fans of smaller movies like this.

The Trailers

The first half of the first trailer plays more or less as a generic Victorian period piece. Dickenson is mentioned by name once but the rest is just drawing rooms and glances across salons and so on. It’s not until a minute in, when Dickenson defies someone’s plea to make a decision for God that the tension is really ramped up as we see she’s upturning conventions and living a life that’s not to the liking of many around her but which she feels to be true in its own way.

There’s almost no story here and isn’t particularly strong. We get the sense that Dickenson is a defiant personality in her society and among her acquaintances but that’s about it, there are no specifics given. And there’s nothing here about what part of her life we’re tracking or why, it’s just supposed to be attractive based on the sets, the clothing and Nixon’s performance, which may be the strongest element on display here.

Online and Social

The official web presence for the movie takes the form of a page on the site of Music Box Films. At the top of the page, just below the cropped version of the poster art, are a few sections. First among them is “Cast/Crew” which just has the names of the actors and production talent. “Technical info” has details like runtime and more while “Theaters” will let you know when the movie is coming somewhere near you. The “Press Page” button has photos to download and a list of festival awards along with press notes, social media assets and more items to download in press usage.

Back to the main page, the poster is on display along with a brief synopsis. Over on the right is the trailer, a handful of the same photos that are in the Press section along with links to the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles for the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here on the paid front.

Media and Publicity

The movie was later added to the lineup of the Toronto International Film Festival. The movie was picked up by Music Box Films after it screened at Toronto.

In the couple weeks leading up to release Nixon in particular, with some additional support from Davies, hit the press pretty soundly to talk about taking on the role, how they both wanted to present Dickinson as a rebel not a recluse and more. The publicity cycle coincided with Nixon starring on Broadway, giving her plenty of opportunities to talk about this project.

Overall

The scale of the campaign isn’t going to overwhelm anyone, to be sure. But the focus is squarely on Nixon’s performance, which is the strongest possible value proposition to sell the audience on. It presents a movie that is full of passion, but the quiet and restrained passion of the period that bubbles through in Dickinson through her relations to others and especially in her poetry.

That being said, there are some issues I have with the structure of the campaign. The poster is alright but the trailer continues to not work for me as it doesn’t make a strong sales pitch for the movie beyond Nixon’s performance. The scenes are pulled from all over the place and don’t seem to add up to anything cohesive and really intriguing. Not that it’s necessarily bad, but it could be stronger with a bit more structure to it.

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