Key Art, Key Changes: Fences, Collateral Beauty, Passengers

Fences

It’s a different image being used but it’s the same idea. The theatrical poster featured Washington and Davis looking off into the distance like they’re sitting on a bench in the backyard or something and was in black-and-white. For the home video release they’re shown in more of a loving embrace, the two laughing and smiling. That’s a slightly different pitch to the audience than was originally made, presenting more of a story about the couple’s relationship than just them being together.

Collateral Beauty

Same image, same pitch to the audience. Obviously didn’t feel like it was going to get any better than making the most of the all-star cast that was assembled.

Passengers

The top-half of the DVD art uses the same image that was on the theatrical poster of Lawrence and Pratt staring at the camera, separated by a beam of light. But this one adds on an additional element at the bottom showing the two of them standing at the end of a ramp, holding hands and looking out into vastness of space. It’s more similar to an international poster but makes the same basic appeal to the audience, that this is a sci-fi romance between two very good-looking people.

The Marketing Campaigns for 2017’s Academy Awards Best Picture Nominees

The nominees for this year’s Academy Awards were announced yesterday. While Deadpool didn’t get the nomination the filmmakers and many in the press had been hoping it would there were still a few surprises, including that the acting categories actually featured people of color after years of #OscarsSoWhite being the dominant theme of the reactionary commentary. To mark the occassion, let’s look back at the marketing campaigns for this year’s nine Best Picture nominees

Arrival

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As for the marketing itself, it all seems to be working together to create a slick, stylish brand identity for the movie. Everything here is crisp and clean, presenting an adult thriller that’s geared for the adult and discerning audience. There’s little pandering here to the unwashed masses. Many have drawn the connection between this and previous movies like Interstellar and Gravity and it’s very much in that vein, an art film for grownups that’s dressed up like a big-budget alien movie. It’s more about the themes of the story, though, a message that comes through clearly in the campaign.

Fences

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

The movie that’s being sold looks incredibly powerful. It’s a story about long-delayed dreams, unfulfilled potential, what you owe the generation after yours and how all that relates to race told by some of the best of today’s working actors. It’s a vital story in this time in history and it’s one that will hopefully continue to garner not more awards consideration but also an audience to see that story told.

Hacksaw Ridge

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It’s hard to get a sense of the scale of the actual movie from the campaign. This seems like a big release and an important movie. But there’s only one trailer, a mismatched TV campaign and a press push that was kind of light for what seems like it should be an awards contender. It just seems like there should have been more. And there certainly should have been something on the official site that offered a bit more background on Doss, considering his story is so important.

Hell or High Water

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Somewhere around the second trailer, though, that started to turn and it became more and more interesting as the story came more into focus. Foster’s performance came more to the forefront and the dynamic between him and Pine was more clear and the campaign started to show audiences what the movie was trying to say, what it’s message was. If the audience caught that message it could be enough to turn out some specialty box office success.

Hidden Figures

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I honestly feel like this movie couldn’t be more 2016 if it tried. At least the marketing campaign couldn’t. It’s all about how women of color have been removed from the narrative of one of the country’s – hell, mankind’s – greatest achievements. If “men get all the credit for something women were an integral part of” doesn’t sum up this past year I’m not sure what does. So the campaign has worked not only to tell people there’s an important story here, but it’s one that’s likely repeated daily as men talk over their female colleagues and mansplain what’s it’s “actually” about. For that reason, the movie is likely to become a lightning rod as one group claims the story as their own and the other complains how it downplays the contributions of white men. I’m guessing the phrase “white genocide” may even come up in one or two Facebook comments.

La La Land

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The entire campaign is meant to evoke a timeless nature. The throwback images that were used in early posters and the way the trailers make you think the movie could take place this year or in 1961 all creates a sense that the story exists out of time to some extent, reinforcing the slight nostalgia-esque approach to the marketing. Add to all that the almost universally positive word of mouth that’s resulted from festival screenings and the love the soundtrack has received and you have a campaign that’s…yeah, it’s ridiculously charming

Lion

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In terms of the marketing itself, it’s more or less consistent across the elements as to what it’s selling, which is Saroo’s search to uncover his true identity and find his family. That comes through just about everywhere. The website is lightest on this angle, but considering it sacrifices story for a charitable appeal, it’s hard to fault it on that front. The repeated use of the search box in the graphical elements works pretty well once you figure out what’s going on and helps to setup the story. All in all this is a decent campaign for a movie that counts on emotions more than other traditional commercial appeals to turn out the audience.

Manchester by the Sea

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There’s a ton of emotion in this campaign and it’s great to see. As with other movies from Lonergan, the focus is clearly on the relationships that are driving the story here. These are not shallow emotional waters we’re wading into, something that comes through in most every aspect of the marketing. The audience is expected to connect with all the characters, from Lee to Patrick to Randi, throughout the campaign.

Moonlight

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The movie’s personal focus and touch really comes through in this campaign. Everything here is focused on making sure the potential audience sees that it’s a human story with a very small scale, focusing on Chiron’s journey and emotions. The trailer, the press push and the posters all work to make it clear the spotlight will never leave him and his struggle for identity and acceptance.

Picking Up the Spare: Rogue One, Hidden Fences, Loving, Deadpool

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Germain Lussier at io9 shares comments from director Gareth Edwards about the unexpected process and set of circumstances that lead to at least some of those shots from the Rogue One trailers that didn’t wind up appearing in the finished movie.
  • The team at SocialBakers looks at the volume and type of content posted by some of the movie’s licensing partners.

Hidden Figures / Fences

  • Stephen Colbert has some fun with the verbal SNAFU made at the Golden Globes and creates a mock trailer for this unintended mashup.

Loving

Deadpool

MMM Recap: Week of 12/23/16 New Releases

Sing

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It’s a decent campaign. As I’ve mentioned the movie repeatedly here it’s worth recapping just how much the fact that this is the second “city full of talking animals” movie this year and how much that may impact the fortunes of this one. While there’s certainly a different value proposition in the story – instead of a mystery thriller we get a feel good story of achieving your dreams – it’s hard not to view this in the context of the success of Zootopia.

Fences

Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.
Denzel Washington plays Troy Maxson and Viola Davis plays Rose Maxson in Fences from Paramount Pictures. Directed by Denzel Washington from a screenplay by August Wilson.

The movie that’s being sold looks incredibly powerful. It’s a story about long-delayed dreams, unfulfilled potential, what you owe the generation after yours and how all that relates to race told by some of the best of today’s working actors. It’s a vital story in this time in history and it’s one that will hopefully continue to garner not more awards consideration but also an audience to see that story told.

Passengers

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As for the story itself, it’s…not really there in the campaign. We get the premise about the ship waking the two characters up way early and that the two start fooling around because they’re both ridiculously good looking and what else are you going to do for the 50 years you have left before you die. But what, other than some technical problems aboard the ship to keep things interesting, happens after that isn’t spilled at all. That leaves a lot of room for the audience to be either surprised or disappointed.

Silence

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The main theme of the campaign is that his is Scorsese’s passion project, one that’s taken him decades to get off the ground. That was particularly prominent in the press push for the movie but also gets mentioned in the official synopsis on the website. That’s meant the focus can be squarely on the legendary director and provides an easy hook for the press to talk about not just this movie but also his entire career, which is much more interesting for the movie geeks currently making up much of the media.

Assassin’s Creed

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There’s some good stuff here. The whole campaign works hard to walk the line between selling the movie as a general sci-fi fantasy movie about a cool time-travel type character who kicks butt and part of the overall Assassin’s Creed mythology. So it’s trying to appeal to both long-term fans of that game franchise and people who may have heard about it but never got into that particular part of geekery. If there’s a problem with the campaign it’s that much of it leans a bit too hard in the former direction, making it somewhat inaccessible to the general audience.

Why Him

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The main attraction is the interplay between Cranston and Franco and that’s everywhere in the campaign. That’s not enough, though, to actually make the case to see the movie. More than that, the story basically comes down to a father wanting to own the sexuality of his daughter. That’s not a new story – it’s actually incredibly old – but it’s still surprising to see it so clearly on display in the marketing of a major motion picture in 2016.  

Movie Marketing Madness: Fences

fences“How has my life turned out?” is the core question in the story of Fences, the new movie directed by and starring Denzel Washington. The movie is based on the stage play of the same name by August Wilson about Troy (Washington), a former Negro League player who now works as a garbage collector in the Pittsburgh of the 1950s. He lives there with his wife Rose (Viola Davis) and son Cory (Jovan Adepo).

Cory is a budding athlete himself and is on the cusp of leaving for college on a sports scholarship. But he’s butting heads with his old man, who is of the old school where you don’t show a lot of love or other emotions. That’s not only causing problems with his son but also his wife as a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams begins to reach critical mass. So he’s dealing with the race issues that were inherent in the era as well as the consequences of a life that he feels is incomplete.

The Posters

There’s no copy or anything that hints at the story or plot on the one-sheet, just the faces of Washington and Davis as they look at something off-camera in the way parents do when they’re watching their kid play at something. It’s black-and-white and so really captures the lived-in feel of the characters, something emphasized by the cheap wooden fence that’s visible in the background. It’s simple and effective, selling the movie based on our appreciation of the skills of those two actors and the promise that watching them together will be something special.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer is an emotional gut-punch. The centerpiece is a conversation between Troy and Cory, as the boy asks his father why he never liked him. The answer is a long speech by Troy about how everything he does is for his son and to not only teach him how to be a man but to take care of him and show him how to take care of himself one day and give him the opportunities he never had. Through all that we see scenes from throughout the rest of the movie as Troy goes to work, deals with neighbors and others, is happy or sad and everything inbetween. Finally Rose chimes in and reminds Troy that he’s not alone in all this, that she’s been standing there with him.

It’s so good, I would seriously just watch 90 minutes more of Washington monologuing. Wow.

The second trailer works on the same emotional level. This one is more focused on showing off Troy’s dreams and aspirations, none of which have come to pass over the course of his life. That’s framed by Cory’s growing up and getting ready to leave the house, hopefully for something better than his old man has. So while he’s searching for validation he’s never going to get, Troy is dealing with the fact that this is all there is to his life. Rose too is accepting of how this is as good as her life will be.

There’s so much drama between the three characters and this trailer, I’m sure, only shows a small fraction of it. Unlike other movies where the trailer shows much of what you need to know about the movie’s story this one only hints at everything that’s in store in the full movie. It’s only teasing the depths of the drama that will be plumbed.

Online and Social

The second trailer begins playing when you load the movie’s official website and it’s absolutely worth rewatching. Unfortunately there’s not much else going on here once you close the trailer, just another prompt to watch the trailer and one to open an “About the Film” section that doesn’t have any information on the movie, just the talent involved in making it. There are links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles as well.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Some TV advertising was done like this extended spot that are basically a condensed version of the trailers, showing the conflict in Troy’s life and the tension is causes between him and the rest of his family.

A few online ads were run as well using variations on the key art.

Media and Publicity

The first look at the movie came via Entertainment Weekly’s fall movie preview, while more first look photos later appeared in The Hollywood Reporter. Later on Washington talked about how important it was for a black director to take on this story and the reverence with which he approached the source material.

The movie, particularly the performances of the two leads, almost immediately became seen as award contenders. Later on a series of features in THR interviewed Washington and Davis where they talked about adapting the play, the timeliness of the story and other important topics.

More buzz for the movie came in the form of awards and nominations for Davis and Washington in particular. The cast also did a couple screenings and appearances at colleges to talk about the themes of the movie.

Overall

Let’s be honest, the main draw here are the performances of Davis and Washington. That’s not surprising given that this is based on a play, where the actors and the lines are so prominent. And it makes it not surprising that the campaign would place the emphasis so strongly on those performances. That’s why you see both trailers starting off or entirely focused on dialogues or monologues from one of those two.

The movie that’s being sold looks incredibly powerful. It’s a story about long-delayed dreams, unfulfilled potential, what you owe the generation after yours and how all that relates to race told by some of the best of today’s working actors. It’s a vital story in this time in history and it’s one that will hopefully continue to garner not more awards consideration but also an audience to see that story told.

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