Movie Marketing Madness: Band Aid

Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) have felt the spark go out of their marriage in the new movie Band Aid, also written and directed by Lister-Jones. They aren’t intimate with each other, find they don’t enjoy spending time with the other person and always seem to be on the verge of a fight. When they’re not fighting they’re just kind of tolerating each other and wind up making various passive-aggressive digs at their partner. They still love each other, but they can’t quite remember why.

One day Anna decides the therapy they need is to start a band. They’ll channel their aggression and fights into songs instead of letting it all creep out into their daily lives. With the help of Dave (Fred Armisen), a neighbor who plays drums, the band begins to come together and Anna and Ben find they’re enjoying each other’s company more than they have in a long while. It’s not all sunshine and roses, though, as the arrangement surfaces other problems lingering beneath the surface.

The Posters

The first and only poster looks – deliberately I’m guessing – like it could be a Talking Heads album cover. Disjointed blocks of color shade a photo of the three main characters, two of them holding instruments that hint that they’re part of a band. The movie’s attitude and humor are conveyed through the “Misery loves accompaniment” copy toward the bottom of the one-sheet.

The Trailers

We get insights into the relationship between Anna and Ben as the first trailer opens. Basically they have issues they’re trying to work on and aren’t feeling the passion, so Anna throws out the idea of starting a band as a way to channel their aggression. A neighbor joins them to play drums in the band and we see they are just sharing their fights on stage. The problems they face aren’t going to go away quickly, though, but they keep things going.

It looks funny and charming and the chemistry between Jones and Pally is great as they lob insights and passive aggressive commentary, along with some love, at each other. The trailer hints at but doesn’t promise a happy ending of sorts, though how accurate that turns out to be remains to be seen.

Online and Social

There’s not much to the official website IFC gave the movie. It’s just a single page that has a prompt to watch the trailer, a list of the cast and crew, a brief synopsis of the story and the poster to view and download. The studio did also give it some support on its own Twitter and Facebook pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing here that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

The first bit of publicity came when it was announced the movie would have its official premiere at Sundance 2017. Some news kept coming out about how Lister-Jones hired an all-female crew to work on the movie, which kept positive sentiment going. A clip was released just before its Sundance debut and Lister-Jones spoke about making the movie and what it meant to have it play at the festival. IFC eventually picked the film up for distribution.

Jones talked about how she made the decision to finally direct a feature, what it was she was trying to convey with the story and how she worked to assemble and all-female production crew for the film. Lister-Jones also got a really nice profile that talked about her film history, her sitcom experience and her life trying to balance a love of music and a love of acting and writing.

Overall

There have been countless movies not just in the last few years but going back further than that chronicling the problems white people have and the problems white married people have in particular. It’s always about emotions and dealing with them and never feeling quite fulfilled by life. So on that count there’s not much original going on with this campaign, which shows it’s largely another exercise in showing otherwise comfortable people who expect every moment to be magical, otherwise they rage against the ennui.

The main selling point, then, is Lister-Jones. The campaign promises a unique sense of humor and story and that’s all from her. She’s the central focus of the campaign, from the trailers through the press and publicity, and it’s great to see a woman completely taking the reins like this. If you’re on board with that then you’ll be on board with the movie as a whole. The story looks sweet and, for all its issues, is a lot more original than most of what’s circulating around the indie film circuit these days.

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

Movie Marketing Madness: Wakefield

Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) has a nice life as we meet him in the new movie Wakefield. He’s married to a lovely woman Diana (Jennifer Garner) and has two wonderful daughters. He commutes from the suburbs into the city to a job he’s successful at. One day he snaps, though, and has had it with the boring and restrictive life that he realizes he’s not only stuck in at the present but will be stuck in for the rest of his days. A nervous breakdown ensues.

Instead of going out and buying a fancy car or something like that, Howard simply disappears from his life but doesn’t go far. In fact, he just moves into the attic of the abandoned house across the street from his own. That way he can still keep tabs on his wife and family while also being completely disconnect from them. What started out as a ludicrous – also hurtful and selfish – experiment drags on for weeks and months as he becomes more isolated and the people he used to love begin to move on with their lives.

The Posters

The poster sets out the premise and setting pretty well. It shows Cranston’s title character looking out a window toward Garner, who’s seen in the next house engaged in some sort of everyday activity. He’s clearly watching her and the copy point alludes to the situation by saying “What would your life be without you?” So it’s kind of clear (watching the trailer helps) that he’s removed himself from his family for some reasons but is still keeping tabs on them from afar. A few positive critical quotes are below the title treatment. The overall effect here is that he’s kind of a stalker, but a loving and benevolent one.

The Trailers

The first trailer introduces us to Howard Wakefield, who’s grown discontent with the sameness of everyday suburban life. So he holes up in a house across the street from his own where he can monitor his family and what’s happening as they increasingly worry about him. We see some glimpses from his past but also see that he’s committed to not returning to normality, growing more isolated as time goes on and never letting anyone know where he is.

It’s alright and certainly sells an interesting, original story. I could take issue with the way it presents Howard’s choice, which hurts everyone around him, as just being true to who he’s meant to be, but I’ll let that sit right now. The movie is being sold as a drama about the choices we make and shows a compelling performance from Cranston, which isn’t surprising.

Online and Social

The only web presence for the movie is a single page on the IFC Films website. That just has the trailer, a synopsis and cast list and that’s about it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nope, nothing here.

Media and Publicity

The movie had a successful debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, where Swicord talked about the story, how she was able to get Cranston and the overall process of developing and making the film. It also showed at Telluride. The activity and buzz there was just about the extent of the publicity and press activity with the exception of commentary about the trailer.

Overall

There’s some good stuff here, particularly that poster that appears to have come from someone who knows how to stage a photo, or at least with some above-average design skills. That image, instead of just being a big floating head, actually conveys some interesting and important story elements. The trailer isn’t quite as good but does still get the major story points across in an effective way.

It’s not specifically marketing related, but the premise of the movie is still bothering me. What we’re being sold here is a story of a man who capriciously abandons his family. That’s terrible and it’s only because the family is well off and everyone is white that this is presented as “nervous breakdown” and not “extraordinarily irresponsible.” Transpose this movie to the south side of Chicago and the story doesn’t involve news broadcasts and tip lines, it’s the third talking point from the bottom in a speech by a Conservative politician explaining why social services in the neighborhood are being cut. Again, that’s not on the marketing, but it’s a block I just can’t help but stumble over.

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

Movie Marketing Madness: Personal Shopper

personal_shopper_posterKristen Stewart reteams with her Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas on the new film Personal Shopper. In it she plays Maureen Cartwright, a woman who makes a living as a personal shopper (natch) to the rich and famous celebrities who aren’t able to go out and do it for themselves. It’s not much but it’s what she does and she’s good at it.

But Maureen is also a medium, someone who claims to be in contact with those on the other side of death. She spends her free time visiting the home of her late twin brother, who she believes will contact her in some way within that house. The drama comes, then, from her wait for that message and the emotional toll it’s taking on the rest of her life.

The Posters

The first U.S. one-sheet uses the word-of-mouth that’s already been accumulated for the movie to good effect, showing off a handful of critic’s quotes praising the movie and Stewart’s performance along with the symbols of its festival appearances. Stewart is shown behind a semi-opaque curtain as she appears to be trying on shoes. That’s pretty literal to the movie’s title but offers nothing of substance about the story, not even a single line of copy.

The Trailers

We’re thrown immediately in the first trailer into the story, which involves Maureen returning to the house where her dead twin brother is supposed to show her some sort of sign. The conceit is she’s explaining the situation to someone and therefore by proxy to us. Little background is given as to why the twins made this promise. Instead there are lots of jump-scares and spooky music that’s played over footage from either within the ouse or as Maureen is out and about in her regular life.

It’s a bit odd. While the movie is supposed to be a kind of intimate character drama, half the trailer seems to want to sell it as kind of a horror flick. Stewart shines here and it’s her performance that draws the audience in, but a fair amount of the footage looks like it’s from a generic horror movie that would star This Year’s Perky Blonde and disappear from theaters as quickly as it appeared, not for an already well-buzzed potential awards contender.

The next trailer makes the story even more clear. We meet Maureen as she’s engaged in one of her shopping trips on behalf of a client. But we soon see that she’s biding her time until she receives a message from her dead brother. Some of the people around her are skeptical that’s actually going to happen but she’s convinced. It all gets spookier and more mysterious from there.

Again, Stewart looks great here. The story is clearly laid out, though of course there’s still plenty of twists that are hinted at here.

Online and Social

There’s not much on IFC’s official website for the movie, just a brief synopsis, a prompt to watch the trailer and a bit about its festival appearances. There doesn’t appear to be any social networks specifically for this film, it’s just received support on IFC’s brand channels.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There weren’t any TV spots I can find but the studio did run some online ads to drive ticket sales. That appears to be the extent of the paid campaign.

Media and Publicity

The movie debuted at Cannes, where it quickly became one of the most divisive films there as it elicited boos and other strong reactions from the assembled critics and press. Stewart talked while there about the movie’s story and her character. Director Olivier Assayas talked about working with Stewart and the story of the movie while at Cannes as well. It also emerged as one of the few movies at the festival with any real awards buzz.

There was a big profile of Stewart that was really more focused on her personal habits and eccentricities but which also mentioned the movie, part of a campaign to make her more relatable and human, not just the tabloid fodder she’s too often reduced to.

personal-shopper-pic

The movie was later added to the lineup of the Toronto International Film Festival.

Stewart hosted “SNL” and otherwise did the rounds of the talk shows to hype up the movie. She also had big interviews in Vanity Fair and other magazines where she talked about texting (which is relevant to the movie’s story) and more.

Overall

There’s been a strong emphasis throughout the campaign on this being a major milestone in Stewart’s career, something that has also been focused on in other recent movies. That all seems to be part of an effort to keep everyone aware of how she’s moved past the Twilight franchise and is a serious actress. While that’s true, the overt moves on that front all seem to suggest a strategy that’s trying too hard.

Moving beyond that, there’s a good campaign here. It’s relied heavily on the word of mouth that was generated after festival screenings and the buzz that came from the release of new trailers and other marketing materials. Those trailers, in particular the second one, are good and convey a strong story that has a very emotional core. Stewart appears to be fantastic in her role. If there’s a slight complaint it’s that the trailer doesn’t quite explain everything that’s going on, but that’s alright since it creates a sense of mystery but may turn off some in the general audience.

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

Flashback MMM: Medicine for Melancholy

M4M_finalI honestly couldn’t tell you why I didn’t cover Barry Jenkins’ first movie as writer and director, Medicine for Melancholy, when it came out back in 2009. Perhaps it was a busy week, perhaps I couldn’t find a good version of the trailer. Whatever the reason, as I was prepping my review of the campaign for his new movie Moonlight I realized this was an oversight on my part and so will attempt to make amends.

In the movie Wyatt Cenec and Tracey Heggins play Micah and Angela, two twenty-somethings who are waking up after what was probably going to be a one-night stand. They part ways but a series of circumstances brings them back together and they wind up spending the day walking around San Francisco, talking about race, class, poverty and other social issues. The movie is a snapshot of the city, not the parks and tourist spots but the unseen parts of the city that are known to only those who are essentially forced through circumstances to live there. And it’s an examination, through the discussions that take place, of identity and fitting in to a world that at times is actively trying to keep you out.

The movie’s one poster is pretty simple. It shows Micah and Angela dancing at a club, their arms around each other and their faces in close enough for their foreheads to touch. At the top are the festival credentials of the movie, which had screenings at SXSW and elsewhere in advance of its limited release, along with a quote from a positive review by the critic at San Francisco Weekly, appropriately. What’s especially notable about the one-sheet is how it presents the movie’s look and feel, the washed-out and desaturated look that was given to it. The bright lights and close shot of the couple present a unique and memorable set of visuals.

When the trailer starts we meet the couple at the end of their one-night stand as they navigate the awkwardness in a much more realistic way than in something like Knocked Up. They share a cab away from the strange place they’ve woken up in and after a segment explaining we’re in SF and showing some of the festivals the movie played at the two start talking about their feelings about the city, about race, about relationships and more. That’s pretty much the entire rest of the trailer as we get shots of them walking around, riding bikes and otherwise exploring the city.

Like the poster, the trailer shows off the movie’s washed out visuals well, at times appearing almost to be a black-and-white film, other times showing pops of color like on Angela’s sweater. And it sells the movie exactly as it is: a feature length ground-level examination of one of the country’s most important but troubled cities through the eyes of two black people who have strong opinions about their place in it. There’s no attempt here to make it look bigger or flashier than it is and no attempt to hide that there are strong feelings beings shared. It’s a small intimate examination of class, income and racial disparities and that’s exactly what’s being sold here.

Festival screenings and the eventual IFC Films release were both accompanied by plenty of positive press and reviews, with most stories calling out Jenkins’ assured direction and the emotional realism of the story and characters. So the movie had good headwinds going into release, which was primarily through video-on-demand as the movie never, according to Box Office Mojo, played at more than seven theaters throughout its life. But as Vikram Murthi at IndieWire said earlier this year, its subject matter has never been more timely due to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, the increasing rate of gentrification and rising cost of living in San Francisco and more. It’s remained relevant, but its unflinching and unconventional look at the one-night-stand and its conversations about important issues that aren’t solved make it an oddity in the film world. It’s exactly those unique traits, though, that has kept the movie in people’s minds and it’s the memory of that movie that made people anticipate Moonlight so much.