Movie Marketing Madness: Skyline

There are two kinds of alien invasion movies that are generally made: Either the action unfurls on a global scale and we see the world uniting against the new and unknown threat in a massive display of cooperation as we all realize we’re human beings. Or the camera stays firmly on one person, family or group of people – be they friends or individuals who find themselves in one place completely by happenstance – as they seek to just stay together and stay alive amidst the surreal day they’re having.

Firmly in the second camp, apparently, is the new movie Skyline. The movie, which stars a bunch of relatively unknown actors or those who are mostly recognizable as “that guy,” follows a group of friends and random Los Angeles apartment building neighbors on the day the aliens appear. Far from establishing first contact, the visitors are simply harvesting humans, dispersing a mysterious blue light that, once you look into it, captures you and sucks you up into the ship, where things are probably going to go downhill quickly. The same ships and events are unfolding around the world but our group of survivors see escaping out of the city is their only chance to survive.

The Posters

The movie’s first teaser poster takes us to ground level of the alien’s invasion, with the city of Los Angeles shown as thousands of people are drawn up in to the hovering ships by the ghostly blue light. It sets the expectation that the movie will be operating on a massive scale.

The second, theatrical one-sheet used a combination of that same sort of image, the masses being pulled by the alien’s mysterious blue light up to their fate on the massive ship, with that of the first promotional image that was released of the two guys standing on the rooftop surveying the carnage, guns in hand as if that’s going to do something against the huge ship that’s hovering over the city.

Both posters work alright and certainly show that the Earth, as represented by the citizenry of Los Angeles, is having a very, very bad day.

The Trailers

The initial trailer starts off with dire warnings, including some brought to us by newscasters, of what might be the outcome of any aliens were to actually land on Earth. Shortly after that the camera cuts to mysterious blue lights landing in the middle of Los Angeles (I think) and spreading from their points of impact. We then see ships begin to appear above where those flames are engulfing the city.

But the really freaky stuff happens next as those ships open from the bottom and begin to lift people off the ground as you hear them screaming.

As a vehicle for setting the stage for the movie and creating a definite tone for what’s to come this trailer works very well. It’s largely wordless save for those news broadcasts and aside from the screaming at the very end. So all in all a very good launch to the mainstream audience for the movie.

A second trailer offers a bit more of the story. We again open in L.A. with mysterious blue lights descending from the sky, but this time the action moves into an apartment bedroom, where one of the occupants makes the mistake of looking into the light and is then sucked through the window and into the hovering ship.

The small group of people we’re going to follow are introduced – though none by name – as we see them trying to figure out just what’s going on and then, once they realize what that is, try to survive as long as possible. While we get plenty of shots of the ships that are hovering over cities around the world we get only a few quick glimpses of the aliens themselves, which appear to be huge and almost seem like a techno-organic mix. We do see lots of military fighters taking on the alien crafts, telling us that this is going to be another take on the “Earth vs. Aliens” theme.

It’s a pretty cool trailer that makes it clear the movie is about the spectacle and that the characters are simply vehicles through which we witness the scope of what’s going on.

Online

The movie’s official website starts off, as so many do, by playing the second trailer. There’s also here on the opening page a photo-upload tool called “Experience the Tranceformation” that allows you to see what you would look like under the thrall of the alien’s blue light capture beam.

Entering the full site, the first section is “About” and its there that you can view a Synopsis, bios and film histories of the Cast, Crew and Production Team as well as download full Production Notes if you wish to do so.

There are about a dozen stills in the “Gallery” and the “Videos” area has both trailers, a half-dozen TV Spots and a collection of extended Film Clips. Finally, “Downloads” has eight Wallpapers for you to grab or a few AIM Icons if you so wish.

The film’s Facebook page opens by showing a bunch of videos that act like found footage in a way that’s related to the movie. So there’s a couple taking video of themselves driving down the highway who encounter the aliens suddenly and are caught up. The offer is there to “Like” the page so you can share your own videos, but I’m not sure how that works. There’s also a “Check-In” tab that allowed you to check in as having watched the movie using GetGlue and add a comment about having done so. There are also plenty of photos and videos and the other updates that are common to these pages.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

While there weren’t any promotional partners there was quite a bit of advertising done. As mentioned above, there were a half-dozen TV spots that were created and which were run in pretty heavy rotation particularly in the last weeks before release. Each used a sub-set of footage from the trailers but without, at least as far as I can tell, anything new. But this set of commercials worked in and of themselves and do a good job of selling the movie to the public as, actually, a pretty standard alien invasion movie.

Media and Publicity

Before Comic-Con 2010 it was a movie no one had really heard of. But after a panel presentation there that showed the trailer and some footage there, enough that it wound up on everyone’s lips and came out as one of the most-anticipated films to make an appearance there. All of that without, apparently, a distributor yet since it was made outside the studio system and completely independently.

A lot of the publicity, which there actually wasn’t a ton of, focused on the technical development of the movie and is exemplified by this profile (Los Angeles Times, 11/5/10) that had them talking about how they tried to do something a little different with the sci-fi genre by creating a movie with top-shelf effects but as independent creators.

Overall

I like just about everything about this campaign. The trailers are really effective at establishing the mystery about the story and the other materials, particularly the website and posters, work to support those in making the case to the public. And while I didn’t come across a massive amount of publicity, the campaign strategies did do a good job of getting some word of mouth started and start people talking.

As I said, though, the TV campaign hits all the same notes as most any other alien invasion movie and so there’s a slight disconnect between that portion of the campaign, which doesn’t break any new ground, and the way it was presented to movie and genre fans at an event like Comic-Con as well as in the press, where it was placed squarely in the “doing something different” category. But most of the audience probably isn’t aware enough of those efforts to be put off by all that so it works well enough to probably get a good audience this weekend.