Quick Takes: 11/12/10

  • Anne Thompson talks about The Way Back and how it’s indicative of the state of independent film right now, including how it’s going to run up against the issue of not having a huge marketing campaign behind it.
  • Movie studios were the single biggest category of advertisers for the first episode of Conan O’Brien’s TBS show, hoping to catch the eyeballs of the young, hip crowd the show was expected to attract. There were a couple exceptions but just about all the studios got in on the game.
  • MarketingVox rounds up some of the social media advertising that’s been done for movies in the last few months. There are other, older examples as well of studios that have advertised within virtual worlds and elsewhere but this catches you up on more recent news.

Technorati’s 2010 State of the Blogosphere report

The number that sticks out at me most from the latest Technorati State of the Blogosphere report is that 81 percent of those surveyed have been blogging for over two years. Many of those who consider themselves professionals – either because they work with a corporation or are their own media business – are writing more than they were in 2009 while those who are approach it as a hobby are doing a bit less.

What that first statistic says to me is that there are very few new people jumping on the blog bandwagon, most likely in favor status updates on Facebook and Twitter. That’s actually more than a little disturbing to me since, to some extent, it means we’re moving away from long-form critical thinking in favor of pithy one-liners.

The thing is, without blogs and news outlets, those pithy one-liners are empty. There’s no knowledge sharing. It becomes mere conversation, but a conversation about nothing since no one is putting more than a couple seconds of thought into what they’re saying. We need more people to not only continue but also newly take up long-form writing so that the next generation of thinking can take root.

The new report also shows a shift away from free hosted blogging platforms and toward those that are able to be more customized such as WordPress or TypePad across user categories.

Movie Marketing Madness: Tiny Furniture

Everyone has their eccentricities. Our personalities are, to a large extent, a collection of the quirks and behaviors we’ve developed over the years, most of which are the result of the environments – both physical and emotional – we find ourselves in either by choice or happenstance. We move through the world relating to others the best we can based on that.

Written and directed by Lena Dunham, who also stars as Aura, a barely fictionalized version of herself, Tiny Furniture tells the story of Aura trying to find herself amidst all her quirks. Just out of film school with no future ahead of her, she moves back to New York and begins living with her mother and sister. As she tries to figure out where she fits in to this world she engages in all sorts of reckless behavior, whether it’s letting a man who has nowhere to stay she just met move into her apartment or hanging out with her equally directionless best friend.

The Posters

The movie’s poster certainly works to convey it’s quirky sensibilities. The image of Dunham and the titular tiny furniture is crammed to the very top of the image while most of the design is dominated by a description of her character’s mindset. The slightly muted colors work well against the white floor that she’s laying on and so it makes it clear to the audience that we’re watching a dry indie comedy about a particularly eccentric but largely unmotivated person.

The Trailers

The trailer, which debuted in advance of the film’s debut at SXSW, introduces us to Aura and her situation – recently moved back to New York from Ohio and living with her mom and younger sister. She gets introduced to Chad, who’s described as being “internet famous,” who she begins an unusual relationship with as she’s trying to figure out the rest of her life. It’s clear her relationship with her old friends and family is a big strained.

The trailer has several opportunities to go for an easy joke and the fact that it doesn’t do so makes it clear to me that it’s trying to sell the movie as more of a heart-felt piece about coming to terms with your place in the world and accepting who you are than a straight comedy. Sure there are some funny moments likely to be there, but this is a gentle trailer with a definite indie vibe that should appeal to a good range of the audience for such films.

A shorter and more official trailer was released later on that featured much of the same footage, though many scenes were cut down to shorter snippets and one or two new bits were added. It works just as well as the longer teaser but in a more structured and traditional way.

Online

The official website for the movie is pretty sparse but there are some nice elements to it. The front page features the trailer and a stream of News updates from the film’s Twitter account that mention the movie or Dunham. There’s also the ability to download the movie’s Soundtrack in a ZIP file.

“Story” has a good synopsis of the film’s story as well as a bit of background on the movie, including pointing out that most of the cast are Dunham’s real life family basically playing themselves. There’s more information on the players in the “Cast & Crew” section as well.

Links to some of the movie’s press is in the “Press” section, obviously, and you can also grab a collection of stills and a press kit there. Finally “Screenings” lets you know where the movie is or will be playing.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing at all that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

As mentioned above, the movie had it’s coming out party at SXSW 2010, which helped it rack up a significant about of praise out of the gate. It was there the movie won the Best Narrative award and shortly thereafter was picked up for distribution by IFC.

Around SXSW there were also profiles of Dunham (New York Times, 3/23/10) that focused on not only how the movie was a thinly veiled autobiography, complete with her real life family portraying her on-screen family, but also the payoff of a year that began with her bringing her first movie to SXSW a year prior.

Dunham was also profiled as one of a new string of filmmakers who make movies that are, in essence, about themselves (Filmmaker Magazine, 10/10) or at least some slightly fictionalized version of themselves. I don’t know that that’s as new a trend as the story makes it out to be, but I get what they’re going for.

Overall

It’s a nice little campaign that works by playing up the eccentric nature of Dunham’s story and characters while also presenting them as pretty easy to relate to, seeming more like just one of the people you know who marches to their own beat as opposed to an extreme oddball such as you’d find in a Coen Brothers movie. It’s all very ordinary even as we see a character who’s so caught up in herself and her naval-gazing that she can’t see how oddly her relationships are playing out.

The fact that there was plenty of publicity around this movie, particularly around its festival appearances, is nice to see since marketing components of the campaign aren’t going to reach a huge audience. The trailer and poster are good, as is the website, but the press coverage is what has the most potential to get people talking and for a movie of this size it’s certainly not lacking on that front.

Movie Marketing Madness: Morning Glory

There have been quite a few movies over the years that attempt to take the audience behind the scenes of the news world. From relatively recent entries such as Broadcast News and Network to classics of the old school of journalism such as The Front Page (and its classic remake His Girl Friday) we are often presented with an interesting, though of course, highly fictionalized version of what goes on to make the newspapers, radio and TV that we all then enjoy. And those movies overlook the dozens where a character being a journalist is just one part of the story and not the entire focus of the movie.

Entering the sub-genre of newsroom movies is Morning Glory. The movie tells the story of a young up-and-coming TV producer (Rachel McAdams) who is hired to take charge of a morning news and talk show like “The Today Show.” She inherits one anchor (Diane Keaton) and brings aboard another, a grizzled serious news man (Harrison Ford) who sees entertainment and lifestyle pieces as being beneath him. She’s tasked with turning the sinking ship around but comes up against a variety of obstacles not the least of which is the disbelief of her co-workers that she can succeed. But she keeps fighting and finds that doing a job well isn’t important if you don’t have someone to share that with.

The Posters

The first posters to be released for the movie were a series of three character-centric one-sheets, one each for McAdams, Keaton and Ford. Each one features a black and white photo of the character in what’s supposed to be, one would assume a pose that is designed to highlight their character. So Ford looks cocky and suave, Keaton looks bouncy and happy and McAdams looks a bit pensive as she sips her mug of coffee. Over the photo is the “‘What’s the Story?’ Morning Glory” combination of the tagline and title.

The theatrical one-sheet basically takes those three images and mashes them together, only in this case the photo of McAdams has the coffee cup a little bit lower so we can see her entire face. The copy is also toned down a bit so that it’s not covering the entire image and drops the “What’s the story” bit in favor of something a little more conventional, “Breakfast TV just got interesting.”

The Trailers

The trailer might have been the very definition of “charming” and sets up the movie quite well, cutting an attractive picture for the audience.

We first meet McAdams’ character as she’s being asked by her mother, presumably, about her job prospects. Shortly after that she gets a job producing a local morning news/talk show, a job that she’s assured will come with all sorts of headaches and problems, not to mention a low salary. One of her first acts is to recruit a grizzled old newsman, Ford, who immediately begins sparring with his co-host Keaton, looking down his nose at the soft news they handle on the program and her attitude toward reporting it. But it winds up being his combative and negative attitude that winds up causing her to begin truly effecting some changes on the show as well as in her personal life, which we’re shown is a mess due largely to her concentrating only on work. Wilson, who plays her co-worker, is thrown in as a love interest and is likely tied to that personal revelation as well.

Despite of it’s overly slick manner, the trailer works because you’ve got a bunch of veterans and very good actors doing what they do in a very natural way. Ford rarely seems this relaxed on screen and plays his misanthropic veteran well. Keaton is always good and it should be fun to watch her and Ford recreate select scenes from Anchorman. McAdams glides through the frame looking cute as a button but also believably playing, at least based on this, someone who’s trying to make their way in a new job. It just comes off as very believable, which is actually quite tough for a movie like this, both from a subject matter and a star-laden cast point of view.

Online

The movie’s official website opens by playing one of the TV spots in a video player window on the page. Below that are a rotating series of quotes from early reviews of the movie and above that are links to iTunes that take you to where you can buy a couple new songs that are featured in the movie.

“About the Film” has a good Synopsis as well as Cast and Crew, which have some of the best and more extensive bios and histories I’ve seen recently, and a pretty well put together set of Production Notes that primarily goes over the casting of each role.

“Videos” has the Trailer, a couple of TV Spots, a Featurette as well as a collection of seven extended Film Clips. After each video plays you get the option of sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, email or by embedding the video elsewhere.

There are about 15 stills from the film in the “Photos” section.

Finally, “What’s Your Story” is a contest where you can submit a video explaining why you’re a star to win a trip to New York City and a tour of a morning TV set.

The Facebook page for the film brings in much of that video and photo content as well as occasional updates on the star’s promotion and publicity efforts.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A series of three TV spots all hit similar notes, presenting the movie as the story of McAdams’ character striking out on her own and having it all in a very empowering way – She gets the dream job and overcomes her co-workers’ skepticism, she gets the guy (at least one of the spots presents it as “her first true love”) and so it’s very much the ideal life that is being sold. Ford gets a couple good lines as does Keaton, but it’s clear that this is McAdams’ movie based on these commercials.

While a couple companies are listed on the official website, the one true promotional partner is Emergen-C, makers of an energy and vitamin drink, who ran a contest asking people to upload videos of them hosting their own morning news to try and win a trip to New York City.

Media and Publicity

A few weeks prior to release there was some buzz that began around the notion that this was going to be McAdams’ breakout performance, something she’s lacked despite being very good in a number of decent and well-liked movies. That sort of culminated in a New York Times story (10/31/10) to that effect and which included praise from some of her co-stars.

Overall

I said above that the trailer on its own was exceedingly charming, with a light and bouncy attitude but also the promise of some really fine performances, especially from McAdams and Ford. The rest of the campaign continues that same sort of attitude and feeling, assuring the audience that there’s an uplifting and empowering story here but also promising something that might be a little more interesting for those that are looking for it.

I really am struck at how the campaign doesn’t completely give in to the impulse that must have been felt to excise everything that wasn’t about the romance between McAdams and Wilson since that would have been a very easy angle to take in selling the movie to the public. Instead that element feels very much like a sub-plot that is just part of the overall story of how the main character proves herself and doesn’t give up on the success she wants. So it earns points in my book for that. It also gets some credit for showing off Ford and his grizzled anchor shtick, which looks like it might be worth the price of admission in and of itself.

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.