Movie Marketing Madness: Higher Ground

Religion is, of course, an intensely personal thing. Sure, you get up and you go to a church of whatever size and hopefully are able to make some sort of common confession of faith. But when it comes down to it what you believe is something that is, quite literally, between you and God. Different people will experience that in different ways and there’s always pressure – on both small and large scales – to appear just as religious as someone else.

The new movie Higher Ground is about one woman’s struggles with that relationship as well as the ones with the people around her. Corrine Walker (Vera Farmiga, who also directs the movie) is part of a small, tight-knit religious community. But she struggles in her faith, seeking the emotional exuberance some have and the outright confidence others exhibit. Set in the 1960 the story has ties to the women’s liberation movement of that time but Corrine is more concerned with her own place in the world and her life, one that’s been all moving in a direction that she’s no longer sure is the right one.

The Posters

Nothing all that interesting here, just a close-up of Farmiga’s face that’s half cut off by a white, semi-translucent background that then houses the credit block. A pull quote from one early review of the movie as well as its film festival tour history make up the rest of the elements of this one-sheet.

The Trailers

There’s so much going on in the trailer that it kind of makes more simplistic trailers look almost idiotic by comparison and certainly hints at a morally complex movie that’s being sold.

We open in a church where young children are being asked to make a decision for Christ in secret, one girl raising her hand tentatively. We then follow that girl forward a few years as she’s grown and, after some tragedies and troubles in her life, being baptized in a revivalist type of church. At first things appear to be sunshine and roses as she looks to serve her church and family as she thinks she’s meant to, but when a friend hints at some sort of emotional religious experience that Corine just can’t manage and then her sister, who is abusing drugs and has other problems, comes to visit we see the wheels coming off the track. We see she’s having personality conflicts with people in the church and is at odds with her husband, eventually culminating a genuine crisis of faith.

It’s clear this is Farmiga’s movie and it’s equally clear she gives a fantastic performance even just based on what we see here.

Online

The movie’s official website doesn’t have a whole lot of sizzle about it. The site opens up with an image of the poster key art and then, once you Enter the Site, gives you a handful of content options to choose from.

What loads automatically is the “Synopsis,” which doesn’t tell you a whole lot about the story other than it’s based on a woman’s memoir of her struggles with matters of faith and her place in the world.

After that is an interesting section called “The Director” that has first a Statement by, then a Q&A with and finally a profile of Farmiga, all of which touch on why she decided to direct this project and what drew her to the story.

The rest of the talent gets their due in either The Cast or The Filmmaker sections, both of which have career overviews of those involved in the film.

There are about 18 stills in the “Gallery” and “Trailer” just has the trailer, obviously.

There’s nothing in the “Reviews” section as of yet, surprising since there are surely plenty of reviews that came from festival screenings. Finally “Links” has links to the actor and talent’s IMDb and Wikipedia pages where applicable.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that’s crossed my radar.

Media and Publicity

The movie was picked as one of the most anticipated of those that were debuting at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. While promoting it there Farmiga was interviewed (Hollywood Reporter, 1/23/11) and otherwise offered her own thoughts on her directorial debut (Filmmaker Magazine, 1/23/11) before the movie was later picked up by Sony Pictures Classics.

Later appearances included the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival (THR, 3/14/11) and the Los Angeles Film Festival (Los Angeles Times, 5/3/11).

Overall

If I’m a little disappointed in some aspects of the campaign that appear to come up short (the lack of advertising, what appears to be a slackening of the press coverage in the months between festivals and release) it’s because not only was the buzz coming out of those festivals so strong but other components like the trailer are so good that they make me wish for a stronger overall picture.

As it is this is a decent campaign for movie that will rely strongly on word-of-mouth recommendations to sell someone on the idea of checking out an independently produced movie about religious emotionalism. That can be a hard sell, which is why it’s going to come down to recommendations from one person to the next, something that unfortunately (see the lack of links on the official website) doesn’t appear to be something the studio is intent on amplifying.

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