Movie Marketing Madness: The Artist

Stars can fall just as fast as they rise. The attention span of the celebrity following public is, and always has been, notoriously short. As soon as one star or starlet captures the attention of the public they’re already looking for another that is newer and more exciting to follow. The moment one is found we can’t wait for one of the older ones to fall, to embarrass themselves in some way or to otherwise do something humiliating so we can watch their descent from the limelight with the same fascination we watched their ascent.

The new movie The Artist about just such a cycle. Set in the silent film era (and itself a silent movie, with no dialogue at all) the story follows a dashing romantic leading man George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) who on the red carpet one day encounters a female fan Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) who suddenly captures the attention of the press. She then becomes an actress in her own right, at first riding his coattails and enjoying a great deal of success. But then his fortunes start falling at the same time hers takes off. The movie is a melodrama romance of sorts that, in addition to being silent, is in black-and-whilte in order to heighten the sense that we’re stepping back in time.

The Posters

The first poster featured a wonderfully monochromatic image of the two main characters looking at each other with passion in their eyes. At the top of the poster is an acknowledgement of its Cannes win for Best Actor and at the bottom is the only splash of color to be seen, the red that’s part of the title treatment.

The Trailers

The movie’s first trailer starts off by letting us know we’re in Hollywood in 1927 and shows us Valentin performing for an audience. He has a run in on the red carpet with an adoring female fan and the two become something of a tabloid item, much to the chagrin of his wife. We see the two performing together until there’s obviously some sort of change of fortunes and his star diminishes while hers ascends.

The trailer shows an awful lot of the film’s story arc, basically taking us through the high points of the entire plot. I’m sure there are grace notes that make the film more interesting but we get quite a lot spoiled here I’m guessing.

That being said it shows a movie that’s quite intriguing. If nothing else it makes you want to see whether or not a silent movie can still be pulled off, whether the performances of the actors can overcome the fact that they can’t speak to the audience.

Online

The official website for the movie opens by playing the trailer and, as I often say, it’s well worth rewatching.

After that the first section of content is “About” which has a pretty good Synopsis of the film’s story as well as an About the Production section that goes into multiple areas of how and why the film was made.

“Video” just has the one trailer while “Photos” has by my count 20 stills from the film.

You can learn more about the actors and filmmakers in the “Cast and Crew” section and then read some of the reviews – including links – that have been published about it already, mostly based on festival screenings.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

There may have been a couple TV spots I saw but that’s about it and I honestly can’t remember if that actually happened or not.

Media and Publicity

The movie first garnered some serious accolades at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, where it wowed audiences and started some serious word of mouth buzz. But the fact that the industry audience there loved it didn’t necessarily translate into Oscar worthiness (Los Angeles Times, 8/28/11) since the movie had such a starkly different look and feel from anything else out there. It would later also appear at the Telluride Film Festival to additional positive word of mouth, at the Hamptons International Film Festival where it won the Audience Award (Hollywood Reporter, 10/16/11) and at AFI Fest where it was pegged (LAT, 10/18/11) as one of the top films appearing there.

There was also some non-festival press such as this story (New York Times, 10/19/11) that talked about how it sought to recapture the Hollywood of yesteryear and how the movie worked its way through development before finally being picked up by Miramax. Development would continue to be a theme in further stories like this one (LAT, 11/13/11) that talked about bringing the cast on board such a high-concept movie.

Overall

There’s a lot to like about this campaign but the strongest element, and the one on which its success or failure largely depends, is the buzz that came out of festival screenings. If any amount of that can spread beyond those circles and find anyone who wasn’t confused and annoyed by trailers without any dialogue then there could be some level of success for the movie. If not it will go down as another one of those that couldn’t capitalize on early raves, something that’s far too often the case.

Movie Marketing Madness: Hugo

One of the many things that can keep parents awake at night is the question of what we’re leaving behind for our children. Not just material or financial but also emotional. If we should pass away before our children are grown – or even if our passing is after they’re older – we want them to be prepared for the rest of their life and we also want to leave them something tangible that they can use, that reminds them we were there and part of their lives. We want, in short, to be sure of our legacy.

The book The Invention of Hugo Cabaret, now the inspiration for this week’s new release Hugo, is about just that type of question. After his father (Jude Law) dies Hugo (Asa Butterfield) struggles to survive in a London train station. One day while evading the strict police man (Sacha Baron Cohen) he encounters a young girl (Chloe Moretz) who surprisingly seems to hold a very literal key to a mystery about his father that Hugo has been trying to figure out for some time. This leads to a journey of mystery and wonder, all seen through the eyes of a child.

The Posters

The first poster for the movie works in a lot in a single image. The primary image of a boy hanging off the hand of a large clock (an homage to a Buster Keaton movie in spirit if not intention) shows that we’re on some sort of child-like adventure of imagination, while the snow that’s circulating around him gives us the time of year that the story is set in, which just so happens to coincide with the time it’s being released in. At the top is the biggest thing, though, as it’s noted the movie comes from a legendary director and tells a huge story. The fact that Scorsese isn’t name-dropped at the top isn’t surprising since his name carries certain assumptions that the studio obviously doesn’t want to weigh the film down with.

The Trailers

The movie’s first trailer is kind of fantastic even if it doesn’t look anything like what you’d expect a Scorsese movie to look like. It starts off with a father showing his wide-eyed son an intricate model that’s been built and which he’s found and which has a keyhole in the shape of a heart. We then learn the father dies and the boy is to taken into another’s care. He runs afoul of a policeman while at a train station and is chased around until running in to a young girl. He shows her he still lives in the place with the figure and they discover she has the right key for it. The machine starts whirring around and that’s when things start getting fantastical as trains run off their tracks, dragon floats appear and more.

It’s certainly sold here as a big adventure and something that shows the spirit of friendship between the two kids and the love he keeps for his father. Like I said, this is nothing like what a Scorsese film traditionally looks like but does look visually rich and intriguing.

The second trailer starts us off in the middle of the action, as Hugo is already on his own and thinking about his father in dreams. We then get more of the backstory of the character played by Ben Kingsley and see that their two stories are very connected. But from there on out it’s just about selling the movie as an adventure from one thing to the next for Hugo and his gal-pal as they try to piece together what the mysterious message is he believes his father is sending him and how all the things he encounters are connected to that. I don’t think it works quite as well as the first one aside from those additional character details it fleshes out but it also, I don’t think, does any damage.

Online

The official website for the movie opens by playing one of the TV spots and then, when it’s finished, encourages you to share it on the social network of your choice.

The first section of content is “Video” which is where you’ll be able to watch two Trailers, two TV Spots, a behind the scenes featurette and a Q&A video about the movie.

The “Story” section has a synopsis that isn’t so much a plot summary as it is an exercise in hyperbole as well as Production Notes that go into, in the barest detail, the making of the movie.

“Cast” lets you read about the actors involved and “Filmmakers” does likewise for Scorsese and the rest of the behind-the-scenes talent.

In the “Gallery” you’ll find, by my count, about 30 stills from the movie. “Downloads” then has Wallpapers and IM Icons you can save. “Partners” talks about some of the companies that are helping promote the movie and “Reviews” has pull quotes from early reviews of the movie as well as a “Certified Fresh” badge from RottenTomatoes.com, which is something I haven’t seen on an official site before.

The Facebook page for the film has publicity and press updates along with photos and videos but it’s not nearly as tricked out as some of the pages I’ve seen for other recent movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Lots of TV advertising was done with commercials that emphasized the magical and wonder-filled elements of the movie and made the case for it being a great family adventure for the holiday season. Those spots also played up the fact that it was coming in 3D, which is I guess a major selling point.

Two promotional partners were listed on the official site: Audible.com, which was promoting the audio version of the source novel and the American Library Association, which was offering a promotional poster of the movie.

Media and Publicity

The movie first started generating buzz when it was revealed to be the “mystery movie” at the New York Film Festival, appearing there as an in-progress cut that wound up getting pretty good, though not universally positive, word-of-mouth.

After that it was a while before the press started to pick back up with stories about how Scorsese opted to make this movie (New York Times, 11/4/11) and what it was about the story that attracted him to it when it was so far outside his normal wheelhouse.

There were also interviews and stories about the director where he talked about how his experiences as a parent (Los Angeles Times, 11/20/11)  informed his decision to make the movie and his approach while doing so. There were also stories about him that covered his entire career (Hollywood Reporter, 11/21/11) as well as the inspiration behind the new film.

Overall

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. I like the campaign a lot but I’m not sure what audience it’s being sold to. There’s too much wonder and fantasy here for it to be aimed strictly at adults, but there’s too much emphasis on the story about an absent father to be aimed strictly at kids, who may not be interested in that kind of thing. It’s not that it’s a bad campaign – it’s not – but I think this may be a case of trying to reach multiple groups and failing to reach anyone. It also has the problem of coming out against The Muppets, which is more clearly a kids flick with definite adult crossover appeal and that may draw away anyone who’s curious about this movie.

But that’s not my concern – the campaign presents an interesting movie that, for adult fans of the director, presents something interesting he’s obviously trying that may need to be checked out. I hope it succeeds simply because I like it when directors and storytellers zig instead of zag and I hope Scorsese and others do more of just that.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Muppets

If you ask me it doesn’t get much better than good old fashioned Vaudeville. Marx Brothers, Hope and Crosby, Burns and Allen…even one of my favorite Billy Crystal movies is Mr. Saturday Night, an homage to that era of comedy. It’s all about the writing and the timing with this sort of comedy and that’s what works for me. Talented performers delivering superbly crafted word-play is just about as good as it gets. It’s why I always preferred Looney Tunes to just about every other sort of animated short – it was just a cartoon version of a Vaudeville routing, with the funniest bits coming from Bugs and Daffy’s verbal sparring as opposed to any sort of elaborately setup situation.One of the clear spiritual descendants of the Vaudeville tradition, at least in their original incarnations, was Jim Henson’s Muppets. Especially on “The Muppet Show” but also in what are considered the three canonical films – The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets Take Manhattan – these characters were always at their best when it was simply about a zinger of a joke or a bit of deft word-play.

Now these characters are back after decades of secondary status in a new movie The Muppets. Written by and starring Jason Segal, best known from his role on “How I Met Your Mother” and an avowed fan of the characters, the movie seeks to revitalize the franchise for a new generation. To do that Segal and his collaborators have created a story that has Kermit, Fozzy, Gonzo, Piggy and the others having gone their separate ways years ago after some rough times. But now Walter (a new Muppet character created for the film), the roommate of Segal’s character and the world’s biggest fan of the Muppets is trying to get the group back together to save the historic theater where they first became famous. In the best tradition of those classic films this new one features lots of star cameos and more and, quite frankly, looks awesome. Let’s see how this reintroduction of some beloved characters is being sold to the families of 2011.
The Posters

The first teaser poster wasn’t all that revealing, with the image being just that of Kermit, Piggy and a few others walking (their entire bodies are shown, not just their torsos and heads) toward the camera in a very determined fashion with the copy “They’re closer than you think” at the top reading just a tad ominously.

After that a couple fun posters that were along the same lines as some of the early trailers appeared, with Kermit decked out like Green Lantern just before that movie came out, Sam the Eagle dressed as Captain America just before that movie was released.

The next poster was a more theatrical-esque version that showed Segal and Adams in front of the mob of Muppets like they’re trying to hold the crowd back. Again it’s not all that much but it does show to the audience that the entire cast of characters will be featured, something that should have lots of appeal to those who enjoyed the earlier movies as kids and have been looking for a quality newer movie to use as an introduction for their own children. It’s quite good on that front and makes the movie look like a lot of fun.

Four more posters were later released, three of which showed extreme close-ups of the eyeballs of Kermit, Animal and Piggy with the fourth pulling the camera out a bit and showing those three along with Beaker and Gonzo.

The parody aspect of the campaign that had primarily been confined to trailers (see below) spilled over into the posters toward the end with a series of one-sheets featuring Kermit, Piggy and Rolf as characters from the Twilight movies.

The Trailers

The first teaser trailer debuted in front of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean earlier this year but both the real-life and online versions of it took a very fun approach.

The trailer starts out like it’s selling a romantic comedy starring Segal and Adams. The two are very much in love but he messes up and has to try and make it up to her and so on. It’s only when the voice over guy starts introducing the cast and gets to Kermit and Piggy that we realize this is a Muppet movie. The studio went all in with the conceit, initially releasing the trailer under the name “Green With Envy,” which is how it appeared on Apple’s trailer’s page – complete with poster – and was used for the YouTube channel and Facebook page as well.

Outside of that bit of good natured bait-and-switch, the trailer doesn’t show very much. We get that there is a romantic story in here and that there will be lots of singing and big production numbers, which should be fun, but not much else. That’s alright since this is just about announcing the movie and not much else. So it works very well.

Another one followed shortly thereafter that played kind of like a parody of The Hangover, with scenes of chaos and fake quotes from fake publication about how funny these movies occasionally are.

The next one would use the just-about-to-come-out Green Lantern as its source material, with Kermit reciting a variation on that character’s iconic oath, before there were actually a couple of plot points revealed, the first such indicators in the campaign to date. There was also a winking at the audience about how long the creators are going to milk this parody hook before they get to the real marketing. As with the others this is kind of great.

Finally the trailer marketing began in earnest with a spot that outlines what the plot of the movie is, at least in general. Kermit is working to get the whole gang back together again after some hard times have fallen on the franchise. While we see plenty of Walter, the new character that’s introduced in the movie, we don’t get a proper introduction to him here. There are challenges put in the groups way that lead to hijinks and all in all it looks very clever, funny and charming. While it does indeed play more straight than the previous trailers in that it’s not an outright parody of something else that doesn’t mean it’s any less meta, with lots of inside jokes and winks to the audience, but that’s all good since it comes off as being very funny. The only fear here is that all those jokes are in the trailer here so when they’re put into the context of the movie as a whole they could land more flatly than they really should.

After that there was another parody trailer created that, in my opinion, was the best one yet. This one took on the trailer for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, featured an awesome song and lots of winking at the audience via on-screen text.

Then there was a “Fan-a-Thon” trailer released that had Piggy making a personal appeal for people to Like the movie’s Facebook page in order to get an early advanced look at the movie. Fozzy, Kermit and Gonzo would also appear in similar videos.

The next trailer – not a parody or spoof – gets even more into the story by introducing Segal, Adams and their little friend – as the troop’s biggest fans. We see that they’re not exactly welcome in Hollywood anymore and that their name recognition isn’t what it used to be. So they have to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and prove themselves all over again. We get lots of scenes from the show they eventually put on and everything else and it continues to look like it’s just a lot of fun all around.

The meta circle was complete with one that started out by having a little bit of fun by creating a parody of their own trailers while also working in some nods to Paranormal Activity, Happy Feet, Twilight and more. It was more or less exactly what was needed to put a bow on this effort, especially since this one included a “Thank you, internet” note as well as one at the end saying this completed that part of the campaign. Good stuff.

Online

The official website for the movie opens by playing one of the later, non-parody trailers.

After that finishes or you choose to skip it the first thing you can do either by clicking the “Characters” menu item or just by selecting one of the images that’s presented on screen is dive into the characters of the movie. Each one of those sections has information about the character as well as Wallpapers, Buddy Icons, games and film clips that are specific to them.

The next section, “About the Movie” has a Story synopsis that goes into the adversity the Muppets have to overcome to regain success as well as a Cast section that’s still more about the characters and a Crew section that is still labeled as “Coming Soon.”

“Video Clips” has most of the trailers, both parody and non-parody as well as other videos, some of which are the great Muppet song covers from the last couple years, some of which are Disney channel coverage and then a bunch of other stuff.

There are about 14 stills in the “Gallery.” “Products” has information on the stuff you can buy, from the soundtrack to a mobile game to various toys and more.

There’s then a link to the “Fan-A-Thon” that’s been mentioned before. “Games has some fun casual games featuring different characters.

There are plenty of Wallpapers, Buddy Icons and a Screensaver in the “Downloads” section. “Activities” stuff to make that ranges from a theater playset to instructions on making candy with the faces of Kermit and the others.

Finally there’s a link to the “never-ending  manna manna phenomena” that asks you to make your own video with those famous lyrics, which will then be inserted in a never-ending stream of clips, which is kind of a fun idea.

That last feature is the first thing you see when you hit the movie’s Facebook page, though there are of course lots of tabs with links to the various trailers and more along with plenty of updates on the Wall that track the movie’s publicity activity.

The @muppetstudio has been been taken over by Statler and Waldorf, who use it to sling their usual barbs at the the other Muppets and discourage people from seeing the movie. The Muppet Studio YouTube page, which has been the hub of Muppet activity for the last couple years, has all the trailers and clips and other video snippets.

The Muppets were also one of the first brands to get a Google+ Page, which has been used to share videos and other updates.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

A new Marvel-published comic was announced that would act as a reintroduction to the characters who, in the story, trying to revitalize their careers.

The return to the big screen also came with some promotional partners, including Wonderful Pistachios, which produced a commercial with Kermit promoting the naturally green snack.

The Muppets would also appear in a promotional video that also served as a message to not talk or text while at the theater. The spot was produced specifically for AMC Theaters and presumably ran during their pre-show entertainment blocks.

In addition to that there was a campaign that partnered the characters with Underwriters Labortories for a household safety based effort. There was also a cool partnership with Threadless that offered some nice custom designed t-shirts featuring the characters.

Media and Publicity

The film certainly got a dramatic launch. After rumors and reports had been circulating for a few months that Segal and others, avowed fans of the Muppets and such (see the inclusion of the puppet vampire musical in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) were circling a Muppets project and may have even been signed to create a new movie. Then at Disney’s D23 fan conference in September of 2009 the movie was officially announced and a title revealed, officially kicking off the buzz campaign for it.

It then continued to solidify its hipster credentials with the announcement the film would be directed by James Bobin, one of the co-creators of “Flight of the Conchords,” which also served the purpose of giving the film some musical bonafides to fall back on. That was followed by news that not only was Segal helping to write the script but that he would star in the film as well.

A steady amount of buzz around the Muppets in general was created through the release of a steady stream of videos featuring the characters singing songs such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Dust in the Wind” and plenty of others. The idea behind these – all of which were fun and many of which bordered on brilliant – was to get the Muppets back at the top of people’s minds well in advance of the movie’s release so that when that time came the audience was large, multi-generational and comfortable with the idea of once again spending time with these characters.

Much like the Tron sequel, the movie benefited from some insights from the Pixar crew, with reports the script was taken to Pixar HQ for a table read (Hollywood Reporter, 7/21/10) that was intended to solicit feedback from the Pixar “Brain Trust” and get their thoughts before filming started.

After a period of silence, a new round of publicity started with an Entertainment Weekly spread that featured Segal surrounded by the characters, including Walter, the new Muppet that is the audience’s main point of entry into the story. This contained not only a good look at the characters but also the clearest and most official synopsis of the plot to date.

Later on there was news that Disney was putting a Toy Story short, the second or third that’s been produced, in front of the movie, something that got everyone talking once again about the Muppets and also made going to see the film even more attractive.

The movie was one of several that Disney brought to the CinemaCon exhibition trade show, where footage from the film was shown to attendees and Segal and Adams appeared (THR, 3/29/11) and talked about the film, including the challenges Segal faced in writing the movie(Los Angeles Times, 3/29/11) as he tried to stay true to the spirit of the franchise, the financial restraints he was operating in and just the logistics of shooting, all of which forced him to come up with inventive solutions to various problems.

There were also feature stories (New York Times, 4/11/11) about how this was the franchise’s big bet on a revival and how previous efforts in the last 10 years or so have all hit some sort of roadbump that’s killed them. So Disney is betting on a big, star-studded motion picture to finally kick things off in a manner befitting the characters and finally see some value to owning the characters.

Two years after its first appearance there the movie returned to Disney’s D23 fan convention (LAT, 8/17/11). There the studio put on a brief presentation with Segal and Kermit showing some clips from the movie that, much to her dismay, did not involve Miss Piggy.

Unfortunately the next bit of press would not be completely positive, as many of the “old hands” that were involved with the Muppets in years past and other “purists” started to question whether the movie was a worthy entry into the canon or something that distorted the characters they loved or were involved with (THR, 10/20/11). Odds are good, though that those fears are overblown and that while maybe not the movie *they* would have made it’s still respectful of the characters while also bringing them into a new generation that’s only been exposed to the lackluster straight-to-DVD entries of the last few years.

Closer to release things turned around with profiles of Segal (Wired, 11/1/11) and assurances from him that there would be lots of zany antics (LAT, 11/4/11) and how the mood on the set was generally upbeat (LAT, 11/6/11) with everyone having lots of fun. Further positive press stories would be scored that talked about how hands-off Disney was during the creative process (NYT, 11/20/11) despite the risks and potential rewards there were to be had by bringing the characters – and the franchise – to a new generation of moviegoers. There was also plenty of general stories about reviving the franchise (Fast Company, Nov 2011) and so on.

The Muppets also joined Segal in the opening of “Saturday Night Live” when he was hosting just before release.

Overall

Hey, what’s not to like here? This is a big campaign, that’s for certain but there’s something here for everyone, from those of us who grew up with “The Muppet Show” on TV every week and saw all the three original movies in theaters to those who are the kids of folks my age.

The main thing, at least the component that has garnered the most press attention, is the part of the campaign made up with the parody trailers. And while those were fun and all I’m more excited about the other stuff, the parts that sold the film more directly since they showed a movie that seems to be very much in line with the spirit of the original incarnations of this franchise. So the posters, trailers and website are what have me anticipating the film.

But it certainly isn’t a small effort. Disney is obviously hoping this is the kind of relaunch that it can capitalize on for several years on a number of fronts and has given it a campaign of suitable size. But again it’s the talent of those involved and the promise of a good-natured time at the theater that has most broadest appeal here and that comes through loud and clear.

Movie Marketing Madness: A Dangerous Method

My favorite scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the one where Clark Griswold is in the department store while the family is out shopping. Distracted by the extremely hot clerk behind the lingerie counter he goes on and on about how it couldn’t be any hooter hotter in the store and how the weather outside is a bit nippley. It’s a three minute master class on the idea of the Freudian Slip, where someone accidentally says what’s really on their mind (usually related to sex) instead of what they meant to say.

One of this week’s new releases is about the man that’s named after, Sigmund Freud. A Dangerous Method, directed by David Cronenberg, is a story about Freud (Viggo Mortenson) and his protege Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and a debate they have about the methods of treating patients. One patient in particular, Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly), forms the crux of their debate. She is suffering from problems that are related to what seems to be sexual abuse in her past. But her intriguing personality and situation wind up fascinating Jung and the two begin an affair. While not a traditional love triangle the movie is still about the relationships between the three of them.

The Posters

The movie’s one poster sets up the drama between the three characters nicely. Possibly the first time the principles of a Venn diagram have been utilized for movie marketing we see Knightly front and center, with the faces of Mortense and Fassbender off either shoulder, their faces bleeding into hers (or is it vice-versa) so the images overlap a bit.

Below her face is the explanation for the audience that this is based on a true story and who the characters are that we’re looking at. At the top is a short pull quote from a review by The New York Times. Between those two elements it’s clear the aim is for a higher-level of audience here but Cronenberg’s past film titles – both of them with Mortensen – are thrown in below the title for good measure.

The Trailers

The first trailer (not counting multiple international versions) by introducing us to Freud and Jung before showing us Sabina and what influence she has on the dynamic between the two. She present Jung with a most interesting case as she seems to be excited by the idea of being punished. When he decides to give in to his desire and begin an affair with her it impacts both his relationship with his mentor and, naturally, his wife, who we saw previously he sometimes uses as a test subject for his treatments.

The trailer is all about selling the idea that repression is not only bad but unhealthy. The characters frequently talk about giving in to their desires. But while there may be some titillation factor here the spot also makes it clear that the move as a whole is a much more staid drama that is meant to highlight the performances of the two male leads plus Knightly than it is some sort of sexual drama. Sure there are bits of that but I think as a whole there’s more sitting around talking than anything else, which is a pleasure when you’re looking at a cast like this.

Online

The movie’s official website opens by playing the trailer, which is worth rewatching if you haven’t seen it in a while. Closing that brings you to a repurposing of the key poster art. Also on the front page are prompts to buy the soundtrack album, a short synopsis and an invitation to read about the real life events that have inspired the movie, something that I always like to see on the sites for movies like this. That section lets you view a timeline of events or check out character-specific write-ups.

The first traditional section of content is “About,” which acts like a nicely navigable set of production notes. There are sections here for The Design, The Locations and more as well as more information on the real relationships that power the drama here.

That cool design is also found in the other sections, starting with “Cast” which lets you find out more about the actors and “Filmmakers” which does likewise for those behind the camera.

“Reviews” has small quotes from early reviews of the movie but, as is too often the case, no links to the full story.

There are 25 stills, including a few behind-the-scenes shots, in the “Gallery” and “Trailer” just has one video.

The Facebook page for the film is a modest affair, with photos and videos and regular updates on the cast and director’s promotional activities.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I was privy to or otherwise aware of.

Media and Publicity

While there had been other buzz around the movie prior to this some major news was made when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) the movie would appear at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Prior to that, though, it would be among those at (Hollywood Reporter, 9/2/11) at the Telluride Film Festival. At almost the same time it appeared at the Venice Film Festival where it picked up mixed buzz as a whole and specifically for Knightly’s performance (Los Angeles Times, 9/2/11).

Around the time of the Toronto/Telluride debut a big feature (Hollywood Reporter 9/7/11) on how the film was made and what happened with various casting just before filming was published that certainly brought a level of attention – even if it was mostly within Hollywood circles – to the film that I don’t think it had before.

Overall

Yeah, there’s certainly an element to the marketing here that is just hoping the promise of some 19th century sex is enough to pull in some parts of the audience. But that’s relatively mild when compared to what I think is a strong and classy push for the film. There’s a concerted effort to keep this campaign, I think, non-smutty and sell it based on the strength of the performances of the three leads and the idea that they’re all given some meaty relationship based drama to work with.

The poster, trailer and website all add up to a nice cohesive whole that I think sells the movie pretty well and should appeal to the kind of people who look forward to late-November releases with the same fervor others anticipate Memorial Day at the theater.

Movie Marketing Madness: My Week With Marilyn

These days we think we know the private lives of big stars. With paparazzi taking photos of them whenever they step out for a Slurpee with their kids and countless magazines, blogs and other publications ready to run them and elaborate on what their entire outing was like there seems to be no moment that doesn’t go unexamined. The audience, in large part, enjoys these looks at celebrities because it feeds a need some people have for gossip and what the feel are peeks behind the curtain.

There’s no starlet that did more to further the idea of celebrity press coverage than Marilyn Monroe. She’s the subject of the new movie My Week With Marilyn. With the famous actress played by Michelle Williams, the story takes place during the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl. Colin Clark (Eddie Radmayne) is assigned to be her personal assistant by Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) and the two become close and start up a fling, despite everyone warning him away from the idea. But he’s convinced he’s seen the real, more vulnerable Marilyn and continues to pursue the relationship to the extent he can.

The Posters

The first poster is all about selling Williams and Monroe and so shows her walking amidst a sea of reporters with cameras and notepads while being guided by a young assistant of some sort. She looks kind of aloof and not all that happy with her situation and so it’s about making it clear that Williams isn’t playing Monroe as some sort of clueless ditz but as a genuine human being, something that may not be as sensational but is more promising from an artistic point of view.

A second poster was a nice black-and-white effort that had Williams striking a sexy Monroe-esque pose, just her head and one hand being seen. To the side are a couple of choice quotes about the performances of Williams, Branagh and Dench.

The Trailers

The first trailer starts us off as Marilyn is getting off the plane in England and attending a press conference to promote her appearance there. A young man enters her life as a sort of assistant and the two of them obviously hit it off, with her using him to escape the crush of her regular life. But he’s warned off from her by just about everyone around him, warnings that he ignores since he’s seen her in very unguarded moments.

It’s enormously effective at selling the movie as the kind of awards bait that usually comes out this time of year. It’s got lots of big names playing famous people, something that always goes over well. But it’s also clear those performances are quite compelling, with the actors appearing to really try to inhabit the skins of the actors they’re portraying. This isn’t a full-fledged bio-pic like Chaplin or others but it’s about a single moment in time and so may have more focus for everyone involved because of that.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with some full-screen video of the film’s trailer. After you let that play or skip it you’ll see you can scroll right or left through a series of stills or small video screens that show off most of the main cast. At the top of the screen there’s also a scrolling series of press quotes about the movie complete with the logo of the press outlet they came from though without links to the full stories. That problem is solved, though, in the “Press Accolades” section.

The first section of content is “About” which has a Synopsis that’s pretty well written and which explains the film’s story very well as well as Cast and Filmmaker profiles. There’s also Production Notes here that can be read on the site as well as more extensive ones available as a PDF download.

There are 13 stills in the “Gallery” though none of them can be downloaded. “Videos” has two Trailers (though they seem to be the same one), a behind-the-scenes video and an extended clip.

At the bottom the “Social” area links to the movie’s official Facebook page, which has photos, videos and other updates, and a Twitter profile that has similar updates. Both are just called “Marilyn Monroe,” which is an interesting little bit of sideways selling there.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing that I’ve seen either online or on TV. I may have missed something but there hasn’t been any advertising that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

While there had been plenty of talk about the movie’s production the first bit of substantive news came when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 8/4/11) that it would be one of the movies debuting at the 2011 New York Film Festival.

A sizable interview with Williams (Vogue, Oct, 2011) was up next where the actress talked about how she very much wanted to play the part of Monroe and how doing so changed things about how she herself viewed life.

Overall

It’s a pretty small campaign for a movie that I would have expected to have more “oomph” behind it. I’m really surprised there isn’t more a full-throated for a movie that seems to have a number of strong performances, hits a favorite theme (celebrity impersonations) of awards season and is about a person who still causes all sorts of speculation and conversation. I would have thought there’d be much more publicity from the Weinsteins about those performances and more. As it is the marketing itself isn’t bad, just feels small at a time movies like this can’t afford to feel small.

Movie Marketing Madness: The Descendants

We all play certain roles within our families. Parents are particularly likely to fall into specific roles depending on how much time they spend at home, what sort of pressures are on them in the world of their jobs and other factors. So it’s not uncommon for there to be the recognition that one of them is the “fun” parent while the other is the disciplinarian or whatever the particular dynamic is in any given household.

In the new movie The Descendants the family in the middle of the story has to go through a major realignment of roles. Matt King (George Clooney) is the father who’s not an integral part of anyone’s life. He’s there and he loves everyone, sure, but he’s not the “primary” parent. But then his wife is in an accident and ends up in a coma, thrusting him to the forefront. That transition is complicated, though, when his oldest daughter (Shailene Woodley) reveals he’s the only one who didn’t know his wife was having an affair. So not only does King have to reconnect with his family but he has to process that information as well. The movie comes from writer/director Alexander Payne (Sideways, Election), a filmmaker with a reputation for well-crafted character stories.

The Posters

The first – and it turns out only – poster told us, at least overtly, almost nothing about the movie’s story. It’s just Clooney shown in profile kind of looking at some kids who are playing on a beach. No copy explains what it is we’re looking at so this is very much a teaser image. Which makes it surprising that nothing came next, that there was nothing that offered even a little bit more about the movie. The assumption is that Clooney + a gorgeous location is enough for audiences. Not saying this is wrong, just that it’s surprising there wasn’t *something* else.

The Trailers

The first trailer for the movie is just great, selling us not only on the story but also on the performances of everyone involved.

It starts out with King talking about how he’s the backup parent to his two young daughters compared to his wife, who’s currently in the hospital, a situation that means he has to step up and be more involved. That leads to plenty of conflict between him and the girls, especially the teenage one who’s in full rebellious “I can be my own person” mode. It’s that older daughter who, as he’s talking about how he has to communicate his wife’s situation to all their family and friends, informs him that his sick wife had been cheating on him. This new information causes him to reevaluate everything and the rest of the trailer is a montage of clips that show while there are some tough moments that there’s also plenty of love in the family.

The best moment of the trailer is kind of a tie between the shot of Clooney rounding the corner while he’s running in flip-flops and Robert Forrester punching the snot-nosed and disrespectful boyfriend of the older daughter. Both are just fantastic.

Online

The movie’s official website is pretty interesting. Using your mouse you can drag the entire page up, down and sideways to view various angles and the features each one holds. Clicking on one of the photos that’s tacked to the tree, then, unlocks different content. In some cases that’s a short video clip in others it’s something else. It’s very much a family tree since most of that introduces us to members of the King family.

At the bottom of the page there’s a link to “learn more” about the movie and clicking that takes you to Fox Searchlight’s site and their page for the film, which has more traditional content. There you’ll find a “Synopsis” and “Trailer” as well as the usual Searchlight features like news feeds of relevant information, videos and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots were run, particularly late in the campaign, that were pretty good but which certainly appeared to play up the kind of wacky comedic angles that were present at the expense of more textured character stuff. One in particular would focus on Clooney’s character finding out about the affair and highlights Clooney’s stalking of the other guy, with him jumping behind bushes and so on. I don’t necessarily think is missells the movie but it certainly sells one particular perspective of the film.

Media and Publicity

Some of the first publicity for the movie came when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 7/26/11) it would be one of those screening at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. It was also selected as the closing night feature at the New York Film Festival (Hollywood Reporter, 8/17/11). Before that it was one of the featured films at the 2011 Telluride Film Festival, where it gathered decent word of mouth from the assembled critics.

Payne would later talk about (LAT, 11/1/11) talking about his involvement with the book adaptation, which originally had him producing and someone else directing. Shortly thereafter profiles of Clooney (LAT, 11/2/11) and the rest of the cast would explore working with the director, shooting in Hawaii and more.

Overall

It’s a really good campaign that, for the most part, I think does a dead-on job of selling the movie as an interesting and entertaining character piece. It’s clear, of course, that Clooney is the main selling point though there’s enough of a focus on Payne as well to attract people who have been fans of his previous movies. What it sells is a movie that seems to fit nicely, as Payne’s other films mostly do, somewhere between commercially viable and awards worthy, something that’s a very tough line to walk.

Quick Takes: 11/14/11

Movie Marketing Madness: Melancholia

What sort of attitude you ponder the end of the world with is largely dependent, in most cases, on your religious or philosophical point of view. Christians believe the world will end when Christ returns for a final judgement, bringing the redeemed to Heaven and ending the struggle here on Earth. Other religions have their own beliefs despite the fact that we all know the world will really end when it’s blown up by the Vogons (an exceedingly stupid race of aliens with incredibly bad poetry) to make way for an interstellar bypass. Really it’s the only logical conclusion. But again how you think the end of the world is going to happen impacts whether or not you anticipate it with longing, dread or indifference.

It’s that kind of indifference that is at the core of the new Lars von Trier-directed film Melancholia. Essentially the story of the relationship between two sisters Justine (Kirstine Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Ginsburg) the plot then revolves around two major events: Justine’s marriage and the discovery of a mysterious planet that’s been hiding behind the sun and which is now moving towards Earth – but is it on a collision course or will is simply pass by? No one is sure but it’s clear that Melancholia – the name of the planet as well as a descriptor of the feelings felt by some of the characters toward life and others – will change everything.

The Posters

The first poster almost had the look of a wedding invitation. An image of Dunst in a wedding dress clutching a bouquet while lying down in some sort of pond is in the middle of the one-sheet, with Von Trier’s name above that along with the title while the names of the three main cast members are below that photo, which has been repurposed from one of the first publicity photos that was released.

The second poster wasn’t all that much different. This time the photo of Dunst takes up the entire frame, giving more color to the one-sheet right off the bat. At the top is a critic pull quote from a festival screening of the movie along with mentions of its award from Cannes. Toward the bottom are the cast’s names along with the copy “It will change everything” which is meaningful enough if you know the director’s previous work to get you interested but also vague enough to not tip the audience to any clues as to the story. That may or not be a great tactic to take but it’s unlikely there will be much mainstream crossover for a movie like this so it’s fine since the film is being sold primarily to von Trier loyalists.

Up next was a motion poster that featured an image of Dunst and Skarsgard on the verge of a kiss while a star chart materialized on top of that image. The motion poster even featured a bit music, in this case a little Wagner for people to enjoy while the image transitioned from one phase to the next.

The Trailers

The movie’s first trailer lays out the story in broad strokes but, as you would expect from von Trier , there’s a lot more under the surface.

We start with images of Dunst in her wedding dress running through a garden talking about how life exists only on earth. After some family drama at the reception we are introduced to Melancholia, a planet that seems to be heading right toward us. So the impending arrival of that interstellar visitor – it’s not clear whether it will pass by or crash into the planet – is played as a metaphor for the relationships that exist between the characters, none of whom seem to be all that emotionally put together.

The trailer sells a film that is beautiful to look at and somewhat mysterious. It’s obvious that there are a lot of threads we’ll be following and that, as is often the case with von Trier, he doesn’t put a lot of faith in the kindness of people as a whole.

Online

The movie’s official website is interesting if a bit perplexing and offbeat, a description that likely matches the movie and most of von Trier’s work. It’s arranged as one big scrolling page that you can navigate using the menu at the top or just by moving your mouse down the page.

The first section after the “Welcome” screen is a “Director’s Statement” from von Trier where talks about…I’m honestly not sure what. It’s a bit of a screed mixed with thoughts on German romanticism and more. After that it’s more from the director in an “Interview” that allows him to expand his thoughts about the themes of the movie.

Following that is a “Filmography” that isn’t really what it sounds like and is instead just a list of the major actors and talent involved with the movie. Then there’s “Technical Info” which is exactly what it sounds like and is mainly for those wanting to confirm what aspect ratio the movie was shot in.

“Trailer” is next with just the one video followed by “Social,” which has a little widget of Facebook updates and then “Download” which is where you’re able to grab some stills from the movie and of von Trier as well as the movie’s one-sheet.

If you want some background on the production house operated by von Trier and his partners you’ll find it in “Zentropa.” The site then ends with some “Contact Information” for PR, sales and other needs.

In between all those sections, though, are some of the stunning photograph stills of the movie.

The movie does have a Facebook page that features updates on the release and other posts. Not much here, though.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

At least one TV spot was created that played up the dramatic elements of the story and was designed to promote not only the upcoming theatrical release but also the movie’s on-demand availability. It’s short but pretty good at hitting some of the same major notes the trailers do.

Media and Publicity

The movie got its first major publicity push when it was announced (Los Angeles Times, 4/14/11) that it would screen at the 2011 Canne Film Festival alongside features from other big-time directors like Woody Allen, Terence Malick and others.

That Cannes appearance wasn’t all sunshine and roses, though, with the director making comments he had to have meant jokingly about Jews and Nazis (Hollywood Reporter, 5/18/11), comments he later apologized for (LAT, 5/18/11) but which still got him declared “persona non gratis” at the festival, meaning the film could stay in competition but he may not be welcome to pick up any prize it might win.

Overall

Well it’s certainly not going to bring any new fans into the von Trier fold is it? No, it’s not as outright offensive, particularly to American sensibilities, as Dogville (a movie I greatly enjoyed as a sort of visualized theater experiment) and the like but it’s also not nearly as accessible as most people will be looking for. The campaign makes it clear that there will be thinking involved in this particular trip to the theater and that’s going to turn off certain audience segments even as it attracts others.

That being said this is a very cool and very cohesive campaign that, I suspect, represents the movie well. The posters and trailer all work well together and the website compliments that nicely with a unique experience all its own. Good stuff from my perspective.

Book Review: Drew Struzan Oeuvre

The new book Drew Struzan Oeuvre is a mixed bag. There’s no doubt that it contains stunning representations of Struzan’s work from throughout the years and across genres and categories of media. Projects not just from his movie-related work but also music, general entertainment and even personal commissions are included here and there’s little way they could look better. But while it reaches broadly across what the iconic artist has produced it doesn’t go very deeply into those works of art.

The problem is that this new book comes on the heels of the previous one The Art of Drew Struzan. That may have contained less examples of Struzan’s work and been focused exclusively on his movie poster work but the stories from Struzan himself that went along with each one of those were invaluable and often provided interesting insights into the artistic process. This book doesn’t have that and instead simply lists what’s what at the back.

But enough of the comparisons. What this book gets right is the high quality presentation of Struzan’s artwork. And the fact that it goes beyond the poster work he’s so well known for makes it a must have for completists and those who are able to appreciate his consistent and instantly recognizable style beyond just the movies that people like in and of themselves.

If there’s one other quibble I have with the book it’s that the “Personal” section – the book is divided by category – is largely unnecessary. We get it. People like to commission works of female nudes. We don’t need endless examples of it.

In the end, though, this is a great addition and works to complement the earlier book quite well. The fact that things are categorized nicely makes it easy to bookmark your favorite sections. It’s certainly something that can serve as a wonderful present for Christmas or whatever other holiday might be to your liking.