The Art of Film Advertising Words by: Dennis Routledge Tizzard
Hello and welcome to the first in a new series of 405 film articles, The Art of Film Advertising, a weekly feature which will be covering new posters and trailers from a range of up and coming films. As an introduction, I would like to explain why I believe film marketing is even worth analysing in the first place and to briefly outline my views on the topic. The harsh truth is that film is first and foremost an economic enterprise, and anyone who thinks otherwise is either in denial or just plain ignorant. The film industry sells celluloid for money; this is its main objective just as it has been from the start. I’m obviously not trying to say there’s no artistic merit to be found in film, but it’s important to understand and accept the main reason why film is such a large and popular medium of entertainment. There are millions of talented artists working in film who are trying to evoke all manner of emotional responses from their audiences, but the reason they’re allowed to create these pieces of art is almost always because it makes money. I make this clear because the exact same thing can be said of film advertising. Posters and trailers exist to generate hype (and in turn, more money) for any given film but they also exist as pieces of art in their own right. The best posters (at least in this writer’s mind) are simple yet striking. They don’t overload the observer with a crowded and unfocused image; they say all they need to using the least amount of visual elements possible. Good examples of this in practise are the posters for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rosemary’s Baby and American Beauty. Similarly, some of the best trailers are what would often be termed as ‘teasers’, shorter previews that show little in the way of actual film footage but leave a large impact. The teaser trailers for both The Shining and Cloverfield are perfect examples of creating an enticing atmosphere which leave you wanting more whilst showing very little of the actual film. Other trailers make an impact by almost working as films in themselves, by either having a self-contained story or style set-apart from the film they’re advertising. The trailers for A Serious Man and Little Children illustrate this well as both use sound and visual editing to produce what could easily be labelled impressive pieces of short film in their own right. Now onto the posters and trailers that have cropped up in the last week or so. The most impressive poster to hit the web this week has to be this one-sheet for the A Nightmare on Elm Street remake:
This poster is perfect because it’s uncomplicated but extremely visually striking. First of all, the bold and fractured red font, set against the pitch black background, stands out really well. Secondly the gritty font style, along with Freddy’s trademark glove, also suitably sets up the grotesque tone of the film without being overly graphic. We’ll know for sure if this poster is indicative of the films quality when it’s released on the 7th of May. Leading up the release of Shrek Forever After (a suitable title I must say) Dreamworks have just released a new poster for the film:
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Other than the god-awful tagline, the studio has chosen a good poster here. There’s no need to include the entire cast of the franchise in this poster, it just needs to hint at the new storyline whilst incorporating the visual pallet people are already familiar with. The above poster does a really good job of this as it sets up a nice “good vs. evil” motif by placing Shrek (and his many incarnations) on the left and the new antagonist and his henchmen on the right. Shrek Forever After is released this summer on the 9th of July. Finally, I’d like to take a look at the Japanese poster for George A. Romero’s (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead) new zombie film, Survival of the Dead:
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The above poster is impressive because even though it incorporates several images at once, it still works as an attractive and coherent piece of work. The two men standing with guns pointed at each other (a nice Western homage), as well as the two distinct halves of the moon, cleverly portrays the themes of Romero’s film. The poster would also be entirely black and white if it were not for a well implemented blue tint which holds the individual ideas together and gives off the bleak atmosphere Romero is known for. Survival of the Dead is already out on DVD but is set for a limited cinema release on the 28th of May. The first trailer for Adam McKay’s (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights) new Will Ferrell staring comedy, The Other Guys, has also been released:
This is a great trailer, not only because it’s hilarious and has a great cast, but because it manages to include a variety of plot points without becoming an incoherent mess, mostly due to its sharp pace. It’s a well focused trailer as it’s clear what McKay is going for here; Ferrell and Wahlberg are a miss-matched pair of cops in a send-up of action films. Ferrell also gets some great one liners in this trailer and even does his signature girly scream but this could possibly be a case of all the best bits being used to sell the film. It’s also worth noting that the week before a new ‘video poster’ was released for the film which you can view here. It’s an interesting new concept, and damn funny, but it really could do with a stop button. The Other Guys is due for release on the 2nd of September later this year. Finally, I’d like to give an example of how not to advertise your film. Paul WS Anderson (Aliens Vs Predator, Event Horizon) has been hard at work on the forth entry in the Resident Evil series, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and the first trailer has just been released:
Did you catch that it’s shot in 3D by any chance? Not just any 3D though, oh no, it’s been shot on James Cameron’s Fusion Camera System, “The world’s most advanced 3D technology”. The trailer goes to such pains to remind us of this that it just comes off as idiotic and desperate. Based on the footage shown it’s as if they realised they’ve got nothing new to show that audiences haven’t already seen in the previous films so they've clung to their 3D technology like some sort of golden egg. Oh, and the shot of Alice falling backwards through a glass window in slow motion? Complete Matrix rip-off. Resident Evil: Afterlife is due for release on the 10th of September later this year. Join us next week when we’ll be dissecting a whole new bunch of posters and trailers for a range of approaching film releases!