Monday, October 06, 2008

Blind Thoughts: How Not to Design a "Genre" Poster or Marketing Campaign

Okay kids, class is in session. I recently saw this poster and blurb on the MoviesOnline website, and I nearly choked when I saw it. Succinctly - it's bad.

I say this with all sincerity and experience behind me, and not an ounce of malice or other ill intent to the filmmakers or to the designer of this poster. Things can go horribly wrong. We on this side of the business understand that. The reason I am drawing attention to this movie and its poster is that it does everything wrong, and I want to steer you clear of committing the same mistake(s). This is going to be especially important as more and more filmmakers seek to develop an ongoing online audience and market their movies and serials.

So let's lay the hog on the table and begin the butchery, shall we?

From the website:

“Blind Thoughts” is set in suburban New Jersey and outlines the hunt for a serial killer known as Tally Mark who leaves his victims with tally marks cut into their bodies as a taunt to the detectives referring to the growing number of murders. The two focal detectives, Charles Webber and John Russo are caught in a cat and mouse game with the killer and begin to break down throughout the film.

Edit to add: "focal" detectives?

The Title:

You know how important a good title is to the marketing of a movie (also here). Here we have a title that has absolutely nothing to do with the synopsis. Bad move. The title should always refer back to the overall theme or motif of the movie. Here - it sits off by its lonesome. A better choice would have been "Countdown" as Tally Mark is somehow counting his victims. Countdown also implies that there is a ticking clock to this procedural: the cops are counting down to when they can catch this guy - AND - the clock is counting down to the point where this serial killer is going to drive them to a nervous breakdown.

The Key Art:

I am sure these people pass for handsome in Jersey, they may even be great actors - but when it comes to the sales value of the movie, they all mean nothing. They are not stars (yet their names are above the title). Every large image of an actor's face should be pulled back into the background, because it doesn't sell the central premise:

A serial killer marks his tally on his victims as he murders them.

Is there anything in this hodgepodge of fuzzy (meaning out-of-focus) artwork that says, "This is a serial killer movie? This is a thriller? This is something I want to watch?"

If you don't have any stars in your movie then guess what? The story (concept, premise) is your star! You MUST focus on that and come up with that one image that encapsulates everything you are trying to say to the audience about this movie.

How about an image looking down on a naked body with all sorts of slash marks over it? Chalk outline visible around the edges? Or --

Close on a torso with a count of hatch marks etched deep into the dead skin in increments of five?

The fact is that there are a lot better, more creative ways to sell this picture. You have to find them. You have to test them out on people, and keep doing so until you get better.

Font Selection:

This font appears to be Trajan. We hate Trajan. It is a font reserved for all of those "important" award-winning wankfests that somehow -- despite winning all those critical awards -- NEVER MAKES ITS MONEY BACK. Do you want to be that asshole? Living off of grants and pretensions?

Did we mention we hate Trajan?


There is none! WTF?! One of your better selling tools to show your potential audience how clever and entertaining your movie is, and you just sit back and don't try anything?!

How about:

He's out to make his mark... You are his scorecard...etc...

(and this are off the top of my head. No thought or planning. Imagine if you knew the story and saw some of the footage or stills what you might be able to come up with...)

Learn to sell your movie. It helps you write. It helps you direct. It helps you produce.

It especially helps you if you're doing all three.

Lecture over. Begin Q & A.


Earl Newton said...

It seems, from looking at the art, the filmmakers (or whoever is handling their P&A) is doing their impression of a big movie.

Lara said...

Great post - and so true!

Roger Alford said...

This would make a great chapter for your book.

Tim Shrum said...

Sadly, you see this happen numerous times in the shot-on-video movie market. You would think that after decades of these kinds of posters someone would learn a lesson or two.

Unknown said...

I'm going with Earl's theory. They're doing a bad impression of other movie posters without understanding the underlying logic behind those posters. For example, the movie posters they're imitating had famous stars, which is why their faces were ginormous.

Nathan Shumate said...

There are bad design choices on display here beyond Trajan. Half of the title is in pink? Yeah, that says "crime thriller" to me -- and the semi-transparency subconsciously tells the reader that this half of the two-word title is less important. The olive-green wash over everything says "depression" -- it's a color scheme for a "unflinching drama," not something with any energy. And the only spot of color is... I dunno. A something that may be a person, or part of a person, against the right edge. The color calls attention to it, but the fuzziness says that it's not an important part of the image.


Jack Malone said...

Great blog! Sometimes I fap to it because blogs are so important and awesome.

M. Uy said...

There is a movie called Shelter that has art almost exactly like this and it looked silly.

Thanks for the post.

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