Movie Marketing Madness: Moonlight

Trevante Rhodes plays Chiron in Moonlight, the new movie from writer/director Barry Jenkins. Chiron is a young man struggling with identity and his place in the world. The movie follows him from his troubled youth through his teen years and into adulthood as he first deals with the imperfect parents to the problems he faces as he begins to come into his own to his return to Miami to revisit the ghosts of his past.

Through all that Chiron is accompanied by his best friend Kevin (André Holland), who has his friends’ back at every turn. But it’s Chiron’s story we’re following as we see him deal with ideas of masculinity, sexuality, responsibility and more. It’s a very small and intimate story, following an emotional journey involving fulfilling expectations and assumptions in a world where those are always changing. Let’s see how it’s being sold.

The Posters

A triptych was the first poster released, showing the three leads looking at the camera, each with a different color light in the background but all three using the “This is the story of a lifetime” copy. That line, the way it’s phrased, is very specific. It’s not a big story like you’d expect when someone says it’s “the story of a lifetime,” like it’s some outsized event that is too ridiculous to be true but is. Instead it’s conveying that it’s the story of a single life, which is important no matter the scale.

All three images were combined into a single image on the theatrical poster, each character getting a slice of the one-sheet with their identifying color scheme intact. The same copy is on display here and this one includes a full credit block at the bottom.

The Trailers

The first trailer is plenty emotional, striking a strong chord for the movie. The whole thing bounces back and forth from Chiron’s youth to the present day and makes it clear he’s constantly struggling with identity and trying to answer the question — asked by both himself and others — of who he is. As an adult he has come back to reconnect with family and friends but that’s only exacerbating the search he and others are on. We see in the flashbacks that his father did what he could to toughen Chiron up but there are a couple scenes that hint as to why he got beat up in school and why exactly it is he’s hiding who he really is from everyone around him.

It’s a gut-punch of a trailer. Trevante Rhodes looks to give an outstanding performance as Chiron here in the telling of a story that gets to the core of the issue of being true to yourself versus living up to someone else’s expectations of who you are or should be. Just great.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website is pretty simple but maintains the striking visuals of the poster. It opens by playing the trailer, which is also the first option in the menu that’s visible to the right when the trailer stops playing. “About” has a story synopsis that offers less insights and explanation than it does full lay out the story, which is good for a movie like this. Finally on the site, “Acclaim” has pull quotes from some of the glowing reviews that have come out of festival and other screenings.

There were also Facebook and Twitter profiles for the movie where A24 shared promotional images, some interviews with Jenkins and early reviews from festivals and more.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Nothing on either front, but I would assume there will be some online ads to promote release, particularly if/when it goes wider in coming weeks.

Media and Publicity

The movie was announced as a late addition to the Toronto International Film Festival’s Platform lineup. While the movie was appearing there, a substantial profile of star Travante Rhodes was published where he talked about the challenges of the role, what other actors he admires and more.

Jenkins, of course, got some attention in the press push with interviews like this one where he talked about the nature of the story, his return to feature directing after eight years and other topics. Holland and the rest of the cast also spoke about how they signed on to the movie, the themes they were most drawn to and working with Jenkins. There was also a significant interview with Jenkins where he talked about how this was actually an adaptation of someone else’s story.

The movie also appeared on lots of “most anticipated movies of fall” lists, helping with awareness in the general movie-going public.

Overall

The movie’s personal focus and touch really comes through in this campaign. Everything here is focused on making sure the potential audience sees that it’s a human story with a very small scale, focusing on Chiron’s journey and emotions. The trailer, the press push and the posters all work to make it clear the spotlight will never leave him and his struggle for identity and acceptance.

Not only the thematic elements but also the visuals are all in line in the campaign. The mood and tone is really set by the posters, which feature the close-up faces and colorful backgrounds, a look that’s carried over to the website in particular. The whole campaign, though, looks like it’s pulled from the same color palette, with shades of blue permeating the entire push.

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Originally published at christhilk.com on October 19, 2016.

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