A lot has changed in movie promotion since producer Frank Marshall carried around a tray of slides at sci-fi conventions in order to generate advance buzz for films such as “E.T.” and “Poltergeist.” Nowadays, the challenge is to somehow contain the buzz, which Marshall experienced while producing last year’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” (His wife and producing partner, Kathleen Kennedy, executive produced the film.)
“We were trying to keep things a secret,” Marshall says. “We wanted people to discover things in the movie theater, not online, not in a blog, not on YouTube. We were trying, on the set, to not have someone with a phone camera shoot the set. There are all these new challenges today.”
Kennedy echoes this sentiment. “We have a real proliferation of media now, so it’s difficult to know if the message is getting out there. And you have such a short window of time.”
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Yet through all the shifts in the media landscape, Kennedy and Marshall have kept up, and worked diligently with both studio and independent publicists and marketers to do whatever it takes to get the word out — or keep it reined in — on their movies.
On “A.I.,” Kennedy was instrumental in persuading Steven Spielberg to acquiesce to Warner Bros.’ desire to create a Spielberg-oriented marketing campaign in Japan, where the director has an enormous following. And as far back as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the duo were financing their own behind-the-scenes footage to be aired on TV (this was before the advent of DVD “extras”). Whether it be “The Bourne Identity” or “The Sixth Sense,” or even smaller films such as “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and “Persepolis,” the pair understands that a movie’s success hinges on more than just filmmaking.
“I learned a lot of lessons from Jimmy Buffet, who is an expert at this kind of thing –figuring out how to get your brand out there, what you’re selling,” Marshall says. “I learned from the master.”