Brad Parscale, the digital media director for Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was hired by the makers of “Only the Brave” to help the action-drama appeal to red-state moviegoers, Variety has learned.
Black Label Media, the film’s financier, retained Parscale to supplement online and social media marketing efforts. Sony Pictures is distributing the $38 million production, which is on track to open to a weak $6 million when it debuts this weekend. “Only the Brave” centers on a crew of firefighters battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in June 2013. It was one of the worst wildfires in American history, having killed 19 firefighters.
“Black Label Media used several different data analytics firms and consultants to test new marketing approaches to complement Sony’s marketing efforts on the film with the goal to reach the broadest possible audience,” Black Label Media said in a statement to Variety.
Parscale advised the filmmakers to retain Marcus Luttrell, a former United States Navy SEAL whose heroic attempt to reach safety in Taliban-controlled parts of Afghanistan was dramatized in the 2013 film “Lone Survivor,” as an “influencer.” Luttrell was later paid to send out an email endorsement on the film’s behalf.
Parscale also suggested that the filmmakers emphasize charitable giving in an effort to avoid any criticism that “Only the Brave” was exploiting a real-life tragedy for profit. One suggestion Parscale offered was to create a digital ticker showing the amount that was going to charity. Parscale said they thought the approach might resonate with liberal moviegoers who wouldn’t be as interested in “Only the Brave.”
The film is targeted at heartland audiences, a group of moviegoers that Hollywood, a liberal-leaning industry, has struggled to reach in the past. Parscale’s efforts have been somewhat effective. Despite the weak tracking, insiders say the film is resonating more strongly in the South and Northwest, areas that are more receptive to President Trump.
The work was done through Parscale’s for-profit company Giles-Parscale. It has a number of corporate clients, including the Bank of San Antonio, Hotel Emma, and Trump International Reality. Parscale has said he is already working on Trump’s 2020 re-election effort. He was recently profiled on “60 Minutes,” where he talked about the critical role Facebook played in helping Trump pull of his upset win.
“Only the Brave” stars Miles Teller, Josh Brolin, and Jeff Bridges. A spokesperson for Sony declined to comment.