Film School: AI in Film Marketing

AI-generated marketing for 'Civil War' (2024) (critique by RestoreMiAmor) AI-generated marketing for 'Civil War' (2024) (critique by RestoreMiAmor)

What’s bad – and good – about promoting a movie by using imagery that isn’t actually in it.

In the marketing for writer-director Alex Garland‘s Civil War (2024), film studio A24 utilised AI-generated images (scroll through the carousel below):

Many, such as RestoreMiAmor, have been quick (and correct) to criticise the aesthetics and ethics of a film studio seemingly resorting to using AI to produce marketing materials:

However, some of the criticism seems to conflate the quality and technology of the images, and how that bodes for the future of art, with criticism that the images are not literally taken from the film, and are therefore confusing or misleading:

This is not only an incredibly narrow view of the possibilities of teasing a film, it ignores a whole history of the use of marketing as its own canvas for expanding the world within, and building hype for, a movie. Here are just a handful of examples:

Visuals which could be in the movie, but aren’t

At no point in Jaws (1975) are both shark and victim in the same frame, as in the poster. In fact – famously, and crucially – we barely even see the shark:

The light-leaking egg in the trailer for Alien (1979) is completely different from the alien eggs in the actual movie. Nonetheless, the trailer remains one of the best of all time:

Directly addressing the viewer

Director Alfred Hitchcock walks us through the film’s sets, yet reveals no footage from the finished film in the trailer for his movie Psycho (1960). Instead, Hitchcock’s persona, and his gleeful taste for the gruesome, perversely prepares audiences for the movie:

Brad Pitt and Edward Norton‘s absurd PSA-style teaser trailers for Fight Club (1999) aren’t scenes from the movie – yet they convey the satirical spirit (and commentary on cinema-going) of the world of the film, perhaps better than literal clips from it would have:

Deadpool (2016) breaks so far through the fourth wall in his own movie, that the marketing materials break into and through other media:

Further Viewing

More about trailers – the good, and the transformative:

More on AI in film-making – the scary, and the helpful:

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