How do you sell the merits of an indie film to the masses? Scott Macaulay raises the question at the Filmmaker Magazine blog in connection with the release of Joe Swanberg's Hannah Takes the Stairs on DVD tomorrow. The film debuted at last year's SXSW and then received a brief theatrical release last summer. Macaulay posted pictures of the theatrical release poster, in contrast with the home video box cover.
Which is more effective? Chris Thilk at Movie Marketing Madness commented on the poster last summer, describing it as "a very cool poster that manages [to] mix the starkness that identifies it easily as an independent, character-driven film with some wacky visuals that play the same sort of tune the trailer did. I love it." The DVD cover, with the titular character of Hannah (played by Greta Gerwig) almost fading into the background, makes it look more like a mainstream ensemble romantic comedy.
But, wait! The photo on the cover was one of the original publicity photos and can be found on the film's official site. It may not be the most representative, though, since the film is all about Hannah and how she flits through relationships rather quickly. The Chicago city 'scape background was obviously added later. The blurb is snipped from Owen Gleiberman's review in Entertainment Weekly. The theatrical poster featured a quote from Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe. Is one critic's quote more appealing than the other?
In her review, Jette Kernion wrote that the film "isn't a standard narrative that you just sit back and enjoy mindlessly -- you have to put a little work into paying attention, sticking with a nontraditional plot structure, getting to know the variety of characters ... I hope more people will get the opportunity to see this film outside of festivals, perhaps on DVD."
I agree that Hannah Takes the Stairs deserves a wider audience, but I'm not sure the DVD cover will make people want to pick it up and take a chance on renting or buying it. What do you think?