Promoting Your Film with Off-Screen Drama

Don’t worry, darling, give it a few months, and no one will ever remember all of the hoopla surrounding your middling psychological thriller. Despite your film having a near A-level cast with Florence Pugh and Chris Pine at the top of their games, a bonafide pop star Harry Styles bringing his legions of fans to the table, and a director following up her SXSW indie breakout Booksmart, it might be the tabloid gossip behind your project that ends up getting the most tickets sold.

And, at the end of the day, isn’t that what you all wanted?

For anyone following the drama (or, in my case, following the drama-of-the-drama as it unfolds on film Twitter), the story behind the story of Don’t Worry Darling has been fascinating in the least. It’s also done quite a good job of distracting the general public from talking about the film’s mixed-to-negative reviews and keeping it in the headlines.

But is this gossip drama ultimately good for a film like this? And, more specifically, is this ever something you want to try to emulate (of course, at a smaller scale) for your projects?

Let’s explore the fascinating world and history of how filmmakers can use (or even manufacture) drama to promote their films.

Don’t Worry Darling; It’s Only Internet Drama

Without being a Hollywood gossip reporter myself, it’d be almost impossible to fully recap the amount of drama behind the scenes with Don’t Worry Darling. Suffice it to say; there have been numerous reports online over the past few weeks and months doing a great job of recapping as much as possible.

The basics have to do with Olivia Wilde casting Shia LaBeouf. His feuding with co-star Florence Pugh ultimately led to LeBeouf exiting the film. (Either quitting on his own accord or being fired by Wilde, depending on who you ask.)

The other source of gossip comes from the budding on-the-set romance between Wilde and the pop-star actor Harry Styles. This became so much of a distraction that fellow star actress Pugh felt that their tryst became unprofessional—if not at least a distraction.

Regardless, at this point, the film is known to many for its off-the-screen antics and gossip as entertainment fans have hotly debated who is right versus who is wrong and tried to micro-analyze the convoluted stories, fights, and… well… gossip.

There’s No Such Thing as Bad Press

Which brings us back to a fundamental question of press and public relations: Is there such thing as bad press? Or is any press always good press? Will all of this noise help or hurt the film? That’s really what’s so fascinating to this ordeal that I think filmmakers should at least stay marginally aware of.

In all estimations, Don’t Worry Darling was a film with high expectations when first launched. It featured a budding director breaking into the industry, plus big-name stars like Pugh, Pine, LeBeouf, and Styles. If anything, with its late-season release, it was primed for some Oscar buzz at the very least.

However, as the early reviews have come in, at best, it’s a middling film that shows promise but fails to live up to its hype. Questions as to why might be fair, but the consensus remains that it’s not a particularly great film with mixed to negative reviews.

Yet, as buzz grows around the film’s off-the-screen drama, substantial word of mouth and box office expectations are shifting more positively.

How to Normally Promote Your Films

So, as an up-and-coming writer, director, and filmmaker, what should you take away from this commotion? Is Don’t Worry Darling a fun bit of water cooler gossip to laugh off? Or is there something to explore in how it can be a lesson for promoting your films and projects?

In truth, I do believe that Don’t Worry Darling, at the very least, is a case study in this principle of “no such thing as bad press” doctrine. While most of our films won’t have Harry Styles and Florence Pugh at the center of their promotional materials, there are still channels available to get people talking about projects at the indie level.

The bigger the stage, the bigger the gossip potential, but if you want to promote your films you should open yourself to exploring whatever channels are available to you. Reaching out to news outlets (both local and niche or industry ones) can be a great way to start.

Tips for Experimenting with the Press

I’d also highly recommend looking for angles to discuss your film outside your standard “passion project” type pitches. The more you can do to make your movies seem like they’re different—even if that’s for a less desirable narrative—the better.

At the end of the day, this might be the best lesson to take away from here from Don’t Worry Darling. In the face of some of your most unexpected challenges (actors clashing, losing locations, or footage turning out different than you might expect), there are opportunities to create new solutions and narratives that might make for a good story.

Embrace this as you go along your journey, and you too might end up with a project worthy of some Don’t Worry-level press which that turn a middling project into a great one.

For more industry news and filmmaking advice, check out these additional articles below.

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