Every single day Marc Webb, director of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Bryan Singer, director of X-Men: Days Of Future Past, get their movies mentioned on geek blogs, movie sites and even in national newspapers. They don't do it with press releases or set visits or any of the conventional press-grabbing methods. They do it on Twitter.
Singer's lagging behind Webb just a tiny bit, but that's because he's still promoting the upcoming disaster Jack the Giant Slayer and pre-production on X-Men is still ongoing. Webb has the advantage of being on set, actually shooting. Every day he tweets a picture from the set, and every day the geek sites scramble to figure out what hidden secrets these images contain. The latest: a painting of FDR, tagged #thepassage. What could it mean? Bloggers dive into Wikipedia, hoping to find the answer, to be the first to reveal a hidden villain or a cameo or an easter egg or a plot point.
Meanwhile Singer has been using Twitter to announce the cast of the film, totally bypassing the hidebound series of medieval relationships required with Variety and the Hollywood Reporter and the Satanic site Deadline. Instead of feeding information to these dinosaurs, Singer brings the news right to the fans. The geek sites don't care - we're all used to just repurposing what Variety writes, anyway - and it makes the fans feel connected. SInger's greatest skill is making people forget that he's not a terribly good or interesting filmmaker, and this sort of tactic helps.
Along the way both men have created a zone of continuous coverage for their films. They've done this without utilizing any of the standard marketing maneuvers (although it's unclear how much Fox and Sony marketing are behind these decisions. Fox less than Sony, I'd guess). They've manufactured their own buzz.
The big question is how long this buzz can continue. How long before the omnipresence of Amazing Spider-Man 2 headlines (I seriously wonder if Coming Soon now just slots in 'Marc Webb Twitpic post' in advance every day) burns the audience out? I suspect not for a long time; it seems likely to me that Webb can keep delivering random, arty photos right up to the release of the movie, or at least the first real teaser trailer.
I'm interested in seeing whether Singer keeps it up. He's tweeted a couple of pics - some Professr X wheelchairs, the construction of Cerebro's hallway - but he hasn't quite hit the daily pace that Webb has. Daily updates will be smart, though, as it gets the audience used to the fact that he's most likely tossing out Matthew Vaughn's look and bringing the X franchise back into a stale, anonymous visual style.
I like what they're doing. It's the opposite of what JJ Abrams does, and it works. Webb hasn't revealed anything of value in his photos (there's been a ton of argument about whether a photo of Spidey's new eye, set against a black backdrop, is a hint at Venom, but that seems so unlikely) but he's been able to keep the buzz going. I like the way that Singer owns the announcements, making everybody feel like part of the process, not just those who get the press releases.
Let's just hope that they manage to make movies worthy of all the buzz.