Independent Films by the Numbers

The marketing of Independent Films

Site Analysis of Cold Souls (2009) Website

Movie: Cold Souls (2009)
Designed by: Antimony Design
Reviewed: 2/9/2009

Overview: The design is nicely minimalist with a letterbox design to minimize scrolling. The feel has a nice cool emotional feel matching the movie’s storyline and title. There is little waste on this site, but there is also lost opportunity. One has a feel that despite being developed using blogging software it is not being updated.

Marketing Notes:

This site appears to have been put up as a touch point to support the films recent release at the Sundance Film Festival, so it is missing a few critical marketing components in my mind.

I do in general like the feel of the site, which reflect well in tone and color the film’s brand. It is simple and not over worked. The site also does a good job at orienting me to contacting the distribution and producers of the film for sales or other business opportunities from a clearly marketed and nicely detailed contact section.

There is lost opportunity on the home page to: show a trailer to entice me to see the movie, promote the fact that it premiered at Sundance (an official selection logo would be nice), or give a positive quote from a journal I liked. In sticking to a fully minimalist design for the homepage, the homepage is a place where not much happens. If a user does not drill into the site, they would be left with a clue about the film except for the name and an image of main character standing in the cold.

The site falls short as a marketing tool in it failure to allow user to provide their emails for future contact and the site’s poor performance in search engines. Google has indexed the site, but a lack of inbound links has limited the site ability to show up in a search. A query for “Cold Souls” did not have the site in the first page of results. I have to question the tuning of this site by its designers to be more search friendly through the use of text about the film hidden in a unseen DIV tag on the homepage. This is a strategy most often seen in less reputable sites trying to manipulate Google for ill gain, and could be counting against this site within Google’s search engine. Ultimately, the search issue is probably a failure of PR and outreach creating more inbound links to raise the site’s ranking.

The URL for the site is decent, however it would have been better to have This domain is a parked site and maybe was unavailable for a reasonable price. BTW, I love the film’s name.

The marketing of this site rests firmly on marketing through its cast, especially its star Paul Giamatti. This is shown in the extensive use of his image, the cast obsessed meta-tag keywords, press kit, and

Technical Notes:

Site appears to be powered by blogging software WordPress (v. 2.7). It is designed to fit a 1024 by 600 pixel display with its 960 pixel width and attention to keeping text above a 600 pixel fold. The coding of the site is simple with some JavaScript and no Flash. The home page cold references a RSS and ATOM feed for the site, but both are empty. These feed tags are unused relics of the site’s WordPress heritage.

The site uses a well formatted CSS stylesheet. The description and keyword meta-tags are used on all pages with the tags largely being composed of a list of cast names. The home page description reads — “Cold Souls is a movie starring Paul Giamatti, Dina Korzun and David Strathairn about an emotionally drained actor that has his soul extracted to provide relief from the burden of his soul.” The URL has an icon showing a small image of Paul Giamatti’s face.

I did run into a bunch of Internal Server Errors (500), while looking at the site. This appears to be some issue with WordPress caching. Unlike the branded 404 (page not found) error, the 500 error resulted in a generic error.

The site is doing its analytics and site tracking through a Google Analytics javascript Urchin tag.

Design Notes:

The site has a letter box design optimized to 1040 by 600 pixel display. The color palette of White (#ffffff), Teals (#aeebeb, #669a98), and Grays(#666666, #8b9298) on a pure Black (#000000) background gives the site an intentionally cold feel. The homepage is wide letterbox with an image of Giamatti standing on snow against an industrial background with logo above and the navigation below, w hile the sub-pages are divide the letterbox area into two sections with a cropped image in the left third and the right two thirds having content on a white background.

Emotionally, the design works to give the film a feel fitting the name Cold Souls. Despite wanting more marketing on the homepage to better orient and entice the visitor, this design works for me.


The Navigation:

The site’s navigation is generally straightforward with the exception of the navigation link to the cryptic soul extractor. There is little secondary navigation, but the site is flat enough to not require it. I would have pared down the main navigation by an item or two . The navigation items and the content of their pages are as follows:

* Synopsis – A short and fine synopsis
* Stills – a series of four small 2 5 5 by 1 4 0 pixel stills with a link to more images. I wanted to click on these images to zoom, but could not.
* Cast – this section shows actor bios starting with Paul Giamatti’s bio with navigation to the rest of the cast. Each cast member has a photo, which is good.
* Crew – list of primary crew members using Javascript to dynamically open up a bio when clicked, while closing all other bios. This keeps the text above the browser fold. Interestingly, this page will not break with Firefox’s text zoom – a nice touch.
* Director’s Statement – a simple not too long statement about how a dream of director Sophie Barthles turned into a screenplay. Good story telling, a nice hook for the press.
* Festivals – Describes Sundance screenings and no others. Is this a lack of maintenance of the site or a lack of new screenings?
* Press Room – A list of press materials including hi-resolution photos, a PDF of Press Notes, a PDF of Photo Captions, and reviews (a link to the Reviews page via redundant navigation – this is actually smart and not a problem).
* Reviews – List of hot-linked reviews… This is good, but it might prove problematic as this section grows. It will eventually break the design or force older reviews to be archived.
* Soul Extractor – Expected more with such a provocative title, but this actually was a set design drawing for the Soul Extractor within the movie. Good idea, but navigation to it is poor. Would like to see more drawings and maybe have this under stills or some other navigation item. I was kind of relieved that this was not some useless, rarely played game that showed what your soul would look like if it was extracted. That being said, this kind of thing might be a nice idea for a viral piece, but you would have to make it break out of the site proper and have its results on people’s blogs.
* Contact – a nice and detailed list of contacts including Publicist, Domestic Sales, Foreign Sales, and Producer contact info.

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