Edgar Wright’s SXSW hit Baby Driver is still over a month away from its mid-summer release date, yet the fan art cottage industry is already cranking out comics, poster mock-ups, and illustrated portraits of the stars.
You can find this stuff on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. But you can’t find much in the way of an explanation as to why all of these artists are so invested in a movie most haven’t even seen, and which doesn’t involve any familiar characters or properties. So, what’s up?
The premise — getaway car driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) wants out of his life of crime, evil Kevin Spacey says no, threatens to kill his girlfriend (Lily James) — does not strike me as particularly original. But the breathy voiceover, neon aesthetic, pop music fascination, and two-kids-against-the-mob love story make it clear that Baby Driver has borrowed more than a little bit from Quentin Tarantino’s ‘90s classic True Romance. There’s nothing so on-trend as nostalgia.
Elgort, whose break-out and still best-known role was in the 2014 adaptation of John Green’s cultishly popular YA novel The Fault in Our Stars (a $307 million box office beast), is clearly here for the same reasons that Wright cast Michael Cera in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in 2010, one year after Juno. He’s offbeat teen gold. And in interviews about the movie, Wright has consistently made a point of discussing the soundtrack — a pile of beloved, genre-diverse classics that he picked out himself. The Beach Boys, Queen, “Radar Love.” This, of course, comes after the bonkers amount of fan interest in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy ‘80s jukebox soundtrack in 2014, and the recent frenzy over hearing the music from the sequel piped out of a limited edition Doritos bag. Wright is — maybe — a zeitgeist-reading genius?
Wright has been sharing fan art inspired by the two-and-a-half-minute trailer for Baby Driver for the last two months, and the film’s official social media pages followed suit shortly after. Bryan Lee O’Malley, the artist behind the Scott Pilgrim comics, has even gotten involved. Now production company MRC and Sony-subsidiary TriStar Pictures (Baby Driver’s distributor) are organizing a fan art contest, encouraging people who love a movie they haven’t seen to create and submit Snapchat geofilters that the film can then use (for free) in theaters throughout the US.
Eileen Steinbach, a graphic designer who spun up her own idea for a Baby Driver poster, told The Verge in an email “The trailer / plot is full of inspiration really. It’s stylish, fast and the soundtrack is amazing. I can’t wait to see it!” She added that she was drawn to the original poster’s “bold design” and felt inspired to create her own. She won’t have time to create a Snapchat filter though, she says — she’s busy making art for her paying clients. “But I can’t wait to see what other people come up with!”
Sarah Kucera, a longtime Wright fan who lives in Austria, made some Baby Driver fan artafter noticing “the official Twitter page for the movie and Edgar Wright himself retweeted and supported all kinds of fan art pieces.” She says she would have loved to enter the fan contest if it wasn’t US-only.
The only prizes are the knowledge that Edgar Wright will personally sort through the submissions and choose the winner, then getting to show your friends your filter on Snapchat. According to a press release, “this is the first time a studio will showcase fan art from a geofilter contest on Snapchat,” and according to the rules on the contest website:
“By submitting an Entry, the Entrant agrees, for zero compensation and solely for promotional consideration, to grant to Sponsor all intellectual property rights in the Entry and each of its constituent parts, which rights include, without limitation, the Sponsor’s right to publish, make available to the public and/or reproduce the Entry through any media available at any time during, or after, the Contest Period on any related websites, in any promotional materials, whether related or unrelated to the Contest, and at any other location, whether physical or online, that Sponsor, in its sole discretion, deems appropriate and necessary for the operation and promotion of this Contest.”
Sony’s claim that this is the first fan-oriented Snapchat geofilter contest appears to be true, but it’s becoming far less rare for a brand to realize that it can leverage an enthusiastic fan base to do its marketing work for free. Hulu has been experimenting with posting The Handmaid’s Tale fan fiction prompts on Reddit, in tandem with an open call for submissions to a The Handmaid’s Tale fan fiction anthology that doesn’t pay contributors anything for their work. (The prize is the knowledge that Margaret Atwood reads the writing.) Sony and IMAX had fans design their collectible Ghostbusters tickets; Bob’s Burgers season 8 premiere was stitched together from fan submissions.
It’s not necessarily despicable if the rules and rewards are clearly stated. It’s just a fascinating shift in the way brands interact with their fan bases. Also, can I write the next Magic Mike movie?