Palen has been widely recognized and honored for his creative and effective work. Most recently, he was awarded Adweek's 2012 Brand Genius Award for his work on The Hunger Games. He has also been recognized in Fast Company's "100 Most Creative People in Business" and Entertainment Weekly's "50 Smartest People in Hollywood".
Palen joined Lionsgate in March 2002 as Vice President of Theatrical Marketing and achieved immediate success with the launch of the campaign for Monster's Ball, which went on to win a historic Academy Award for Halle Berry's performance in the film. During his tenure, Lionsgate has grown from a fiercely independent niche studio to a major force at the box office, establishing a distinctive profile for the company as a purveyor of exciting and provocative films. Besides The Hunger Games and The Expendables 2, Lionsgate’s other recent theatrical successes have included horror film The Possession, which opened No. 1 at the domestic box office, and Madea's Witness Protection, which was the second highest grossing Tyler Perry film ever, taking in $65.7 million.
Tim Palen uses his own photography for various Lions Gate Entertainment film posters and advertising campaigns. Palen's movie poster photography attempts "to boil it [the image] down to the essence of the film. It is all about finding simplicity, a singular iconic image, something that evokes emotion from the viewer." Some of Palen's "most arresting" marketing campaigns have only been viewed by those attending Comic-Con International conventions and various youth-oriented websites, allowing these campaigns to "pass under the radar of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, which governs studio marketing material in the U.S." In 2009, Palen's work was featured in The New Yorker.
Tim Palen conceived of using two severed fingers to make the Roman numeral II in the initial billboard campaign and the logo for Saw II. Bob Berney, Picturehouse president and a competitor of Lions Gate Entertainment, calls this image "a classic".
While looking for a manner to market Hostel without using images of mangled body parts, Tim Palen visited the New York art studio of Australian photographer Mark Kessell. Kessell, a former medical physician, had a series of daguerreotypes entitled "Florilegium" (or "collection of floral images") in his studio; each piece this collection featured a "close-up [image] of a surgical instrument, so poetically rendered that it seems almost organic". Palen made a deal to use a photograph from the "Florilegium" series whose focus was a surgical clamp, an image that was used for the theatrical and print promotions of Hostel.
To promote the release of Saw III, the Lions Gate Entertainment marketing division — headed by Tim Palen — selected an image of the film's protagonist Jigsaw (portrayed by Tobin Bell) wearing a red cloak. Palen inquired from the poster printer "what we could do to get the deepest blood red", then asking if it was "possible to use actual blood" for the red pigment. After the printer agreed to attempting the requested process, Palen successfully approached Bell with the idea of using Bell's blood in the initial print run. Limited to 1000 copies printed, the promotional posters were sold directly to fans for $20 a piece. One copy of the poster, signed by the entire cast and crew of the film, was placed up for auction. All proceeds from these sales were donated to the Red Cross as part of the annual Saw Blood Drive.
Tim Palen wanted to launch the Hostel: Part II advertising campaign "with an image that would stand out amid the clutter of endless movie posters", so he purchased cuts of meat from five differing animals from a local butcher's shop and photographed close-up the uncooked meats in his kitchen. Settling on the boar meat, whose "veins of fat" resembled "the look of someone’s intestines", Palen had to provide proof to the Motion Picture Association of America that the meat was not human in origin before they would approve the image for mass release. Palen did so by mailing the M.P.A.A. a receipt from the butcher's shop he had procured the boar meat from.
The campaign's next imagery was taken from a photography session Palen had done with the film's co-star Bijou Phillips. The final poster was a composite image of Phillips' naked body holding her own severed head. This image, due to its graphic nature, was specifically designed for foreign market and other specialty markets, such as the New York Comic Con where it debuted.
In order to utilize the Phillips imagery for mass release, Palen superimposed the final Phillips composite over the boar's meat photo. This version, which only showed the shadowed portions of the Phillips image over the boar's meat, was displayed in theaters, "though only in multiplexes that weren’t playing G or PG movies."
For the print advertising aspect of the campaign, Palen used a photograph he had taken of another of the film's co-stars, Heather Matarazzo. The photograph showed Matarazzo "hanging upside down, her face contorted, the veins in her neck bulging, a tiny rivulet of snot dripping from her nose." The M.P.A.A. approved this image for release in newspapers and other print media.
While shooting publicity photographs in a "cheesy hotel" for Hostel: Part II, Palen convinced writer/director Eli Roth to pose nude for one photograph. The picture, entitled Eli Roth Has the Biggest Dick in Hollywood, shows Roth wearing a 24-inch-long prosthetic penis which was created by K.N.B. Effects at the request of Palen.
Palen is also behind the theatrical posters for the upcoming Lionsgate titles Texas Chainsaw 3D, The Last Stand, Tyler Perry's The Marriage Counselor and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, all releasing in 2013
In late 2007, Tim Palen had a one-week fine art photography show at The Fahey/Klein Gallery in Los Angeles. The show consisted of 25 photographs from Palen's then-forthcoming book Guts. In attendance at the opening were: Palen and gallery owner David Fahey, Saw producer Oren Koules, independent film producer Andrew Panay, Sylvester Stallone with his wife Jennifer Flavin, Debi Mazar with her husband Gabriele Corcos, and Donovan Leitch with his daughter.
Tim Palen brought the women of Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls to life with eight 'Living Portraits' - shot on 35mm film and conceived of and directed by Palen himself. Displayed at New York City's prestigious Lehmann Maupin gallery on October 24–27, 2010, this project marked Palen's second time working with Janet Jackson, after directing the music video for her single "Nothing" from Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?. Lionsgate also created an unprecedented online gallery experience to showcase this art work