by Kerby Rosanes . October 16th, 2013
When was the last time you got to see a poster art for a movie? A film art poster where the main elements are good illustrations, painted environments or minimalist yet symbolic designs and not enhanced head shots of the movie cast?
The “art” in movie poster design today has lost the ability of painting what the feeling of the film should deliver to its audience. This has triggered American writer Matthew Chojnacki to bring back the idea of how the film art posters before use to look like – breathing with pure art and creative concept.
His new book entitled: “Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art From the Underground” is a showcase of more than 200 underground posters from over 100 amazing artists giving their own take of some popular films and cult movie favorites in posters in their own art style. Each page chronicles some background notes about each artist and the creative process behind each poster.
In an interview below, Matthew talks about this book, how it was conceptualized and his take on how movie posters today has changed the way we appreciate movies.
Only a few decades ago the motion picture industry was crafting an endless series of brilliant, head-turning posters. Then in the mid-90s, priorities quickly shifted. Instead of using paint brushes to create inventive works of art, they were instead using them to remove blemishes and wrinkles from celebrity headshots…
YTD: When and how did you come up with the idea of curating alternative posters in a book?
MATTHEW: I’ve always been a fan of gig (concert) posters, and noticed a few years back that these same artists were starting to also make film posters for festivals, cult cinema showings, and other special movie events. I was immediately hooked. These artists were bringing back all of the great elements of one-sheet design that hasn’t been seen since the ’70s and ’80s. The 100 artists profiled in this book have a real passion for both art and film, and it pours out in their imagery.
“Ironman” poster designed by Jesse Philips
YTD: What is the aim or guiding principle behind this project?
MATTHEW: One hand I wanted to showcase all of the fantastic, up-and-coming film artists that are featured in the book. Most are simply making posters for the fun of it, yet their pieces tower above mainstream theatrical one-sheets in terms of quality.
On the other hand, I wanted to remind the reader of what theatrical posters *used* to look like. The great, hand-drawn posters of Drew Struzan, for example, who dazzled in the ’80s with his takes on “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Goonies,” and “Better Off Dead,” just to name a few.
Machete poster designed by Rocco Malatesta
Hopefully these designers will spark a resurgence in “the art of the one-sheet.” Today most theatrical film posters merely communicate a film’s cast. This is a far cry from when one-sheets used to really motivate one to see a film. I remember first seeing the film poster for “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” I had absolutely no concept of what the film was about, yet (albeit at only 8) *had* to see it.
Almost Famous poster designed by Sabrina Jackson
YTD: How does film posters today has changed the way people appreciate films?
MATTHEW: Even though mainstream theatrical films often carry huge budgets, the budget seems to be front-loaded into special effects and casting. It’s all about maximizing profits on an international scale, and with that often comes a very watered-down screenplay and marketing campaign. It’s too difficult for studios (…from at least their perspective) to deliver a thoughtful, inventive poster since it needs to go through multiple hands for approval (e.g., the producers, the director, studio heads, actors). I suppose it’s just easier to say “Hey – see this – Will Smith is in it!” Long gone are posters such as “The Exorcist” or even “Animal House,” which really painted the feeling of what the film would deliver.
Terminator 2 poster designed by Dani Blazquez
YTD: How did you select the artists?
MATTHEW: I went through over 10,000 images and wanted to include a wide representation of artistic styles, film genres, and decades.
Many artists tend to sway into the hand-drawn or minimalist camps, so I tried to include designers that were including their own twists in their approach. Michael Whaite of the UK, for example, creates film art as neon signs! A totally fresh approach, and very effective.
Matthew spent many weeks pairing poster images for the book based on theme. Each page contains a single image, and the left-hand image visually correlates with the right-hand image to make each page turned to really pop for readers.
Batman VS. Dracula poster design by Dylan Todd
YTD: Which of the posters did you enjoy the most or your most favorite?
MATTHEW: Since I was raised on “Mad” magazines, “Garbage Pail Kids,” “Wacky Packages,” and the like – I definitely have a soft spot for anything cartoonish and hand-drawn. I remember spending hours as a kid staring at video store box art, and the hand-drawn covers tended to indicate either a screwball comedy or a horror flick, which is where you would find me camping out.
A variety of posters from the books will be signed by film starts for giveaways. Here’s Dee Wallace signing “Popcorn” movie poster prints, which were designed by Chris Garofalo.
However, I also have a interest in strong minimalist design. Victor Hertz is a perfect example. His “Coffee & Cigarettes” poster, for example, is brilliant. It’s not easy to boil down an entire film into a clean and simple, yet clever two-dimensional image.
Coffee and Cigarettes poster designed by Viktor Hertz
YTD: When and how can we get a copy of the book?
MATTHEW: The book is available worldwide on October 28! It’s $34.99 USD, but is available less expensively on-line at most bookstores. The perfect gift for film or design buffs in your life! Just sayin’.
The Thing poster designed by Justin Bartlett
If you are an ardent moviegoer or just love to explore the art of underground posters, this amazing book is a must have! Matthew Chojnaki is also the author of the award-winning ’80s vinyl cover art compendium Put the Needle on the Record. Visit his website for more info.
What do you think of this book? Have you seen some underground posters lately that you really liked? Share your thoughts in the comments below!