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On three occasions, I brought a video camera with me while I was working as an artist for Seiniger Advertising, creating full color, fully realized mockups for movie poster designs, also referred to as "comps" (short for comprehensives). The videos on this page were shot around Christmastime of 1988.
This motion picture advertising boutique was run by Tony Seiniger, a giant in the industry, responsible for literally hundreds of hugely successful campaigns. Jaws, James Bond films, Born on the Fourth of July, Risky Business, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, The Firm, Major League, Three Amigos, Ghost, The Hulk, I could go on forever.
It was by far the most stressful, creatively challenging job I ever had, you never knew what you would be called upon to do that day as an artist, up against the most ridiculous deadlines. We were expected to create everything that an artist working in Photoshop can do today, every effect, every graphic style and trick we accomplished with our bare hands, airbrushes, color Xeroxes, Chromatechs, and anything else we could get our hands on.
Not that anyone could tell but I went in terrified the first year or so, fearful that I wouldn't be up to the challenge. Fortunately I thrived on this type of unbridled turmoil and ended up staying, on and off, for eight years, considerably longer than most were able (or willing) to hang in there.
Tony Seiniger in 1988
"Seiniger and crew are the New York Yankees of the profession." remarked Richard Kahn, past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
In 1988, Seiniger Advertising was located on the corner of West Third Street and La Jolla in West Hollywood, in a vine covered building with high walls, electronic gates and no signage save the number 8201. (The company moved to Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills in early 1994.)
The place was often referred to as "Seiniger University" because, when you left this place, you could find work anywhere in the industry. Competitors and the motion picture studios knew - if you survived Seiniger you could hang anywhere.
One of my favorite illustrators (and a fellow I met at Seinger) William Stout had this to say in The Comics Journal about working there: "It's all Photoshop now. It's a shame -- now everything looks the same. It's really boring. When I was working in what I consider the heyday of movie posters, that agency, Tony Seiniger and Associates, was one of the most exciting places an artist could visit. You never knew what you were going to see. I'd walk in there and there would be Pete Palombi's poster for Travels With My Aunt done in the style of Toulouse Lautrec. There would be Drew Struzan's Leyendecker-meets-Mucha stuff, really gorgeous work. Barry Jackson did his first poster there for Escape From New York. Dan Goozee did this great wood block-style poster for Streets of Fire that looked like Russian agitprop. It was a total "Wow!" You never knew what to expect. What am I going to see next? How are we going to promote this film? What kind of visual adventure are we going to have this time? And now it's so dull. It's the same, same, same."
First up, here's a segment from the Channel 11 Fox Morning News with Tony and his VP at the time, Mike Kaiser. Sorry about the bad reception, LA's cable TV sucked in '88. The artist you see hunched over the drawing board is yours truly - if I'd known I was going to be on camera that day, I would have worn a nicer shirt!
I hop into the car to drive to work, down Beverly Boulevard from Silver Lake, in my 1969 Mustang (I had three of them that I finally combined into one gorgeous vehicle). Artist Andy Snider is exiting his classic VW bug outside the office and we see Dawn Teitelbaum arriving with her new puppy, Butch. Joe Quinn, the accountant, bounces down the steps. Willa Koch shows us what she's working on, she died from a heroin overdose sometime around 1993. Some people have all the luck!
Client liaison Maren Moebius is at the head of the line as the crew is lined up for some sort of breakfast spread, Valerie Hennigan is playing with the puppy. Next I wandered into Dawn's office, she went on to co-found the very successful entertainment ad agency BLT along with husband Clive Baillie who was also working for Seiniger at this time. Then on to the main bullpen room. Hold the camera still, Billy!
In the smaller bullpen, the guy with the other video camera is Kevin Robie, he went on to art direct Movieline magazine. The impossibly gorgeous Andy Snider is working with Dawn on a Hollywood Reporter ad. Is that Jennifer Paley, granddaughter of CBS's William Paley, seen before Troy Alders passes by? Troy had more energy than anyone I ever met, he moved to San Francisco to become a highly respected artist and teacher, a fantastic talent. He designed posters for the Grateful Dead and is now an Art Director for Lucasfilm. Then Andy and Evan Wright sing their appropriate homage to Seiniger Advertising.
That's production manager John Barry with a (wax) ice cream cone on his head. He's working, honest! Willa is ordering rush, overnight typesetting. Finally, I'm shocked - shocked, I tell you - to discover everyone's left for the night and Andy and I are the only ones left still working. Poor Andy, he was on salary but I got paid by the hour. Those crazy kids didn't know any better!
In this footage shot on the day before Christmas break, we are once again eating. I can't tell you how rare it is to see art director Olga Kaljakin sitting in repose, she was constantly battling deadlines, as we all were. Olga died in November, 2008. She was a tremendous talent, a warm friend and will be greatly missed by everyone. Copywriter Steve Miller is seen next, he went on to Paramount shortly after this was shot.
Camera guy Mark Estrada demonstrates one of his deadly Exacto Knife tricks - he also enjoyed seeing how fast he could spike the blade between the fingers of his outstretched hand without cutting himself. When Mark left for rival agency Dazu he took a lot of the heart of the place with him. And all ten fingers, miraculously.
John Barry is seen briefly, in a red shirt and black vest, he's a VP at Paramount now. John Nakama (pictured above) is working studiously in the background while the rest of us goofed off. Typical. He was the best there was, I strived to be as good and as fast as John but like everyone else I came up short. Then, with help from Evan, I take you on a tour of the front office. Too bad we never made it to the impressive lobby but we do see the lovely receptionist Leora Tobias (Tony always had the best receptionists) and Tony's administrative assistant who's name escapes me.
Seiniger must have been out of town when these home movies were shot, a rare time when the staff could relax a bit; usually we were going a mile a minute all day and well into the night. In the course of any year, you could literally count slow days like these on one hand. Typically, in the art department, we had no earthly idea at 6:00pm when we would be going home at night.
Within a year almost everyone you see here left the agency and a new regime swept in, along with a new crop of young talent, leading to my favorite period.
I left Seiniger Advertising in 1994, the perfect time to move on as everyone was transitioning to Photoshop and I just didn't want to sit in front of a computer all day. Ironically, I created TVparty and began designing web sites for radio stations, universities and record companies soon after, I must have spent 16 hours a day in front of the screen to get started on the internet - but that was no big deal after years of working the most ungodly hours.
The main thing I remember about those times was that battle cry heard twice a day at the Third Street studio - "Ticketing on La Jolla, ticketing on La Jolla!"
Like I said, you had to be there...
December 15, 2008 - 9:09am
Cary O'Dell has written a wonderful article on Beverly Garland's role on Decoy and how she helped break new ground for female roles on television. Check it out.
From last year - Diane Werts, former TV critic for Newsday, has what looks like a wonderful book out that I'm anxious to read - it's all about Christmas and television. Here's a review posted that I shamelessly lifted from Amazon by Lee Goldberg, a TV historian and writer producer (Diagnosis Murder, JAG) and author of several amazing books on TV, including one of my favorites, Unsold TV Pilots: "Christmas on Television is the ultimate stocking-stuffer for anyone who loves television. Just about every TV series has celebrated the holidays in its own special way, giving us some of the most memorable, touching, and truly surreal moments in television history. In this book Diane Werts covers holiday celebrations from almost every show, from the obscure (Something So Right and Martial Law) to the cultish (The Man from UNCLE and Xena Warrior Princess), and from classics (I Love Lucy and Twilight Zone) to recent popular hits (The West Wing and Everybody Love Raymond). Her thorough, engaging, and surprisingly touching examination of yuletide television makes for fascinating reading that reveals the surprisingly deep and emotional connection that exists between viewers and the television characters they invite into their homes--especially during the holidays."
Here's a bit from last night's SNL:
December 14, 2008 - 8:50am
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