Son of movie posters
Often movie poster art directors and designers will only last three or four years at an agency or studio and then move on to greener pastures only to discover there are no greener pastures - merely other grazing fields for mad art cows headed to the slaughter.
It was tough work. I remember one art director in particular who would practically kill herself (on SO many occasions) to make the deadlines and to please the boss. But when the agency head got into one of his moods, there was no stopping him - he would go all the way to humiliation station. (Where do these Hollywood execs get their management techniques, the Judy Garland School of Business?!?)
During one tirade, in frustration, the boss threw a can of spray mount at the wall just inches from the art director's head and her only thought was, 'who can I get to help me make the changes the boss just asked for?'
The boss would typically come back in an hour or so and praise her work or decide to really play things out and extend the deadline in disgust - thereby extending the time that everyone would swing in the wind.
The art director and designers would work furiously until four in the morning and be back at seven-thirty to make last minute changes and copy everything so that the agency head was out the door at ten. A schedule like this makes a family or personal life difficult. Click here for a photo of a Seiniger crew after a thirty hour day in 1989.
Star Trek VIIn the example on the right, we have not just heads in the sky, but heads in the vacuum of space! These comps were based on rough sketches by illustrator Bob Peak, who illustrated the first Star Trek movie poster.
What COULD you do for this poster, if all the co-star heads had go on it?!? The campaign for Star Trek 6 ultimately took a different turn, but it seemed to me that the supporting players in the original Star Trek films deserved to have their faces on the poster for the last "classic" Star Trek movie.
I heard it was William Shatner that killed this idea with the supporting players featured on the poster, he supposedly had a clause in his contract that even restricted the salaries of his old series co-stars.
Here are posters that could have been, created by one of the great design teams of the early nineties, Henry Lehn and David Jewett.
The final poster (above) with art by John Alvin
was based on a Bob Peak sketch.
Flesh and Bone
Sometimes it's better to just leave the star's faces off of the poster entirely, and try to peak the curiosity of the viewer. Sometimes that sells tickets.
A lot of avant garde designs were tried for this moody picture - the one at left would have looked great in the movie theater frames and bus shelters where the glass is usually shattered anyway. Come to think of it, maybe it just would have given vandals something to aim for.
It's not unusual for studios to commission several fully realized paintings for poster ideas that are never used for public display. Often, a rejected campaign for a film that flops at the box office will be used for the home video release.
I would guess that ninety-five percent of everything created each day on the creative side of this industry probably ends up in the trash within a few weeks. That's either the sign of a healthy, robust creative environment or. . . well, I won't say.
One of the perks of working in the film advertising business is that you get to see so many photographs and beautiful illustrations (like this one on the right by Michael Husser) by the world's top talent that few others will ever get to see. And there can be three different agencies or design studios pitching campaigns for the same film, so you can imagine how many ideas are considered and quickly discarded. And how many beautiful pieces of art go unseen.
No big deal, everybody gets paid regardless!
This dramatic piece on the left came close to being the final poster for the planned final Rocky picture.
This striking design is by powerhouse art director Clive Bailey, responsible for an incredible number of high impact campaigns over the last twenty years or so. I would list some of them here, but he probably has press agents who do that for him.
This is the kind of 'in-your-face' campaign that this sequel needed; the printed poster focused on the chain around Rocky's neck. The movie bombed.
Around this time, I was working with a comp artist and illustrator named Willa. Poor Willa had a heroin problem and I was the only one in the office who knew about it. She swore me to secrecy and I kept that secret, covering for her at work and generally being a good enabler(?!?).
This poor girl was working until 10 or 11 every night, shooting up at home, staying up until 5, and then rush into the office by 9 or 9:30 (on a good day). Her own boyfriend didn't know she was strung out, you had to admire her spunk!
Willa was a very gifted artist and because her back was to the room, she developed the singular talent of being fast asleep at the drawing board looking like she was hard at work. She tried hard to beat her addiction and better herself but her work suffered and she moved on to other lesser agencies.
Willa was found dead by one of her coworkers who went to check on her when she didn't show up for work. I remember one art director running out of his office with glee at the news she was dead - Hollywood's a cold town, I'm tellin' ya!
One of the titles batted around for this movie was: Rocky V - The Final Bell. We know now that it wasn't the final bell after all - Rocky VI hit theaters in 2008!
Here is an old trick that gets tried a lot but it never works. Another approach to the heads in the sky gimic - turn the star's face into the sun or the moon.
How would you like to wake up one night and find Cher's enormous head up in the starry sky? Would it send you running to the movie theater or into the street screaming?
At least Cher still had her original face then.
This variation and the final poster were art directed by the great Olga Kaljakan, a monument in the film industry, responsible for so many classic movie poster designs in her long and illustrious career that it would take an entire website just to list them all.
Sadly, Olga passed away in 2009. A few months before she died she sent me a testy email complaining that I was so complimentary about fellow art director Jeff Kerns who was a severe pain in her ass. I loved Olga, she gave as good as she got and she was the reason I was able to survive and flourish in those years.
"Double Van Damme! Double Van Damage!"
At right is a first draft sketch by comic book legend Neal Adams, art directed by Alex Swart. A similar sketch in the same batch ultimately became the final poster design (below) for this popular action picture.
Type treatments are applied to rough sketches like this one, then presented to the studios to get a go-ahead for special photo shoots and to determine what direction the advertising campaign might go in.
This example is one of those rare times when one of the preliminary sketches matched what the final poster became (sorry, I don't have it to show).
Most often, the finished poster for a film will look nothing like what the initial designs would suggest, the direction of any campaign can change wildly depending on how many people have input.
In Hollywood, too many cooks can not only spoil the broth, it's a miracle there's any broth at all!
Movie Poster Artists
page 1: Unseen Movie Posters
page 2: More Lost Movie Poster Designs
page 3: Son of Unseen Movie Posters
page 4: Yet Again, Unseen Movie Poster Designs
page 5: Movie Trailers of the 80s-90s
Page 6: Inside Seiniger Advertising - 1988
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