Saturday, April 26, 2008

Theater of War

A few days ago I posted the poster for the Tribeca Film Festival showing of Theater of War, an excellent documentary by John Walter. It was fun, especially getting to work on such a huge scale compared to DVD cover size. It had a really tight schedule, so it meant some late nights, but ultimately I'm really happy with how it came out. I originally presented John with three options:

This one I initially thought was probably most effective at getting across the basic premise of the film to an uninitiated viewer—I was trying to present the idea of a comprehensive portrait of Mother Courage from many different angles, perspectives, and interpretations. Much of this was inspired by a book John lent me of posters from the Berliner Ensemble, a theater Brecht worked with after World War II. I liked the idea of using so many different designs-within-a-design, because it allowed me to make reference to a lot of different aspects of the film and really give an idea of the complexity, but the overall "wall of broadsides" gives it a nice graphic focus. (And yes, that is Karl Marx in there.) I did a revision to make it a little less text heavy:

...but ultimately we went in a different direction. Here's the second option:

When we first discussed the brief, John talked a bit about the idea of Brechtian collage being not about mixing elements but more about juxtaposing concepts while keeping them separate, so this is my take on that. The three images are meant to represent the artist (Brecht), the art (Mother Courage), and the outside world (the helicopter—a reference both to war generally and to a specific moment in the film where the outdoor rehearsal is interrupted by the noise of a helicopter). This is a good example, I think, of a design that works really well once you're familiar with the film (or, I hope so, at least), but doesn't quite do enough to explain it or draw in the uninitiated. Still, I liked it.

One of the coolest moments on this project was after I showed John the comps which used the helicopter motif, (both #1 and #2), John said that he was happy that I picked up on that, since that was a favorite moment of his, too. So much so, that after seeing it show up in the poster designs, he decided to add another shot of the helicopter to a montage elsewhere in the film, to drive home the metaphor. I haven't seen the final cut yet, so I don't know if that ultimately made it in, but still, a very cool feeling to actually influence (in a very very minor way) the finished film. That never happens on any Criterion projects!

And finally, the ultimate winner:

This comes from a moment in the film when, in the midst of a rehersal, Meryl Streep breaks character for a moment and stares up at (if I remember correctly), the director, lit directly from above. So it's a great moment because she's both character and actress, both in the moment and within the constructed reality of the play. (It's also a big portrait of a big movie star, so that doesn't hurt either.) I didn't know this when I started on the drawing, but John told me later that while he was filming that moment, he looked through the lens and thought, "that's it, that's the poster!" So why argue with destiny, really?

Some quick tweaks to the credit block and a little resizing of the image, and here's the final poster:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Obama Nation

This is cool: Josh Shalek of Portland, OR just wrote me to say that he took it upon himself to make up a T-shirt of the Obama design posted here a while back. Indiana and North Carolina residents are encouraged to follow suit!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Going to the Tribeca Film Festival?

Anyone in the New York area this coming week should be aware of the Tribeca Film Festival. One of the films premiering at the festival is an excellent documentary called Theater of War, directed by John Walter, which takes as it's starting point the Public Theater's 2006 Shakespeare in the Park performance of Mother Courage, and goes on to explore the life of Berthold Brecht, the relationship between war and art, the nature of theater... it's expansive, and really effective. The version I've seen wasn't yet quite the final cut, but it was pretty great. Well worth checking out if you're in the area. If you're not, well, hopefully it'll come to you soon. Check here for showtimes.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I designed the poster (seen above), of course.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

We Came Along With A Hammer

Are you looking for a good read that updates more than once per whenever-I-feel-like-it? Try We Came Along With A Hammer, the new blog started by my friends ******* and *******, that is, "Diablevert" and "Dreadful Penny." They're going through every Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and providing snark and analysis while trying to determine how these "great" works really stand the test of time. An engaging and entertaining read, even if you haven't read the books they're talking about. Which, let's be honest, you haven't.

Possibly my favorite bit thus far? On The Magnificent Ambersons (worth investigating for all you Orson Welles or Wes Anderson fans):

"Booth Tarkington’s authorial claim to fame here should be creating the biggest twit in world literature, a Mona Lisa of a portrait in asshat-itude."

(This post might seem off-topic for this blog, but I made their logo graphic, so it counts.)