Thursday, February 3, 2011

Broadcast News

This was not an easy one. I really like Broadcast News, but it's a film whose appeal is primarily in the characters and dialogue, rather than its visual aesthetic. So finding a visual to represent the film was no easy task. Plus, what angle to approach it from? Media critique? Love triangle? Morality play? Straight-up comedy?

At the briefs meeting we settled in on a particular moment between Holly Hunter's character and William Hurt's character, their first newscast together. It gives you the setting (behind-the-scenes of TV news), and a sense of the connection between these two characters. In the film, it's a moment where, despite the action buzzing around them, Hunter and Hurt start to seem like the only two people in the room. So, good: an important moment for the film.

I took a couple swings: first, a pretty straightforward take, and one with some color bars added to give a little color and visual interest to the top of the frame…



Plus a couple not-particularly exciting directions…



But I worried that all of those privileged the "serious" aspects of the film over the comedic aspects--an the film is funny, after all! There's a moment in the film when Albert Brooks describes William Hurt as "the devil," and you could make a case for that as the big question of the film: is that character an innocent, or an immoral manipulator, or somewhere in between? Is Holly Hunter's character naively self-righteous or the last bastion of integrity? So I came up with this slightly goofy idea:



I like it because you can read it as an indictment of William Hurt, or you can read it as Albert Brooks' character off to the side, childishly scribbling over his rival's head. This was probably my favorite of the bunch. (Though admittedly, breaking "BROAD-/CAST" like that does sort of imply it's some weirdly sexist movie about women in the newsroom—that wouldn't have been a terrible alternate title for Anchorman, now that I think of it.)

But James L. Brooks wasn't happy with it. So I went back and simplified a bit:



But now it's getting REALLY somber. So I tried to add a little energy by taking another angle on the same scene, this time from inside the booth:



And yet another variation on the theme:



That last was a bit TOO cheeseball. The ones above got a better reaction, but the concern was that the reality brooke down too much… why would Hurt ever be on camera from that angle?

So I tried tweaking some earlier versions again, trying to get a title treatment that would say "NEWS" more clearly, and hopefully bring a little more energy to those.



Ultimately I was working at cross-purposes with the image… that shot, that moment, is about the quiet connection between the two, so adding "excitement" to that just makes a muddle. So, how about trying a new "onscreen" image in the "from the booth" shots? Many tweaks later…



…we had a final cover.

6 comments:

JacMohnson said...

Great cover! Love the color bar version, too.

Oliver said...

There's a saying: if the poster shows only the back of stars' heads -- 'Quiz Show', 'Beyond the Sea' -- the film is never a hit.

David Hargrove said...

What a process. A difficult film to categorize, indeed. I like the solution: all three principals are featured full-face, you feature my favorite scene in the film (feeding the lines), and there's a sly reference to CBS News (once the leader of the field) in your choice of font.

emmanuel said...

i love the shot you ended up using of albert brooks
again what a great packaging to a wonderful movie.

marthagpettit said...

Thanks so much for these design process posts, I just can't get enough of them!

marthagpettit said...

Thanks so much for these design process blogs, I really love seeing the iterations and the thought process and back and forth that leads to the final version.