As the Hollywood award season wraps up this Sunday with the Academy Awards, Nova discussed what we could contribute to the Oscar conversation from a creative perspective. While we may be qualified to create visual marketing through print, digital and video we are not known to storyboard two hour’s worth of feature film.
Everyone seeks out a film for different reasons. Some love the entertainment, some love the artistry, some are compelled by clever trailers, or perhaps, famous leading men or women. I would venture that many even seek out films solely on its nomination standing alone in order to make their own opinions on who the award winner really should be. Regardless of why you seek out a film, a marketing strategy pulled you in.
As far as marketing is concerned, what about movie posters? Does seeing your favorite actor’s face at 3.5 foot all draw you to purchasing a ticket? Well-executed typography, phenomenal Photoshop work, and excellent photography has a way of merging a story together or even alluding enough mystery to draw consumers in. Many may simply walk past these giant prints framed outside the theatre, but a creative like myself cannot help taking a moment to give a little critique or appreciation. (Truly, we all live for these sorts of things.)
Designers have even taken it upon themselves to reimagine movie posters for films they love. From minimalistic approaches to cult classics to hand painting surrealistic interpretations, a creative never stops seeking new solutions.
For a little fun surrounding the Oscars, I wanted to look at all the Best Picture Nominees official* movie posters a little differently. For the sake of this experiment, it’s important to note that I personally have not watched any of the nominated films listed here (I accept your skeptic glances, but I assure you I’m not the only one in this boat.) The general premise of each, however, is clear.
The plan? Take my complete unbiased knowledge of these films and make assessments of the plot based solely on the movie posters. I shall jot down immediate, unfiltered thoughts based from a designer/consumer perspective and then for added entertainment, I will compare the official poster to a fan-created poster to accentuate the difference between studio marketing direction and the results of someone without outside influence creating their own interpretation of the same film. My hope is you’ll see a vivid contrast between commercial creative and personally art directed creative.
Here we go! (In no particular order…)
The official poster (on the left) gives a clear visual of the layers to this story – a juxtaposition between a heartwarming embrace and facial expressions of fear. Broken glass alludes to breaking a veneer and shattering an illusion. While I don’t feel like I’m being told much of anything about the story with these shards of glass, they are giving you a lot of angles with this imagery. The mystery and intrigue are planted here even if there’s a lot to digest.
The poster created by Francesco Francavilla simplifies the story to a more minimal approach. Keeping the colors monochromatic keeps your eyes in the same central place, but there’s no nod to family and relationships this way. The complexity is less obvious, but why is this man falling from the sky? It’s less clear in this one that the movie is a psychological thriller, the dust particles could easily be interpreted as stars in space.
The Shape of Water
Without previously knowing that Shape of Water is a love story, it is clear with this poster that a romantic connection exists between the two characters. An embrace underwater highlighting the logistics of love being incredibly dangerous for the woman. A depth is created with such a dark palette of blues, but a spotlight on the pair tells me their tryst is front and center regardless of the odds against them.
The watercolor approach to the poster created by Tony Stella (@studiotstella) and Midnight Marauder (@midmarauder) creates a classic horror movie feel, but with a softened edge. The creature looks much more threatening in this layout and it’s not clear how the woman is connected, especially not as a romantic interest.
Taking context clues of the film’s name, the woman elegantly dressed and Daniel Day-Lewis so largely shadowing behind her one can decipher that this film has something to do with a relationship and fashion. Vicky Kreips’ longing glance indicates a relationship, perhaps a difficult one is at the forefront of this film. Meanwhile, the poster created by Talenthouse takes the “thread” part of the title quite literally but creates a similar visual. A connection between the Kreips and Day-Lewis created by the silhouette of her gown. I, personally, love the inclusion of handwork of any kind, but I can see why a studio would choose photography for legibility and star power in this case.
Both of these takes on the Dunkirk poster use blues and blacks to articulate the seriousness and overall heartache that is this subject matter. War-time films rarely paint themselves in warm, inviting palettes. It’s clear to me from absorbing these images that this is a lonely journey of a film – cold and tragic.
What I notice right away from of these posters is the orange-y, rose gold hues. This is clearly a signature to Lady Bird’s character. The official poster leaves much to be questioned outside of the story centering around a young female. It’s clear she’s in a school, possibly a Catholic thanks to the crucifix hanging in the corner. A story about adolescence and growing up always gets the opportunity to steer in brighter hues. What’s so fascinating about the poster created by NoomCo is that elements of growth and transition are included in the visual. You get a little bit more to this character’s development in the collage – a boyfriend, her mother, etc.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
I remember seeing the trailer for this film months ago and laughing out loud at Frances McDorman’s blunt delivery. Never cross an angry mother was my takeaway at the time and the alternate poster for this one hones in on the face of a woman determined. I don’t know much about Missouri, but it’s not hard to guess that the official poster is supremely accurate about its landscape of a small town. I gravitate to the poster designed by Tom Coupland because that fiery sunset color is amazing. The official poster leaves much to be desired for me, but it does quite literally match the title!
I love the metaphor they’ve created with the stripes being steps. You quickly understand the pressure and stakes on the line for the Washing Post at this time in history. Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks nearly at the bottom of what seems to be an infinite staircase drives this point home without using their faces to sell the film. Their names selling the movie more than the title itself proves that the studio was banking on their star power would be enough for me to take the dive.
The alternate poster by Adam Juresko takes the opposite route, using Hanks and Streep’s faces foremost. The title of the film larger than anything, but banking that the viewer will recognize the Washington Post’s signature font to put the concept together. I like that there’s a darkness to this one, and it’s very clear it’s about a newspaper, but I’m not certain everyone would recognize Meryl Streep as quickly this way.
The studios sometimes reach out to independent illustrators or designers to create artwork as promotional material, but it seems to be that The Darkest Hour was not one of those films. Both posters I found that were “official” took similar approaches. Putting Gary Oldman front and center as Winston Churchill smoking a cigar and clearly under stress. The posters both have a straightforward impact – if you’re a history buff you’d know how dramatic this movie will lend itself. As someone consuming this without context, it’s clear to me that the special effects makeup deserves all the Oscars, Gary Oldman looks just like Churchill!
Call Me By Your Name
Last, but surely not least, is another coming-of-age story. However, this one is clearly solely focused on the development of a relationship whereas Lady Bird was centrally focused on self-identity. Call Me By Your Name gives you plenty of insight with the inclusion of rave reviews at the top – without those reviews, it’s hard to make any additional assumptions about the story. While beautiful in its simplicity, the alternate poster created by Raph Lumbroso leaves even more questions. After seeing this film, I am sure the peach has plenty of context, but without seeing the film it connects to James and the Giant Peach more than anything.
What I love about movie posters is the chance to tell a very complex story in print. You have mere seconds to grasp the attention of your audience, but your audience is nearly endless. Your creation is seen by thousands of eyes from the internet to movie theatres far and wide. And! If you’re lucky…they become collector’s items that fans showcase in their own homes.
Having taken the time to search for movie posters and seeing the creative liberties other professionals take it’s safe to say that film studios rely heavily on photography to sell their stories. It’s also worth a venture online to see the talent and creativeness of the artists around the world interpreting films in their own styles.
Are there any of these posters that speak to you? Did any of them make you want to see these films more or less?
As an agency that has built a small collective of truly talented creatives – words, code, animation, illustration, you name it – Nova takes the time to appreciate your vision and tell your story in the most effective way.
* Official being subjective, as many posters change throughout the marketing process and different markets around the world.