You need to be able to grab us in a glance, make us think, “Wow. What’s that? I want to see more.”
Artwork comes in many forms; one sheet, film poster, billboard, DVD sleeve and VOD thumbnail and needs to work across all of them. You’re hustling for attention among hundreds, if not thousands of other films. Great artwork can tip the balance from getting seen to floundering in obscurity.
It all boils down to being able to translate the essence of your film into one single compelling image that reflects the story and feel of your movie.
How do you make great movie artwork?
Take Great Production Stills
If there’s one piece of advice you take from this site, it should be this. Take high quality production stills. Hire a professional photographer, or rope in a talented friend with a good camera. Take photos. Take hundreds of photos.
You need your cast in character, on location, in action. That beautiful shot your DOP set up for your climatic scene? Get your photographer to take the same picture. You need stills that capture the tone and feel of your film. You can’t just pull film stills. The image quality isn’t strong enough for artwork and press.
It’s the one of biggest frustrations of sales agents and distributors about independent filmmakers. Film’s a visual medium. You can’t sell a film effectively if you don’t have the materials and strong images.
It’s not just about the artwork. You’ll need photos for your website, social media, electronic press kit, DVD extras with behind the scenes shots of the cast and crew and even set updates for funders.
Work With A Graphic Designer
So, you’ve got great production stills. Get some help. Work with a graphic designer. Your artwork is going to be one of the first things a sales agent, distributor or your audience sees about your film. It’s worth investing to get it right. They can help you create a powerful image and balance your layout. Title, image, tag line, cast and crew credits. Bring examples of movie artwork you like in the same genre of your film for them to see.
Think about how your artwork will look across multiple platforms. Will it still have impact as a VOD thumbnail? As a film poster?
Your choice of font might feel minor, but it speaks volumes. It contributes massively to the feel and look of artwork and can be an amazing tool to reflect your film.
Check out Saul Bass for inspiration. One of the design giants of the last century, his work is iconic, from posters, title sequences and logos. He’s the godfather of great movie artwork and worked with Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese.
Look at Vertigo. Bass created the font to reflect the off balance disquieting tone of the film using hand drawn off kilter characters. It provokes emotion without using a single frame from the film.
For more recent examples, how about American Beauty, Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting?
Imagine any of these using Comic Sans. Or Arial. Or Times New Roman. Do you think they would have the same impact? Create the same feel? Fit with the tone of the film?
Put Your Star Front and Centre
If you’re fortunate enough to have a well known name actor in your film, make the most of it. Their face can be the hook for your film. Make sure to take portraits in character when you getting your great production stills.
Understand Genre Conventions
Every film genre has its own conventions and visual language for artwork from colour palette to font. It’s a shorthand that conveys to the audience what they’re going to see. Know what they are.
Horror tends towards dark colour palettes and serif fonts, with blood red as a colour accent.
Romance has its leads connecting with each other, in warm tones.
Sci Fi is often monochromatic, with stark whites representing a futuristic feel and clean fonts.
Action posters signal their genre with explosions and weapons, showing the leads in their environment.
Comedy – bold bright titles.
If you get a sales agent or distributor attached to your film, they’ll often create or rework your movie artwork. Different styles of artwork might sell a film more effectively in different territories. Be flexible and open to change and suggestion. Their focus and business is selling and marketing films.
Agree, disagree, questions, thoughts? Or maybe you just want to talk about your favourite movie artwork. Hit me up in the comments.
Picture Credit: The Grand Budapest Hotel