SXSW Nerdlocker Report: Art and Advertising: Two Sides of the One Sheet


Today I got to check out a small panel in the SXSW convention center about new wave movie posters from the standpoint of artists and business owners alike. “New wave” refers to the posters that are coming out from the likes of places like Mondo – that is, illustrated posters and not the photoshopped floating head posters we normally see when films are advertised. The panel contained Justin Ishmael of Mondo (the panel moderator Roger Tinch referred to him as Mr. Mondo), Justin Erickson of Phantom City Creative, artist Sam Smith, and artist Akiko Stehrenberger.

The panel covered several topics including the thoughts on the new wave renaissance of movie posters where illustration is coming back into play. It seemed to me that the main focal point of the panel kind-of leaned toward talking about the hurdles of developing movie posters for studios. Studios sometimes do not communicate what they want efficiently, and sometimes what studios want isn’t very creative or inspiring.

The only Studio Ghibli poster from Mondo so far...

One such story of studio trouble was when Akiko was commissioned to create Bond movie images. She spent hours and hours laboriously painting these images. When the studio received them, they sent them back and said that they needed it to look more like something Shepard Fairey would do. Overall, however, everyone on the panel said that everything is not all negative with studios and that they enjoy their work.

Maybe I am biased, but I thought Justin Ishmael of Mondo stole the show, but then again, he was in a different spot entirely. These other people are artists, and he is the creative director of Mondo. As such, he was able to speak about certain aspects of business such as licensing for the Star Wars and Studio Ghibli series.

Speaking of the Studio Ghibli license, Justin said that they did have an Ansin print lined up for the Studio Ghibli retrospective at the Drafthouse. The print contained all the Ghibli characters lined up at the airport waiting for a plane going to New York. The studio rejected the print because they said it was disrespectful – none of the characters would ever do such a thing. But seriously, how cool would an Ansin Ghibli print have been?

Akiko's Funny Games Poster
The next to last portion of the panel allowed each person to talk about his or her favorite movie poster he/she has done. Akiko’s favorite was the hand-painted Funny Games poster. She talked about how she fought with the studios to keep the image simple and not “Hollywood-ized” with blood, etc. Sam Smith’s favorite was one he did real quick of Before Sunrise and After Sunset. He said it didn’t take him that long to do, but it was something that came out perfect. Justin Erickson’s favorite was his The Burning poster. He said the movie wasn’t all that great after all, but he
wanted to capture the ’80s slasher boom poster style (side note: this is my favorite PCC poster as well). Finally, Justin Ishmael talked about the Horkey/Vania Dracula poster. He said if it didn’t have the text or anything, he would bet it could go in some kind of high end gallery, and people could talk about how brilliant it is.

The final portion of the panel allowed for each participant to talk about a favorite movie poster in general. Akiko’s favorite was a Japan sheet for Apocalypse Now; Justin Erickson’s was Nightmare on Elm Street; Sam’s was a movie poster with some lipstick on it (I am afraid I did not hear the name of the movie as I was distracted by 30+ people coming in for the next panel); and Justin Ishmael’s was completely opposite of everyone else’s and was some crazy Alligator movie poster that looked like a kid’s movie but was not.

Overall, the event was entertaining in that I got to learn about art from the business perspective. I think the take-home lesson from this panel was that you need some thick skin in the art world – a lot of stuff is going to get rejected.

Justin Ishmael's favorite movie poster

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