My film poster moodboard…

Posted: April 26, 2011 in Media

Above I have created a moodboard consisting of all the different posters I have been influenced by- and that I think are successful at promoting their films to audiences. Mostly I tried to keep to the same genre as my trailer- thriller and also ones that have themes of vengeance (such as ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’, ‘Se7en’ and ‘A Clockwork Orange’). These are the follow questions I think generated themselves from my moodboard and what my moodboard also made me consider about the creation of my own poster…

Should the heroes become the main feature of the poster?? I think this is quite a conventional move, as heroes are usually the protagonists of the film and therefore having them feature on the poster, usually alone, reinforces their importance within the film itself.  For example on ‘Inception’s poster the audience is made to focus mainly on Dom Cobb as well as the other heroic characters (his team) such as Ariadne. This is also used on ‘Taken’s poster where the main character and hero of the film (played by Liam Neeson) is the only character on one of the promotional posters for the film. Having the heroes on the poster also gets the audience immediately on side of the ‘good’ guys and has them sympathizing with or connecting to them (depending on how they’re presented on the poster) before they’ve even seen the film.

 What about the villains?? Almost as popular and well-known as heroes within films, the villains I think can be a much more interesting character to present on the poster. This is mostly because it presents the conflict and disruption of the equilibrium before we’ve even watched the film, so therefore we wonder who is going to restore it and how the villain will eventually be beaten. The best example perhaps being the presence of the villainous Joker on ‘The Dark Knight’s posters- as he is a well-known character already due to the film being a remake of older films/comic books/and TV shows he has the advantage perhaps of already having an existing fan base. Overall I don’t think villains are as popular as heroes to put on film posters- mostly because audiences may not have enough knowledge about the character to realise they’re a villain and therefore a character they shouldn’t connect with or ‘like’. Also, most posters are interesting as they show conflict and turmoil but do not reveal its cause, which is 9 times out of 10, the villain himself.

Also, what about the victims of the film?? Obviously not always a first choice as victims are usually short-lived and have minor roles most of the time also. But victims do have the advantage of revealing the disruption of the equilibrium through conveying that they are victims of something to the audience but not why, who is causing it and what happens to them. Such as Angier’s wife featuring on the poster for ‘The Prestige’- caught between the two protagonists conveying that she may become a victim due to their conflict. Most of the time though, I’ve noticed posters tend to convey the heroes themselves as victims on the poster, through various means, and then the audiences will sympathize with them and want to know what happened to them- thus they’ll want to go and see the film itself.

What about featuring all of these characters, a mixture of the three or both the villain and hero together?? I think this could be useful for conveying the sense of conflict within the film, making audience’s interested at the reasons behind this conflict, if it resolved etc. And also for giving us more characters to connect to and more information to help us understand more about the film before we even got to see it. ‘The Usual Suspects’ poster being perhaps the best example as it contains all of the main characters- including those who are heroes, victims and villains-  but it is clever enough to leave it all a mystery. So the audience sees all these character, can make their assumptions about each of them, but are still left unsure of what type of character they each actually play within the film.

Should no characters feature on the poster?? Should they be replaced by a simple yet effective prop or perhaps an illustrative piece?? Of course the prop has to hold a lot of significance and be interesting enough to grab the audience’s attention. The best example I think is the bar of soap on ‘Fight Club’s poster, which may be minimal but is simple and affective, as it works well with the tagline- ‘works great on blood stains’– indicating immediately that there will be a lot of humour as well as violence within the film. It also, seeming like an advertising campaign for the soap, reflects the strong themes of anti-consumerism and anti-materialistic lifestyles within the film. The simple use of the feather on Hitchcock’s ‘The Bird’s poster is equally effective, as it reinforces the main threat and source of conflict in the film without even featuring a single image of a character. Most of the time I’ve noticed that designers for the film poster may think this a little bit of a gamble, as there will be no stars/celebrities to attract audiences to the film (except perhaps their names) and it may look a little too simple. Therefore if props are significant, they are placed in the hands of the characters on posters also, like the guitar resting on the back of Joaquin Phoenix on ‘Walk the Line’s poster- reinforcing his character is musical and music is important to him. The props seem to tend to be more helpful if they are conveying or hinting more about the character to the audience- which is easier to see if the characters are actually holding or using the prop on the poster itself. 

What type of shot should the image on the poster be?? Obviously this is subjective to whatever meanings and messages the poster is trying to get across. A long shot, or extreme long shot for example, as used on ‘The Road’s poster indicates that the surroundings of the characters are just as important to the film as the characters themselves. It also indicates that the characters are alone- and it makes us wonder why this is and if it’ll change. The fact this allows us not to see any of the features or emotions of the characters also makes them seem dehumanized- as if they are insignificant and are not counted for- and again the audience will wonder why this is and who they really are. The same way that an extreme close up will be used primarily to heighten the emotions of characters, such as that used on the ‘Straw Dog’s poster to signify the character’s fear, as well as to perhaps conceal the character’s identity- like the extreme close up of the hand/knife on the ‘Inglorious Basterds’ poster. Most of the time I think it is the convention to have a plain old mid shot of the characters on the poster- as this helps to convey emotions as well as to not take up too much room on the poster and obviously, leave space for the poster’s other features, such as the image of Johnny Depp on the ‘Public Enemies’ poster.

What colours should feature on the poster?? Obviously ones that are bright, vibrant and most importantly, fit in with the ‘feel’ of the poster and the film it is promoting (mostly this is characterized by the genre of the film being promoted by the poster). For example, the colours on the poster for ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ are bold red with hints also of black and white- indicating the film may be of the thriller or horror genre- as the constant use of red indicates violence and perhaps even gore. The black makes the silhouette of the main character (Richard) stand out and also by keeping it a solid black makes his identity remain a mystery. Also, colours such as the solid yellow on the poster for the film ‘Taxi Driver’ reinforces the protagonist’s profession (as taxi’s in America are conventionally bright yellow) and furthermore signifies how important the protagonist’s job is to the film itself. Overall, I think for thriller film posters the standard colours are usually red, white and black (as I have discussed before) as they signify darkness, dark/upsetting themes, crime, innocence, victims, bloodshed, violence and danger- which most thrillers tend to contain. So just using these three colours instantly and easily gets across to audiences the kind of things the film being promoted will contain. This colour-code is also used on the posters for the films ‘Leon’, ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘Inglorious Basterds’, ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘The Hurt Locker’ and ‘The Birds’.

Portrait or Landscape?? Well, it seems conventional that film posters are portrait, although I’m not quite why this exactly is…anyway I suppose landscape has the advantage of being able to fit a full (and large) image of the  stars of the film upon it without any of them being ‘cut off’. It also allows the poster to be used for the DVD’s cover- as DVD’s are also conventionally portrait (and tend to have the film poster as its front cover). But, as I am not making a DVD cover I see no reason why landscape posters are necessarily just stuck to being on the sides of buses or billboards- as they can be just as creative, eye-catching and interesting. Take for example the ‘Inception’ landscape poster, as well as the ‘Dead Man’s Shoes’ one- which are equally as creative and eye-catching and also, as with ‘The Usual Suspects’ poster, allows for a wider shot if needed for a certain landscapes of a shot of a big group of people.

What about the film’s title?? Well it’s plain to see that the film’s title has to be clear, easy to spot and definitely not something audiences could easily miss- as it is, after all, the most important thing about the film in hindsight. If the audience don’t know the title of the film beforehand, how can they ask for a ticket to go and see it? It might sound a bit silly but it’s undeniably true.  Although at first I thought most posters had the film name in around the same place there are a lot of variations- as it depends I suppose on what the image is and how much space it takes up. For example, some posters have the title of the film at the bottom, below the image, like on ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’s posters. Whereas some may have it at the very top like on the ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Walk the Line’ posters, which I suppose reinforces the titles importance, as it is at the very very top. And then there are those who have the title in the centre, like on ‘The Green Mile’s poster- but I think generally film posters tend to stick to either the very top, or the very bottom of the poster to position the title. There are also those who creatively make the title of the film a part of the image, which I think is quite eye-catching and clever, such as how the image of the soap on ‘Fight Club’s poster actually has the film’s title carved into it, and how the poster for ‘I’m Still Here’ has it’s title intertwining with the image of its main star, Joaquin Phoenix. But wherever the font is positioned, it still seems to be put vaguagely in the centre, reinforcing it’s importance and making sure it is spotted. In terms of font this varies obviously with what type of film is being promoted. The poster for ‘True Grit’ for example having a very old-style western type font to reinforce its genre of a western film- and ‘Schindler’s List’ having a font which is long and thin- reinforcing ideas that it will be a very harrowing and upsetting film. Nonetheless the fonts for posters are usually pretty simple, as the designers do not want to risk overcomplicating things and therefore looking a bit tacky or too ‘over-thought’ perhaps. Thus usually bold and plain font is used with bold colours chosen specifically to reinforce what type of film is being promoted, which can be seen on the following posters: ‘Inception’, ‘In Bruges’, ‘Hard Candy’, ‘Buried’ etc

What about the tagline of the film?? Hmm…I’m kinda two-sided on whether I feel this matters or not. Because it can be helpful to give away certain aspects of the film, or even persuade audiences to want to see the film, as on the poster for ‘The Usual Suspects’- ‘5 criminals. One line up. No coincidence.’ it’s straight to the point, blunt and snappy. Yet it makes us quite intrigued to know why it’s not a coincidence and how these criminals might all be connected. But sometimes, I think taglines are easy for audiences to generally glance over and view as something not really as important as the other aspects of the poster. But of course the tagline is vital- it’s vital not to make amateur mistakes (like spelling or grammatical mistakes) as this could potentially destroy the whole impression the poster has upon audiences and therefore, destroy the film’s success. So it’s important to keep it simple but get ideas across and don’t make any mistakes. Or ramble. 

Where are the stars names and information?? conventionally I think, with most posters, these 2 things are quite different in terms of importance. Stars names being important. Information- important but not so much for getting in audiences… firstly names of the actors/actresses starring within the film are treated much like the name of the film itself on posters- either at the bottom or at the top but almost always vaguely in the centre (so if the film’s name is at the top of the poster, stars names should typically be at the bottom??). But again, as with the name of film, it’s all to do with what is on the poster, as then designers can then determine where a star’s name can be appropriately put without obstructing other features but while still being seen and easily spotted by audiences. Typically though, I think that stars names are put at the top (as long as the film’s name isn’t there already!) as this gets the names out-of-the-way of other aspects, most importantly, the image but still makes them easy to spot. This can be seen on posters such as that for ‘American Beauty’, ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and ‘The Assassination of Jesse James…’.  Sometimes though, to reinforce a star’s presence in the film, their name will be placed above their image specifically, so audience can, I suppose literally put the face to the name, this can be best seen on ‘Seven’s poster. As with the title of the film, the fonts of the stars of the film are usually kept plain, simple, and tie in with the poster’s other aspects if they are required to. Now, the information I think is a lot more conventional- and most of the time is stuck at the very bottom of the poster in small letters. This information may also include logos of the production companies that have produced it, the rating of the film (i.e. certificate 18) as well as even a website for the film. Though the information may alter slightly from poster to poster (some may reveal more info. than others etc) they all typically put the information at the very bottom to get it out of the way- which can be seen on the poster’s for ‘The Constant Gardener’, ‘Sweeney Todd’, ‘V for Vendetta’ and ‘True Grit’. I’d also like to point out that conventionally this is positioned under the name of the film, reinforcing this information is who is behind the actual film itself.

What about the release date?? Again I don’t think this takes up as much space- or appears as important for persuading audiences to see the film, but it is nevertheless, very important. As the audience will need to know when the film comes out in cinemas so they know when they can go and see it- otherwise, they won’t be able to go and see it. Sometimes, film posters are very vague about the release date of the film, simply stating ‘Coming Soon’ which keeps audience interested and tense at when the film will be released (and also means they may have to research it themselves to see when it is being released, which they probably could do with the film’s own website). This convention can be seen on the poster for‘Inception’. As well as this, posters can also be very vague about the specific date by stating things such as ‘This Fall’ (as used on ‘The Assassination of Jesse James…’ poster) or ‘This Winter’ without actually giving a date as such, which again, keeps the audiences guessing and raises their excitement about the film. And then posters can just be very specific, saying for ‘May 16th’ or ’03/03/03′ for example, giving the audience an exact date obviously will increase their chances of going to see it, but may not bring the same level of excitement and mystery as the other techniques appear to. With positioning the release date is typically at the bottom of the film poster, below everything else, as it is probably the last thing designers will want audiences to read- as therefore the date or the excitement/mystery is more likely to stick in their minds.

What about reviews and star ratings for the film?? Hmm…this is quite two-sided as well I think, as some film posters I think, don’t need reviews plastered all over it to persuade audiences to see the film as the poster is already affective and this could overcomplicate the design. But on some posters the reviews for the film or even awards won/nominated for are very useful- especially that for the ‘Buried’ poster which literally has the image of the protagonist buried in the reviews for the film and looks extremely effective. But of course, this is because it fits in well with the theme of the film, whereas this technique simply couldn’t be used to promote other films. Conventionally I don’t think posters tend to use a lot of review snippets- as they may clutter up the poster- but if they do they are typically either near the very top, immediately opening up the film’s themes or hyping it,  or some where above the title of the film. I think the most effective in this more conventional area being for ‘The Hurt Locker’s poster. As with all text on film posters, conventionally it seems typical to keep the font bold and simple- and can be altered to tie in with the film’s genre/themes etc but mostly isn’t to avoid overcomplicating the text or putting across ideas that the poster may be trying to hard to get the audiences’ attention.

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