Thursday, October 16, 2008

Know Your Story

is all about structuring a series of sounds and images to communicate a story.

Graphic Design is all about communicating a story with one image.

Since we've been discussing this issue, I wanted to make that distinction perfectly clear because they are two branching skill sets derived from the same root:

Telling a story.

Filmmakers: I'm seeing a lot of your posters (and feel free to send me your images via a link) and I am now understanding that your skill set is the synthesis of those images. That's why I've been seeing posters that are multiple images all over the place - the static version of a montage. You're "stuck" in that mode of thinking that you can't tell your story with just one image.

I'm here to tell you that you can.

Graphic designers: I'm seeing your poster designs and I'm now coming to the conclusion that you aren't being briefed on the story you need to tell. I'm here to say that you must understand the story first before you lay a hand on the mouse and start designing. That means actually reading the text you are laying out. That means going through the movie's synopsis (which the filmmaker has written in 2 paragraphs if he knows what's good for him) and all the stills with a fine tooth comb. That means looking at previous movies in the particular genre.

Because no one wants a poster that may look cool, but totally misses the core of the movie and thus, potential sales.

This is why I like pulp magazine covers - because many of them are simplified versions of scenes from the stories within (in many cases the art was created first then the story writ to suit). Those covers ignore all of the boring surrounding details and focus on the most exciting, dramatic, heart-wrenching aspect of the story.

And that kids, is what sells tickets.


Earl Newton said...

I think that kind of montage problem also comes in when people don't take the time to shoot promotional materials (forcing them to make some kind of still-frame montage).

I could also argue that in our society's preference for montage editing, we aren't training storytellers to tell a story in one frame, but that's another issue entirely. :D

Andrew Bellware said...

As a kid I'd always read some cool sci-fi book (that I'd bought because of the cool cover) looking for the scene that was on the cover. But in some (many) of those books that scene was never there!

And now I find I'm making movies where the cover art doesn't always match the movie.

With the movies I make I am: 1. forbid to have anything to do with the trailer and 2. forbid to have anything to do with the name and the key art of the picture. And there's typically a good reason for that. Those things are all strictly under the responsibility of the buyers and distributors who tend to know vastly more about what sells or rents better for their customers.

Our buyers and distributors seem to have little care if the art on the DVD really reflects what's going on in the story -- or at least what I think of as the story. The Japanese version of Millennium Crisis has a very (IMHO) compelling cover but is even less related to the actual story than the North American design
Of course, much of that might be the fault that the movie itself wasn't that clear on its character or story. I can accept that.
In any case, my feeling is that the better cover here is the result of a a company which clearly knew what kind of movie it was getting but decided to go with a cover of a somewhat different movie (the Japanese version). Now, of course, I wish I'd made the movie which that Japanese cover was depicting.
If I could only make a movie as cool as its cover art, I'd be very happy! So maybe the idea of making the cover art first -- before making the movie -- is a really good one...