FMP: Film Image
Distributing a film is not just about where it is going and who it is reaching, but how it looks and is presented to people. Posters are important in order to grab the eye and attention of someone and get them to want to watch your film, and the DVD cover is just the same, it needs to be recognisable and give a just a little taster of the scenes in the film with production stills on the back along with a small summary.
I have found a good 7 step guide to creating a great film poster:
1. Attention – Jump out from the wall. AIDA – attention, interest, desire, and action.
This doesn’t have to be achieved with provocative pictures or flashy graphics, although given their advantage at grabbing attention, it’s no wonder Hollywood’s turned to them en masse.
By using the film’s characters or a major plot point, designers can establish some level of plot while still gaining the attention of anyone that views the poster.
2. Iconography – showing without telling.
The most effective movie posters are iconic, presenting the themes in the film without resorting to flat out saying what it’s about.
They use imagery, whether a close-up of a character or item that’s a major plot point, or a simple graphic, to establish the film’s plot. Combined with an eye-grabbing design, this can be an incredibly effective way to gain attention and create interest at once.
3. Interest – create an incentive to see the film.
When using icons and more abstract imagery doesn’t work with your film – say, for example, it’s a serious drama or a thriller that can’t be explained with iconography – using an image that provides viewers with an idea of the story is a great idea.
Many of the best modern film posters use pictures that put the viewer in the middle of a scene from the film, creating tension and a major incentive.
The incentive is that in order to resolve the situation, the person looking at the poster needs to see the film and find out what happens.
4. Appeal – create desire with fans and non-fans alike.
With film studios cranking out comic book adaptations at a rapid pace, it’s the ‘true fans’ that end up last in the marketing line.
Studios can rely on them to see their new releases regardless of its review coverage or promotional materials, since chances are fairly strong they’re already aware of it. Great film posters, particularly those for adaptations, use this dual appeal to enhance their advertising.
5. Style – a look that’s consistent with the film.
Whether you’re marketing an art film or a blockbuster, style matters. Some of the most memorable film posters out there have used bold, unique artistic styles to their advantage.
What separates these posters from their ineffective art-for-art’s-sake rivals is that they’re consistent with style, in both the movie’s promotional materials and throughout the film itself.
6. Lasting Appeal – a look that suits other formats.
Here’s the danger in getting too ‘arty’ and delicate with your film poster: it’s eventually, after release and theater shows, going to be shrunk to a fraction of its original size for the DVD release.
While a growing number of films now use different designs for their DVD cover than their in-theater promo posters, most of the classics and high-budget blockbusters still use the same poster for both.
7. Recognisability – if it’s a sequel make it obvious.
From time to time, the entire box office seems to be made up of sequels.
There’s a good reason for it too – some of the most financially dependable films are sequels to successful franchises.
From films that dominated both the commercial world and the awards scene to purely commercial releases, few films can guarantee studios income like a good sequel.
That’s why sequel posters tend to be highly related to the first release, generally with a giant title in the top third of the canvas and instantly recognizable imagery throughout it.
I believe that with our poster we touched on almost all of these points and both my producer and I are really happy with our poster, as it is eye grabbing, memorable and definitely iconic. Take a look at these two posters they are both very iconic and give away what the film’s themes are but not too much about the story.
Especially for festivals we want our DVD cover to look good as if it looks shit then more than likely festival organisers will think it’s so.
‘If you can make your film stand out from the other discs in the stacks with a good cover, it might mean the difference between rejection and acceptance. I’ve seen a lot of submissions come in with the film’s poster as the DVD cover. Sometimes this is a good idea, sometimes not — usually the text is way too small to read on the DVD-sized presentation and it doesn’t always represent the film best to a festival screener. Make a judgement call on this one but don’t do it automatically just because you paid someone to design a poster.’
What the cover should include:
- The title. This should be the largest text on the case.
- Principal cast and crew listing, especially if you have a recognizable name actor in your film.
- Identify the film by category as a doc, narrative, short, feature — whatever categories it falls into.
- Include pictures from the film: not too many — definitely opt for bigger, more intriguing photos over a series of stills you can’t really make out. This can be especially bad if you print your covers out on an inkjet printer.
- A logline (25 – 50 words tops) on the front, if you have a really good one. Lame loglines should be simply omitted.
- A short synopsis (100-300 words) on the back. For Pete’s sake, don’t give too much away. If you have a short with a humorous setup and/or payoff, it’s better to be teasing and mysterious on the cover than to give too much away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to keep the viewer from anticipating the gag. On the other hand, if you have a documentary feature that starts slow and builds to an impressive climax, you might want to make it clear that the film’s conclusion is worth sitting through the first twenty minutes of exposition. Again, it’s all about capturing the screener’s attention before they put the disc in the player.
- Total running time. Festival screeners are busy people. If I only have a little while before my next appointment or whatever, I’ll scan through the stack of discs I have to watch. If I find one short enough, I’ll watch it and be grateful that the filmmaker was thoughtful enough to include the running time on the disc. It also helps me budget my time to know that the four short films and a feature I have left to watch add up to almost three hours of total viewing. Clearly marked running times are helpful for the final stages of festival programming, too — the programming director won’t have to look your film up in his database to know that your short is the perfect length to round out the comedy shorts program to a full two hours.
- Your contact info: web site, e-mail address, and phone number. If the viewers want to know more about your film or want to get in touch with you, don’t make them search anywhere else for that information! Include your mailing address if you have room.
- Leave yourself some room to hand-write in additional information requested by the festival. Don’t make it too obvious, but strategically placed blank spots are perfect for information like the Withoutabox submission number, which will be unique for each festival.
We have decided to in fact use our poster as our DVD cover to make it recognisable and felt that if we used any other image it would simply get confusing and even confuse our audience as to whether or not it is the same film.
I think we have done a really good job on our cover and feel it in keeps with all our themes and doesn’t give away too much about the film, almost forcing the audience to watch it.
Here is an example cover for festival submission: