INDUSTRY INSIGHT: CAMPAIGN DESIGNER PAULA THERON CHATS TO BEV
Q> What is your day-job and how did you get started?
I’m a Senior Graphic Designer and Director of Name Creative. I’ve been a designer for 20 years. I starting out making tea and coffee in a design agency in Germany. We (Jez Dobson, Sam Bennett and I) formed Name over 4 years ago, I still make tea and coffee (old habits die hard), as well as 101 other creative and managerial jobs.
Q> Can you talk through what a brief from a studio or independent distributor might look like? And then how do you go about creating the designs?
We normally receive a written brief, which will include an outline of the movie, target audience, marketing objectives and reviews or awards if the movie has had any press coverage. We may get a screener of the film (if we’re lucky!), stills from the production or from an assigned studio shoot (if we’re extremely lucky!). We often attend an initial meeting with the client to get their own views and brain storm over potential creative directions.
Q> how long does it take to complete a campaign from the brief to it being up on the wall?
That can vary greatly, but the release date is a fixed point, therefore the print deadline is too, so it depends on how early the brief is given and if the approval process is involved. On some releases, producers, directors and even the actors may have approval rights, as well as the studio, so even if the artwork is complete it can be a slow process to get it finally to print.
Q> how might a theatrical campaign be different to a home entertainment one?
There are many differences between Theatrical and Home Ent. For a start, the turnaround (between brief and print) is much quicker in Home Ent than Theatrical, the budget is often less, which can be challenging as you may have fewer assets. Stylistically DVDs & Blu-rays must make an impact as it’s competing with so many similar products in a confined retailer space. The retailer often has a say in the approval process, which would not be the case in Theatrical. Theatrical posters are often more creative as you’re starting from scratch and need to convey the movie’s atmosphere, tell the story, and in essence continue from where the director left off. Along with this, must be balanced the marketing needs and the ability to reach your target audience.
Q> is your job changing now that digital is becoming more prominent than print?
It is technically more challenging, as you have to stay up to date with trends in new media. Creatively, I would say the principles remain the same, you may have to take into account what you can and cannot do digitally, but that’s what design is all about – problem solving.
Q> As more production budgets get squeezed, its often the set photographer that gets lost from the budget, how does this effect the work you can do?
This is SO true and it’s something I really can never understand. Movies take such time and effort to get to the screen, to let the whole show down because they couldn’t afford a good set photographer is bonkers! Our time is often spent retouching or building a scene from scratch. Over the years we have become masters of Photoshop, you have to be, and highly imaginative thinkers when it comes to designing from limited resources!
Q> Can you explain the difference between the assets an indy film might have compared to what the studios do? (what I’m looking for here is the difference in set-up they both have)
Well budgets play a big part. With Indy films, the assets may consist of a single sales poster and stills, but with that you often have more creative freedom and an easier approval process. With the larger studios, it is often style guided from the US, with more involved “bigger budget” key arts and a need to stay close to this artwork. There are cases where the studio will ask for a UK take on the US keyart, but this will still require approval from both sides of the Atlantic.
The “kudos” in the industry may be to work on big name movies, but as a designer the Indy films are often more exciting and edgy. Although the public only see the final poster, the fun we get from creating a range of initial concepts is what makes this job so enjoyable.
Q> what do you think a good campaign should do and can you think of examples of where the assets have built up to really capture an audience?
A good campaign should grab the attention of the intended audience. It should be able to work successfully over across all platforms of the campaign strategy. But many successful campaigns are successful because they have large budgets and can maximize coverage over all platforms – poster, Press, POS, PR, digital and social media. The campaigns that are successful on limited budgets are ones that deserve applause.
Q> do you have any favourite poster designers? (this is also an excuse for us to print some really good pictures!) and do you have some work from one of your own campaigns that you really like?
Well posters came into their own in the late 19th , early 20th Century. The Beggarstaff Brothers were brilliant in their simplicity and their use of the negative space, as in their poster for Don Quixote. Simplicity and the bold use of colour can also be seen 50 years later with Saul Bass’s posters, then 50 years again with the likes of Trainspotting and more recently All City’s “Moon”. Each decade has had stunning innovative posters, the list of which would take up the rest of this site!
Q>If somebody wanted to get into the business, what would your recommendations be?
I would recommend that you be prepared to work hard at mastering the tools of the trade, particularly Photoshop. That you can work under pressure, pay close attention to detail and be a good project manager. Definitely have a good sense of humour, be creatively versatile and approach every job as the most creative, challenging and exciting project you’ve ever worked on. Oh an ability to make tea and coffee is a great starting point.