Brandon Schaefer interview (2 of 3): The Last Picture Show & Kes

An early sketch for Kes

An early sketch for Kes

Following our introduction to the film posters of Brandon Schaefer, in this second part of a three part interview he discusses his work on Park Circus cinema re-releases, The Last Picture Show and Kes, with film journalist, Jonathan Melville.

Jonathan Melville: Your association with Park Circus Films stretches back to April 2011 and the re-release of The Last Picture Show in cinemas. How did you come to work with them?

Brandon Schaefer: A few years ago I had done a poster for Unzero Films in France for Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out which crossed a desk or two here, which is sort of where the seeds for our relationship were planted.

Brandon's initial sketches for The Last Picture Show

Brandon's initial sketches for The Last Picture Show

Presumably you’re given a brief with each project. What was The Last Picture Show brief and how did you approach it?

There was a lot of freedom with The Last Picture Show, actually, which made for an interesting process, especially when you take into account the history behind how the film was advertised. A lot of what had been done in the past focused on movie theatre related imagery with a clever twist, or stock shots of a bustling town from the 1950s. Neither really clicked, especially for a film as deeply complex and atmospheric as Last Picture. The focus became an exercise in honing in on the tone and feel, rather than getting cheeky with symbolism…and crushing that idea that the film took place in a bustling town from the 1950s.

The finished Last Picture Show poster

The finished Last Picture Show poster

Do you provide a few different options for clients or do you just have one in your head?

It depends on the project, but most of the time, a single idea popping into your head fully formed is unexpected and incredibly rare. The last time I had one was two years ago in a bathroom, so it’s not something you can really plan on. Most of the time, I tend to scribble down a lot of ideas while pacing around. If I’m not completely confident in a single one, I’ll work at cycling through a few different options with the client until I land on one that feels right. Nobody’s perfect, though, so I do wind up having to toss things out and start over.

You’ve now created a stunning new poster for Ken Loach’s 1969 film, Kes, out in UK cinemas on 9 September. When were you first approached with the commission?

Thank you. I think it was bordering on the end of June/beginning of July? We had a good bit of time laid out for Kes, but the bulk of it came together surprisingly quickly. We lucked out, I suppose.

An early Kes sketch

An early Kes sketch

Had you seen the film before you worked on the poster?

I hadn’t, but I’d seen the DVD cover recently: it had just been released in the states, so I was familiar with the name and the synopsis. I went in with that and a hunch that it would probably make me pretty sad when all was said and done.

Did you look at the original design for inspiration?

Not for inspiration – I tend to keep to the movie itself for that. Only after I’ve watched a film and sketched things out do I check to see what was used in the past, just to make sure what I’ve got in mind hasn’t already been done before. It’s amazing how many original thoughts you can have that turn out to be done by someone else years prior.

There are a few versions of the original design, most of which focus on David Bradley’s character. Why did you switch the focus to Kes?

The kestrel becomes his world, in a way – a source of hope and inspiration. A light in a tunnel that doesn’t see sunshine, much less anything else. That’s important. Billy remains, though, reflected in its eye.

Brandon's final Kes poster

Brandon's final Kes poster

Were there any versions of the new poster that didn’t quite make it?

There were sketches for different directions that played on the rugged, industrial areas of Barnsley, but the structure of those would’ve been more in line with what was done for The Last Picture Show – less illustrative, more photographic. They felt too similar, and I try desperately not to repeat myself often, so gears were switched and the others focused more on Kes.

The technique in rendering those that didn’t make the cut would’ve featured more expressive illustration, which probably would’ve wound up being too self indulgent. And at the end of the day, it’s not always about showing off, but doing what feels right for the film.

In the final part of this interview, Brandon looks ahead to the release of West Side Story to cinemas and his work on the poster redesign – keep an eye on our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more information.

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