A conversation with the filmmakers behind ‘24×36: A Movie About Movie Posters.’
Welcome to the Shallow Pocket Project, a new series where Film School Rejects and the folks at In The Mouth of Dorkness team up and sit down with independent filmmakers to talk about making movies on a budget. Get caught up on our previous interviews with Christian Stella and Snowfort Pictures. Special thanks on this episode to Darren Smith.
The Shallow Pocket Project is about passion for independent film making. This community runs on passion. And that passion is fueled by pure, unadulterated love for film making. How could it be anything else? Well, I’d say that’s just as true for the movie poster making community, too. I think about movie posters a lot. I’ve exactly thirty eight pieces of such art on my walls. I’ve written about them. I listen to podcasts about them. Friendships have been defined by them. I’ve been in a years-long dispute with FSR’s own Brad Gullickson about who should have won a certain Tyler Stout Shaun of the Dead poster in an Alamo Drafthouse raffle. He knows.
Then I saw the trailer for 24X36: A Movie About Movie Posters. In two minutes, my love for independent film making and my love for movie posters got married and had a baby. And I needed to abduct that baby. I’m not the only member of Film School Rejects excited for this film, but I’m definitely the only one that brought up child abduction. So.
Up to the table today is Kevin Burke, the director of 24X36: A Movie About Movie Posters. These are images from his movie.
As a consumer, I spend a significant amount of my life looking for the next small budget flick that will engage me. But, my time in this universe is finite and content is not. In the great carousel of What’s Next, an eye catching poster with original composition plays a big part in what I decide to investigate further. For example, the poster for The Battery is what drew my initial interest.
For a long time movie posters were great, imaginative works of illustrative art capturing in an image everything about a movie that would make you want to see it. During the era of The Movie Star, posters became receptacles for head shots because that’s what studio executives felt put butts in chairs. Is the heart throb of the day starring in your next movie? Get their face on a poster as big as they can make it and try to get the title in, if you can. I’m no fan of the Floating Head. If you’re unsure what that looks like, the poster for This Is The End is a fun subversion of the phenomenon.
In the last decade or so, there’s been a surge in after-market movie poster creation. Think about gig posters for rock bands. These beautifully artistic screen prints where artists have the chance to think about more than where to place the Sexy Giant Face. Well, this niche market is not so slowly bursting into a major scene. These screen prints are limited in supply and routinely flip immediately at a wild five times the original sale price.
Here’s the rub: where I see a collector’s market and a somewhat optimistic outlook for the future of an art form I love, Kevin Burke saw a story.
Burke was familiar with the scene and he knew there was a story to be captured in that community. Movie posters have a vibrant, fascinating history full of heartache and beauty. And there are factions-a-plenty to explore in the modern age about rights management and the value of corporate approval. It may be a niche market, but it is its very own wide world with competing philosophies, great rifts, and heartbreaking stories.
Horizons are difficult to overcome. What do I mean by that? When you’re starting out on a new project, in one way its very much blue sky. In another, you can’t really see what’s beyond the horizon of that blue sky. And you don’t know what possibilities exist beyond the horizon. In many cases, you have to launch and then hope you can adjust your trajectory on the fly as your vision expands. Burke shared with us that he had a very small vision at the outset. He crowdfunded a start and set out to make his film. As he pursued those interviews and captured those stories, he began to realize that there could be much more to the project. He started to dream a little bigger.
Alas! Funding. How to get the money to make the project into what it could be? That’s a question we hear a lot. I’m dreaming bigger now, but where are those dollar bills and resources going to come from? Well, in Burke’s case, he posed that question to a filmmaker forum on Reddit. On that day, a producer happened to be hanging out in the same forum. From there, Burke and the producer traded work-in-progress cuts of the movie and dream descriptions of what the project could be until they realized their interest in the subject had become a mutually shared torrid love affair. At least, that’s how David Lawson Jr., the producer in question, later related it to me.
What does that final project look like? The above frame with Roger Kastel reflected in his work is the movie in a single frame for me. It’s a work of film history. But, also an investigation into its present. You know, the image that comes to your mind when I say Jaws was created by Kastel. That’s the power of the movie poster. That singular great white head full of gnarly, jagged teeth exists in my brain as a shorthand reference for a film classic because Roger Kastel dreamed it. He’s created some of the all-time greatest posters. This includes one of my favorites, his poster for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.
The heartbreaking story for many of my poster heroes is that not only is much of their work deliberately uncredited, but they’ve lost access to the originals they created for the studios. I’m not kidding. Your heart will burst when you hear about the fate of Kastel’s original Jaws artwork in the interview.
Please support 24X36: A Movie About Movie Posters when it comes out. When you hear what Kevin Burke is investigating for his next documentary, you’re gonna ask exactly how deep into your wallet do you have to reach to make it happen right now. And the best way you can contribute to that happening is to support this film. It’s a win-win scenario. Get to listening!