Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Son of a Seahorse Poster & DVD Cover Design

For many low-budget filmmakers, marketing is a word that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Marketing is about selling, not about art; about targeting an audience, not engaging them. And then there's those filmmakers and studios that are all about the marketing, all about selling the tickets and not about, you know, making a good film, making something that lasts.

In fact, so much was Tom's dislike of marketing that the first film the two of us made together, Milos, did not have a website, as was the trend. It was Mary, perhaps the more realistically minded of the two of us, who insisted on having a page for The Man Who Loved and Son of a Seahorse.

But now that we're self-distributing our films via Amazon (starting with The Man Who Loved), we can no longer ignore that marketing aspect. DVDs require DVD slip-case covers, and self-distribution requires some degree of self-promotion.

And actually and honestly? Mr. "I Hate Marketing" finds that he kind of enjoys the process of finding & creating images that might (1) communicate what the film is about and (2) persuade someone to purchase it, of deciding on and then arranging different elements, of creating "logo families" and tag-lines. It has absolutely almost nothing to do with filmmaking, but it is a sort of bastard art in its own right. (And even Mr. "I Hate Marketing" can admit that he has some serious love for some of the old posters, especially those that came out of Eastern Europe: so striking, so lovely, so kinetic.)

Anyway, with that preamble out of the way, we thought we'd take you through some of the various forms the marketing (such as it is) for Son of a Seahorse.

To begin with, there was this poster:

Three things here that you'll note: the blue font (Aardvark Bold, which was actually used in the film), this particular shot of David screaming, and the salmon-coloured suit that he's wearing. These three things remain pretty constant through-out the various itinerations that follow, mostly because they're distinctive and, we hope, memorable.

Our second poster is really just the first with the full cast; a miniature version of this was sent to festivals along with the screener. Were we doing this to try and capitalize on the presence of Joe Swanberg in our cast? You bet your ass we were. Did it work? Not in the slightest.

Our next poster concept was a little more daring:

Notice that the three motifs we mentioned before are present: the blue Aardvark, the screaming David (in the form of the line drawing), the salmon-suit. In this case, the suit is suggested by negative space, the colour filling up the poster. The shot of David walking also had a nice "lonely man" motif-- something that we felt reflected well on the film.

I think it's a really neat concept for a poster. Unfortunately, we couldn't quite execute it to our satisfaction. The major problem was the drawing: if you look back at the first two posters, David's facing left. We drew it that way, and then flipped it; flipped, it just doesn't feel "right". At the same time, the head facing inwards (towards the walking David) didn't feel right either. We tried it without the drawing--

-- but it's not striking enough, doesn't communicate enough about the film. When we started working on the DVD cover, we abandoned this concept and went back to our original for the front. We tried the drawn version of that same image, now facing left once more, for the back.

We added as text one of the best lines from the film:

Unfortunately, that line is Adrienne's. Putting it next to the David head makes it look like it's his line. And then it doesn't make any sense: is the angry guy yelling at himself to stop yelling? We decided we had better go for a more traditional back-of-the-box text, in all its ego-stoking glory. Gone went the head.

Also note that instead of a solid orangey-pink-salmon back we added a blue box and separated them with a bar of black/stills. This put a greater deal of stress on the use of blue for the text, making blue and salmon our film's two marketing colours. But that "Jam-Packed With Extras!" blue is a little lost in the bottom box, and so we made one more change:

And, by the way, it is going to be jam-packed with extras. In addition to a mini-commentary like the one we provided on The Man Who Loved, you'll find the complete short film Bernard the Lonely Snail, and three episodes of Ned and Sunshine, the zombie sitcom, including one no longer available online. And, heck, we might even throw in a trailer or two:

(Really, seriously, click on that HQ button; the "standard" edition lags and chops all to hell.)

Unless we get a sudden offer from a distribution company (which, being poor, we'd be more than happy to accept), you can expect Son of a Seahorse to be available this June for fifteen measly dollars. Heck, buy it with The Man Who Loved to qualify for that free super-saver shipping. Or wait until later in the summer, when our long unseen original cut of Milos will be made available for the very first time, also with various fine and sundry supplements.

The marketing of that one, of course, will be a whole 'nother discussion...

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