Can you tell us a little bit more about how you founded Big Picture Studio? Did you always want to run an agency of your own and specialise in film/press?
I founded Big Picture Studio as a direct result of working on the children’s animation called Gnomeo & Juliet. I’d initially been hired to redesign the films title treatment, during the process I’d created a series of teaser and character posters to help the client visualise the title treatment, these designs were received very well and to my surprise I was asked to roll out the UK theatrical campaign!
What variety of roles are available at Big Picture Studio?
Big Picture Studio is a collaboration of myself and my long term friend and creative partner Joel Van Blerk – as an independent studio the approach we’ve taken is each campaign is managed and designed by either one of us. Our previous lives working as Art Directors at various design studios gave us the know on how to successfully streamline our processes with a particular focus on building strong client relationships.
Can you share the process of executing a design campaign for a film? How many people does it take to put a campaign together (which teams does it go to) and how long would it roughly take to complete a project, from design to print?
The process starts long before our involvement with the theatrical team at the distributor / film studio and the media buying agency who plan the strategy for a release of a film campaign. By the time it lands on our desk, we’re given the design brief as well as a list of the bought media space and supplied deadlines which we’re able to schedule into our workload. Our projects fall into two main categories – origination and creative adaption. The former starts with a brief, various resources such as unit photography/stills and a blank canvas. These projects really allow us to stretch our creativity, and the collaborative process between the two of us is really enjoyable! With our creative adaption work we tend to take individual ownership of each project. Inherited international key art is adapted to fit often alternative strategies and direction for release. The entire process usually takes 1-2 months and depending on the scale and complexity of the campaign, this would usually be allocated to a single designer.
How does the process differ for when you’re designing for a still campaign like a billboard to a digital campaign with moving image?
Traditionally in a theatrical release, the way the industry currently works is the initial piece of key art is designed specifically for print (in the UK this would be the quad format). Once approved the layered artwork is then shared amongst the various agencies involved in delivering the greater campaign, and from this point it’s then adapted into many different media formats which may involve online, digital animation or social. But essentially it all starts with the original printed key art.
You and the team have worked on film advertising all the way from The BFG, to Detroit, to Queen & Slim and so many more notable films! Do you often work closely with distributors and the production teams to create designs or are you left alone to come up with the ideas within your team?
We tend to work very closely with our clients, when time permits we encourage kickstart meetings to discuss direction and initial ideas they may have discussed with the film maker. It’s very much a collaborative approach throughout the process but there does come a point when we’re left to interpret and visualise our thoughts – this is when the fun begins… late nights too!
We can imagine a lot of the work you do is completed prior to a film’s theatrical release! Do you get to preview the films, in order to find inspiration? If not, where do you tend to find inspiration for a project?
Sure, when it’s possible we’re invited to screenings which is a great benefit as you’re able to really focus on the details of the film without the distraction of the internet and other external sources. Inspiration can come from anywhere but as mentioned previously the process is always a truly collaborative affair. Alongside the marketing teams we work with, we see ourselves as part of a much wider creative team.
Are there any campaigns you’ve worked on that really stand out for you? Where proud is an understatement!?
We’ve been attached to many successful titles over the years and we feel eternally grateful for each of these opportunities especially in light of recent events. There are two originated titles from the archives that really stand out, the first being Gnomeo & Juliet. It gave me my big break into the film and entertainment industry and helped launch Big Picture Studio which incidentally celebrated it’s 9 year anniversary last month! The second was Behind The Candelabra, this again was a title that pushed our business to the next level and helped raise the profile of Big Picture Studio with its success – we also know that Michael Douglas personally asked for 10 copies of the poster!
You founded Big Picture Studio in 2011, so next year will be your 10 year anniversary (congrats in advance!)… and you’ve achieved great things so far! Do you have any advice for someone wanting to start up their own design agency and any tips on how they can build a portfolio within the film/TV industry, specifically?
Prior to setting up Big Picture Studio I’d arranged meetings with many of the established London based design studios to try and gain an insight and understanding of how the entertainment industry operated and how I could make the transition. At the time, Joel and I were working in the corporate design sector and were looking to steer our careers in different directions. We knew this would be a huge challenge so many evenings were spent on industry research and building portfolios based on self-initiated briefs. Our advice to any aspiring designer looking to specialise in entertainment marketing would be to put yourself out there and gain as much experience and exposure as possible, post your work on social sites, enter fan art challenges like the competitions hosted by posterspy.com to familiarise yourself with actual creative briefs whilst working within the boundaries of the entertainment industry – It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s hugely rewarding to see a poster you’ve worked on take pride of place at a London premiere – Good luck guys!!!