Good Movie Posters Are Important, Even If You’re Streaming

By James DeRuvo (doddleMEW)

With many indies opting to stream their films online, and on demand, is it really all that important to create a movie poster? Of course it is. One, it’s tradition! Two, it’s still one of the best ways to get a potential audience interested in your project. And three, you can always offer them as perks for your Kickstarter campaign. But is there a proper formula or some advice on how to make a compelling one sheet? Well, one filmmaker has a few tips on how to not only make movie poster art, but use it to push for movie commerce.

“Taking time to design your movie poster is a good first step in your overall branding strategy. Visual design which represents your product should compel and excite the potential viewers to influence their buying decisions and to create a good perception of the film.” – Ela Gancarz,

There’s something familiar here…

I won’t lie though, Hollywood has gotten a bit lazy about this of late, as posters have become rather “cookie cutter,” as designers recycle the same style over and over again. Witness the posters to the right (and that’s just one example). There are exceptions, of course, such as the limited edition IMAX posters of late. All you have to do is a web search with “movie poster cliches,” and you’ll see just how often the same style is recycled over and over.

With that kind of similar design, it’s easy to get lost in the sameness, so creating an effective one sheet is important, because it’s your calling card, the billboard that draws your audience towards what’s coming over the horizon. And the key to making an effective one comes down to your style, text, and images included.

“… if you work on an action or horror movie poster, you should create an intense or dark atmosphere – if it’s a comedy, it would be better to choose a funny and light style.”

The first being style. This throws out the first pitch of what your film is all about, or, as Gancarz says, filmmakers “need to first decide what kind of movie your poster is going to represent. You should try to convey the general mood of your film to its graphic design.” The key here is to provide a kind of immediate impact with your movie poster than appeals to the viewer on an emotional level. Perhaps that’s why so many poster designs are so cliched. They know they work.

“Apart from the movie title, your film poster must also contain a tag line (a striking sentence or branding slogan the conveys the movie’s message), the name of the director, names of main actors or characters, the release date and a billing block (credits at the bottom).”

Next comes text. I learned a long time ago text is where many go wrong, using multiple fonts that only serve to confuse the reader. So keeping it to no more than two or three font styles is key to providing the proper information, but not to take away from the style of the message. Fonts can also be a trademark of your film itself. Everyone who sees the classic Star Wars font, knows what the film is about.

Once you settle on a font(s), then it’s time to lay out the block design of the film’s text. This can include above the line credits, tag lines, the movie title, release date and finally the overall credit block. But just remember, keep it simple. Or as Gancarz says, “Your movie poster must say just enough to make the sale and not a word more!”

Lastly, there’s the imagery itself. The old saying a picture is worth a thousand words is true, but an image also can introduce the audience to your main characters. I rather like the latest trend that offers a series of posters that feature a particular character in the film.

Avengers Age of Ultron did this really well, as has Ant-Man (although the Black Widow one-sheet did land Marvel in hot water). And if you have a cast image poster that ties them all together, so that when put them all together to create a master poster, it’s pretty cool because it creates another layer of story telling.

But the layout also is a good way to start off the overall marketing of your film, including website, DVD covers, and other marketing materials that you use. But at the end of the day, it’s the movie poster that everyone remembers.

Hat tip:

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Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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