Movie poster art used to be more than just a promotional tool. Artist would sink their heart and soul into a project. Yes, they were doing it to sell the film. However, they put craft and artistry into their work, that way it could catch a person’s eye. Nowadays, they seem to be a necessity. One that most studios don’t care about and cobble together on Photoshop at the last minute. For many, it’s a sad state of affairs.
One of those people would be Tom Hodge, better known as The Dude Designs. He grew up with the classic poster art that adorned VHS covers in video stores. He took this love and passion and carved it into a career. Now, he’s doing his best to uphold the spirit of art design by creating posters for films (mostly independent features). You may have seen some of his posters for films such as “The Innkeepers”, “Madison County”, “Hobo With a Shotgun” and “Super”, just to name a few.
I interviewed this talented man and got his thoughts on his career, the history of art design in film, upcoming projects and the current state of art design.
1) How long have you been an art designer?
For over 12 years now. I was at college for 2 years then University for 3 (where they told me all my work was shit for 3 years… So thanks to Loughborough University for that, it literally took me about 10 years to get over all the things I learnt at Uni and break away into finding my own niche). I worked in everything from corporate design, to in-store promotions (standees, card display units, etc), small design agencies and Computer games. Most of my time was spent in the games industry working on packaging, etc. I used to work for PlayStation before moving onto the poster work full time.
2) What made you want to design movie posters?
Well I suppose it goes way back to loving video cover art as a kid. I used to create my own then I got into graphic design, and working in the industry more as a full time professional carrier. I sort of shelved cover art, it just wasnt seen as viable option. Like I said I was then working in the games industry which was close, but I felt more and more frustrated with the amount of involvement you had in a design. It was all controlled by marketing and you were basically a glorified mac operator.
Plus my passion has always been in film, so I started doing some flyers for ‘midnight movies’ screenings in Soho:
That started the ball rolling again. I experimented more with digital illustration and really found myself and my creativity again, doing what I used to do and what I love!
Plus the fact that poster design (not to mention DVD covers) have hit a low creatively left a gap in the market to fill.
3) What are your thoughts on the current state of movie posters?
They’re too controlled by marketing. The creativity and the artistry have all been sucked out of it. It’s all for matters of expediency and control by the distributors, not for the want of a better product or cost. Occasionally design trends seep through but I don’t know… its a constant battle!
4) It’s obvious your inspiration for design are the highly detailed posters of the past (especially the 70’s and 80’s). What is it about these posters that draws you to them?
The Movie poster was never broken, it didn’t need fixing. I grew up with the last blast of the great poster art era, were they were created by artists like Drew Struzan, John Alvin, Bob Peak, Tom Jung… this list goes on! Not to mention the countless nameless incredible video covers which used to line your local video shop.
The old posters used to conveyed so much excitement (not just text slapped over a photo). Growing up in the 80s who didn’t have a film poster on the wall (these days I’m not so sure)? They were fun, exciting and added to the whole movie experience. So, I hope I can do my little part in going some way to bring that element back for people.
5) Are there any art designers who’ve acted as an inspiration for you?
Graham Humpherys (who created he UK art for Evil Dead and A Nightmare on Elm St series), Stephen Remano (he produced a great book shock festival of mock film posters)… numerous un named video cover artists whos names weren’t signed but created some of the most incredible pieces of artwork. I’m always googling and collecting VHS cover art.
6) You’re a freelance art director, designer and illustrator for film key art. How do you go about getting jobs? Do people come to you often?
At the moment I get contacted by people so much that I haven’t had to actively search out work. I’m booked up until November at the moment. I’d still like to tackle a big studio project again just to get the work more into the main stream but working on independent productions avoids all the constrictions which would come with a studio title. Plus, it’s great to work directly with the directors and get the passion and love for a title come through. It’s not just some movie to push through.
There’s a lot of time, effort and anguish slaved over these productions, so they deserve to be treated with the same respect when it comes to the poster art of DVD covers, not just some cheap photoshop job turned around in an evening.
7) Out of all of the posters you’ve made, which one is your favorite?
I don’t like to discriminate. They all have there individual things going on which is special and reflective of each title. I like tackling different styles when the title allows. I also like researching into classical designs styles like I did with The Innkeepers and the upcoming Would You Rather.
8) Are there any film genres that you haven’t designed a poster for that you’d like to?
Sci-fi, something in space, an apocalyptic Mad Max esque one or something with rubber monsters in it again… they just don’t make them these days. Ninjas, as well. We dont get Ninjas in films like we used to! I do like my action posters so I’d love to do a Van Damme film! And of course, my hero, Burt Reynolds.
9) You’ve done cover art for Arrow Video releases. How do you feel updating the look for older films?
Terrible! Did you see what they did to Big Trouble in Little China?! I think they where trying to make it look like The Transporter.
Who are you fooling?
It’s also happened to films I’ve worked on. Did you see the UK dvd art for The Innkeepers?
Someone, somewhere was paid because they thought that was a good idea. It does make me frustrated.
10) Any words of inspiration for aspiring art designers?
Do what you love and where your true passion lies as that’s what will deliver the best results, I find. True passion always shines through.
I’d like to thank Tom Hodge for taking the time out of his busy schedule to conduct this interview! It was wonderful to hear his thoughts on his career and the movie posters of today. I began to admire his work when I seen the posters crop up for certain films and knew he’d make a comfortable living off of it. It was an honor to interview him and here’s to an even brighter future for him!
If you’d like to contact Tom, or just admire his work, head over to his blog: http://thedudedesigns.blogspot.com/