Unsheets

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One-sheets are what movie marketing people call movie posters. It's what you see hanging in movie theater lobbies, plastered on billboards, and (with some variations) on the DVD box. In other words, it's an image known as the key art; the piece of art that cuts through the clutter of trailers and movie clips and whatever else is out there to represent the film. (That's why the movie marketing industry's annual awards are called the Keyarts.) But as filmmaker John August pointed out in a recent blog post, there's a new phenomenon on the rise in the movie poster world -- home-grown posters, which are generally made long after the movie's come out. Rather than introducing the film to the movie-going public, these fan-made posters celebrate a film everyone already knows about, often by trading on in-jokes from the film so that you have to be pretty familiar with the movie to "get it." August has dubbed them unsheets.

The Shining is just about my favorite movie ever, so I especially appreciate this unsheet by backstothewall. Who doesn't remember the Overlook Hotel's creepy-ass seventies carpet?

Several more great examples were created by designer Olly Moss for Rolling Stone's "Rolling Roadshow," a series of screenings of famous movies in famous places. (Now unfortunately over.) For instance, they showed There Will Be Blood in Bakersfield, California, on an outdoor screen a stone's throw from an oil derrick.

They showed Rocky on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

And they showed Godfather II on a rooftop in Little Italy.

Why are these so much cooler than most regular movie posters? John August explains:

Some unsheets are simply good design. They’re striking in part because they don’t look like traditional one-sheets, using typography and whitespace wholly alien to what we find on video boxes.

You don’t often see photography in unsheets — nor any meaningful representation of the actors. Rather, the star of the movie is the movie itself, or an iconic image from the film.

Some of these could easily be book jackets. For whatever reason, book buyers seem to accept a level of abstraction and design that moviegoers find off-putting.

By stripping away the credit blocks and pithy taglines, unsheets distill films down to their essence — an essence that may not have even been apparent when the movie was released. Studios may own copyright, but fans feel emotional ownership, and these posters reflect that. Ultimately, unsheets aren’t about the movies that came out, but the movies they became.

September 27, 2010 - 5:54am
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