If you're a fan of movies, you've probably heard of Mondo, the Austin, Texas-based shop that creates limited edition screen-printed movie posters that make typical one-sheets look like child's play. (TV shows get the Mondo treatment, too.) The company and its artists have put their spin on everything from A Christmas Story and Office Space to The Shining and E.T. (You can check out the full archive online.) Mondo's Chief Operating Officer, Jessica Olsen, told mental_floss how these posters get made.
m_f: How did Mondo get started?
One of our current Creatives, Rob Jones, who is heavily involved in the gig poster scene, approached the CEO/Co-Founder of the Alamo Drafthouse and suggested that they commission various artists to create posters to promote the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow. He contacted his friends in the music poster scene and got them to do re-interpretations of classic movie posters. We got a following from there. When Justin Ishmael came on, he suggested that we elevate the business model to feature licensed properties, our biggest one being Star Wars in 2010. Over the next couple years, our fan base got bigger and bigger, and marketing teams at studios starting taking note.
m_f: What’s the process of creating a Mondo poster?
Justin and I handle the legwork of obtaining the rights to older titles, or negotiating with the marketing teams at studios on newer properties. Once we have a title, Justin, Rob, and Mitch [Putnam, Mondo Creative Director] spend a good amount of time brainstorming who the right artist would be for the property. Mitch contacts the artist and once assigned, Rob directs them from there. Once the design is done, we circle back with the studio for any revisions—if any; the studios typically have guidelines, usually for legal reasons, that they give us in advance to follow. They vary from title to title and studio to studio—and then move to print. It can get more complicated than that at times, and we all wear a lot of hats, but that's the general process.
m_f: What happens more often: Do you seek out the license, or do companies seek you out to create posters?
It's honestly about half and half at this point.
m_f: Once you have a license for a particular film, can you create a number of posters for that film, or just one?
We can create more than one. On some titles we have several artists we think would be a good fit.
m_f: How do you match an artist with a particular film for a poster?
It varies. Sometimes when we first start working with an artist we ask them "Hey, give us the top 10 movies you would kill to do a poster for," and then match them up from there. Other times, we'll have an artist we want to work with in the wings for the perfect assignment. For example, Justin really wanted to work with David Peterson who does the comic Mouse Guard. When we added Brave to our list of posters for our Oscars series we spent some time going "hmmmm..." and then all of the sudden it was like "Oh man! Of course." And that's that. We like to match artists with movies that they are passionate about so it remains fun and doesn't feel like a job.
m_f: How much collaboration is there in figuring out what the poster will be?
We try to give the artist as much freedom as possible. Because Rob is a designer himself, I think he's able to act as a sounding board if an artist ever gets stuck or needs some direction. I stay out of all of those conversations though because they typically happen at 3 to 4am while I'm trying to get some sleep.
m_f: For some posters, you release variants. Why is that, and how do you decide which posters get them?
Variant posters are part of the established practice of screenprinted gig posters, which is what we stemmed from. They're designed to be more rare and therefore more collectible. We'll create a variant copy when both the film and the design calls for it—Attack the Block, for example, with the glowing teeth, or Iron Man II on metal.
m_f: What licenses have been particularly tough to get?
Taxi Driver was a challenge. We worked over a year to make that one happen. Once we got the approval to make the poster we had to track down Robert De Niro and Martin Scorcese and request their blessing for their names and likeness on the poster. It was an inquisition but worth it. It was such an exciting day when I got those emails back.
m_f: What film would you love to see a Mondo poster of, and which artist would you put on it?
I'd really like to acquire the Toho license for Justin so we could do kaiju movies like Godzilla and Mothra. He's wanted those for a long time. Personally, I really want to make Ghostbusters happen, with full likeness rights. It's so aligned with what we do and our fan base. We could do amazing things with it.
m_f: You put on two shows during SXSW—one for Game of Thrones, one with artists Tyler Stout and Ken Taylor. Why do those two particular shows during SXSW?
HBO approached us after our collaboration during San Diego Comic-Con last summer. They asked if we had any ideas, and we thought a gallery show and poster series during SXSW would time nicely with the season premiere of the show. Stout/Taylor was planned to coincide with Flatstock, which is a poster show during SXSW that brings in really great artists.
m_f: How often do you have Gallery shows like this? What do you have on the walls between shows?
Gallery shows typically run four weeks with a week or two in between to prepare for the next one. There's nothing on the walls in between shows because we're typically rapidly patching up nail holes and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint, or occasionally an artist will be in town creating a mural on the walls for the next show.
m_f: If I were you, I’d make sure to grab a copy of every poster before it went on sale.
Yeah, but they take up more room than you'd think! My favorites so far from this year are Taxi Driver by Martin Ansin, Django by Rich Kelly, and Jaws by Laurent Durieux. Oh man... and Beetlejuice by Ken Taylor...