Sarah Freeman talks to the artist reinventing the traditional film poster, from Star Wars to Jaws and the latest Batman outing.
When Olly Moss was asked to design a series of posters for arguably the most iconic film series in movie history, he knew the eyes of the world would be watching.
Olly is one of the artists who work for Mondo, the Texan company which has made a name for itself by producing alternative versions of film posters and it was Olly who was charged with reinventing George Lucas’ Star Wars series.
“When you’re working on something as iconic as that there is pressure,” he says.
“There has been so much Star Wars art and merchandise which has been produced over the years that it is really difficult to come up with something that has never been done before.
“The fans feel a real sense of ownership of the films, but I’m a fan as well. There’s a balance between treating the past with respect and not being afraid to try something new. What I always try to do is ignore everything that has gone before and just approach it as completely blank canvas. What any great film poster should do is capture the essence of the film.”
Olly’s Star Wars posters, which featured the silhouettes of the likes of Darth Vader and C3PO, proved another hit for the Texas-based Mondo and Olly has just curated a brand new exhibition of posters which opens in Leeds’ White Cloth Gallery today.
The event, the first of its kind in the UK, will feature Olly’s Star Wars posters alongside the work of other Mondo artists who have delivered their own take on everything from Bride of Frankenstein to Kill Bill and Planet of the Apes.
“We tend to think of posters from, say the 1950s and 60s, as representing some sort of golden age of film art, but really it’s only the best ones which have survived,” says Olly. “Pick any era and there is a lot of truly forgettable film posters.
“Part of the problems is that they are often done at the very last minute, they have to be signed off by a half a dozen people, who all want different things.
“There’s also the question of star billing, how large the name of the lead actor needs to be compared to the support. It is a complete minefield. We are really lucky because we don’t have any of those limitations, we can approach it from a completely artistic point of view.
“Of course, it helps if you like the film, in fact I don’t think I would ever agree to create a poster for a film I didn’t like, but basically we have completely free reign.”
Olly comes from the minimal school of design – his version of An American Werewolf in London, used the original typeface with a silhouette map of England set against a red background – and his pared-back style has proved a hit.
His recent take on Christopher Nolan’s final Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, sold nearly 10,000 copies, despite only being on sale for less than 24 hours.
“Of course that’s really flattering, but it’s impossible to know what’s going to be popular,” says Olly, who refrains from hanging his own artwork on the walls of his home.
“Batman has a really loyal following thanks to the original comic books and the recent film adaptations have taken that onto another level.”
Born in Winchester, Olly studied English literature at university in Birmingham. While there, he developed a lucrative sideline in printing T-shirts and after graduating decided to turn to art full-time.
“I’ve not been to art college, in fact I’ve not had any professional training, but art and design is just something that I’ve always done. I left university four years ago and can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing. I have to say it doesn’t feel like work.”
Mondo began as a T-shirt company eight years ago, but since moving into film posters it has earned a global fan base.
Commissioning artists from all corners of the globe to create alternative versions of cult films, many of its prints sell out in a matter of minutes.
It’s a name well-known to film buffs, but despite the popularity of the work, this exhibition is the company’s first in the UK.
Part of the sixth Thought Bubble Comic Convention, which is taking over Leeds this weekend as part of the city’s International Film Festival, the event was launched as a celebration of comic books and the artists who create them.
“The exhibition is a unique opportunity for fans of pop culture, graphic art or simply arresting images to see these fantastic pictures first hand,” says Lisa Wood, director of the Thought Bubble Comic Convention.
“The White Cloth Gallery is devoted to film and photography and being able to stage a showcase of work like this for some really fantastic artists is a real coup.”
Mondo exhibition, White Cloth Gallery, November 17 to December 2. Thought Bubble Comic Convention, to November 18. www.thoughtbubblefestival.com.