Midnight Marauder’s Film Print Menagerie: an Interview

I love movie posters. Always significant to the film going experience; in the past few years I’ve especially grown impressed with artists around the world influenced by the aesthetics of the film poster, reimagining and reworking designs that tap into the spirit and energy of film that often wind up more beautiful than the original promotional prints.

This is especially the case with the work of Midnight Marauder. Still fairly new to the scene, I stumbled on his work running up to Prometheus. Exciting in concept, the lack of mainstream promotion notwithstanding, the work is increasingly becoming recognized by film and non-film enthusiasts alike. Rightly so. The casual film-goer might not be aware of the state of film poster art, but Midnight Marauder is a beacon of light in a haze of vomit.

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GDT: First, some history. You’ve steadily updated work on your tumblr for a little over a year. Were you doing this work prior to tumblr? How did you get started? What drew you to cinematic representations? Do you create work beyond movie inspired pieces?

MM: I wanted to do some Criterion-style covers just for fun, my own take on some of my favorite films. After having over thirty different covers, my sister – who is an artist as well – suggested that I start a tumblr. Never thinking I would get any feedback whatsoever, I posted the finished pieces one by one, made some more, and started to get a bit of reaction and a following. When the Fake Criterions blog started posting my work, it just blew up. People were asking to buy prints, they sent in requests for films. I added non-Criterion work to the site. The Prometheus poster series just blew the doors right open. But I work strictly on film, nothing else. My love is film.

MM - Prometheus4

How did things blow up once fake Criterion started posting your work? Was it the added exposure that got people to take notice and provide traffic? How did you start handling all the exposure and requests?

That’s a great question; yes, it helped to drive more traffic and followers on my tumblr. I had people sending in requests and telling me they enjoyed my work, which was very encouraging. I took it all in. But in the back of my head, all I wanted to do was to get Criterion to notice my work!

MM - MulhollandDrive(While they are at it, the Criterion Collection should heed his title suggestions as well. – ed.)

Do you think success of the Prometheus work was due to its timeliness? What do you think made your particular ideas really gel with the crowd the taking shape for the film? Why do you think it still holds?

I don’t know why people responded so well to those Prometheus posters. When I finished the first few designs, I recognized I had some of my best work. I felt quite good at the possible response of the few people who followed me. There was real excitement in the air for the film we all felt it. I was amazed by the first trailer and photos being released.

 A lot of your creations have an intense focus on collage and texture. The posters are crafted and revere the film’s place in history without being nostalgic and derivative. How has did you develop this style? What do you look for in a film when distilling it to an image?

My style has evolved. I admire Polish film posters and French poster artists of the 1970s. I want to evolve with each film and genre I take on. I look for films that have not gotten a fair shake in film history and tend to arrive at them through their directors, thinking about films within the context of a filmmaker’s body of work.

My love is film.

What traits or characteristics about a director inspire you? Do you find this selection process influences your approach to design?  Or, once you have selected the filmmaker, do the film’s aesthetics become the influence?

I am influenced by filmmakers who are dedicated to and produce visionary, dark, edgy work. I like directors that did not get pushed around by the studio system. For example, Peckinpah: he was as wild as his Wild Bunch. I take into consideration both the aesthetics of the individual films and the filmmakers in my art.

In what ways are you evolving your style? Do you seek out inspiration for design?

I have not nailed down my style yet, it’s evolving every day. I get inspiration from so many places and people. Music is a big influence on my work. As I work, I immerse myself with music. Progressive music was a big part of the making of the Prometheus posters. Old books, magazines, and Polish film posters play big roles, too, as well as many artists and designers: Neil Kellerhouse, certainly. Tyler Stout, Rob Jones, Bob Gold, Martin Ansin, Ken Taylor, Chip Kidd, Jay Shaw, Phantom City, Alan Hynes, Kilian Eng, and Jock. Olly Moss, of course!

Please expand on the subject of music.

Music is everything, really. I can’t work without music. I am a big metal buff and bands like Between the Buried and Me, Mastodon, High on Fire, and Converge are a major influence. But I listen to everything, even classic rock – Dylan, The Stooges, bluegrass, Queens of the Stone Age, the Kills. I listen to music all the time and it does influence in the prints.

Your prints for the Alien films (especially Prometheus) are – in my opinion – some of the best out there. Do you have a particular affinity for the franchise? How did the beginnings of those prints come about? Do you have plans to produce work for the other two or do you feel complete with these?

I do have a tremendous affinity for those films. All of Ridley Scott’s early work is important to me. When I heard about Prometheus I set out to make a few designs and it grew into twelve different posters. Never expecting reactions, I am still in shock from the amount of emails and hits I got in response to the posters. If I were ever to go back to Alien or Prometheus, I would love to work on a new set for a gallery show, something truly visionary.

MM - Prometheus

How are Scott’s films important to you? I’d like to know more about how you grew up and became an artist.

Alien and Blade Runner shaped my film-going experience. I sought out more of his films, read interviews, listened to commentaries, and the guy is just a bad ass, sharp – a genius. When he is on set, directing, under pressure from studios, Scott manages to work through it for the sake of a singular vision: his vision and no one else’s. I admire that attitude. I’d give my right nut to work for that guy.

You have also produced several prints for Blade Runner. Any thoughts on the recent idea of Prometheus linking Blade Runner to Alien (if ever so slightly)?

I’m just happy Ridley Scott is working in sci-fi and I can’t wait to see his Blade Runner follow up.

MM - BladeRunner2

You ask for suggestions from your fans and work on commission, but do you have a process for picking material beyond these two realms? When you go into a projec, do you know how many posters you will produce per film?

My process starts with the filmmaker. Once I pick the right guy, the fun is in the film selection. I never anticipate ending up with one design or a dozen.

Do you sketch things out first or work exclusively on the computer? Do you go back and rework prints after thinking they were done?

It can be a never-ending process sometimes or it can go very smoothly. First I conduct a whole lot of research on the chosen film. I make sketches. The details of the design, like finding the right font, is the toughest.

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Has any of your work been exhibited, or do you have any hopes or plans for exhibition?

Yes! I am in the process of working out logistics for several 2013 US and European shows.

When a movie studio recognizes your work – as the Weinstein Company recently did with your Killing Them Softly prints – did they reach out to you at all? Has Criterion ever discussed your prints?

You know, I heard a rumor that Ridley Scott saw my posters! The Killing Them Softly posters turned up on The Weinstein Company site the day after I posted them on mine, but as far as them or any other studio – or Criterion – contacting me regarding my work: not yet.

MM - KillThemSoftly

Is there a film that you’re looking forward to designing a poster for that you have not worked on yet?

There are so many. My goal for 2013 is to concentrate on galleries and shows with unified themes.

Will you develop material at galleries’ requests? How will that work?

 Oh, yes. I am very fast. And I am down to work on any subject or film. I love a challenge.

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