For the second year running, the South by Southwest film festival in Austin Texas has presented an award for Excellence in Poster Design. As far as I know this is the only major film festival that has such an award, but correct me if I’m wrong. The award was open to all films accepted for SXSW 2010. I had been rooting for Cold Weather to win and I had thought it was a shoe-in, but I had underestimated the depth of graphic talent at the festival. Fittingly for this music town, a lot of the posters (many of which were for short films) seemed to be channeling the energy and invention of the gig poster scene. Unlike most theatrical release posters, they have less of an eye on the market-place and more of a simple desire to grab attention in a crowded field. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a considerable amount of sophistication in a lot of the designs. I also liked that there is a lot more illustration than you normally see in movie posters these days.
The grand prize winner was this compelling (and repelling) design for the four minute short film Feeder, designed by its British director Joseph Ernst, with assistance from Jack Newman. Made to be seen in the flesh, so to speak, where the viewer is forced to stand really close to the poster to see its title and tagline (see detail below), Feeder’s poster, like its film, makes you look. Shot over five years, Feeder is filmed entirely from inside a human mouth (surely a cinematic first), documenting the various substances that are ingested over the course of a day.
I haven't been able to discover exactly who the judges of the contest were, but it may have been the same experts as those on the SXSW panel "Floating Heads are Dead - Why Traditional Posters Suck" (which I would have loved to attend). Two of the panelists were from All City Media, my favorite British poster design firm, and someone from All City tweeted on March 17th, the day after the awards, “ok so i awarded Feeder best in show. Disturbing but original, a great concept that challenged how a film poster should work.”
The Special Jury Award went to the poster for the 20-minute coming-of-age short Equestrian Sexual Response, (reminiscent of the poster for Zoo) with the design credited to its cinematographer Martim Vian and its director Zeke Hawkins, and the Audience Award went to the “Star Wars homage" poster for the bio-doc Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission designed by Michael Anderson.
You can see many of this year’s entries on the organizers’ Flickr page and I made a small selection of some of my favorites here: