The Making of Issue No. 34: Our collaboration with Jason Poland

The first draft of Jason's illustration for The Tree of Life

For the folks who have picked up a Film Monitor every now and then, they probably noticed that we did not inlcude a single photograph from the movies we reviewed in the latest issue, No. 34 of June 2011. Instead, No. 34 is filled with the marvelous illustrations by our friend and cartoonist Jason Poland, whose comic strip Robbie and Bobby has been a favorite of ours since its days in The Daily Cougar. Jason has been a friend of Joe (our designer) and I for a number of years. During a recent mundane chatter on facebook, Jason and I joked about doing a “Robbie and Bobby + Film Monitor crossover” while Joe stoked the fire of this harmless musing with his candid interest.

Yes, this all started as a joke. But it’s safe to say that we are all very pleased and proud of the results.

At first, we were not sure of the capacity in which we wanted Jason to be involved. Jason and I talked about having a Robbie and Bobby strip in the issue. But Joe, the fearless designer, suggested that we should go all out—replace all the usual production stills from the reviews with illustrations by Jason. After Jason agreed to commit to this endeavor, my response is, “Why the fuck not?”

I knew June was going to an important for us because Terrence Malick’s highly anticipated The Tree of Life will be in the issue. The film’s star Brad Pitt was almost a shoo-in for our cover since I knew I wanted Malick’s film on the front page. I was half-jokingly saying that it will be a sell-out move on our part since we rarely write about the big movies, much less having a movie star on the cover. The Tree of Life images are all over the different movie websites, so it was refreshing to have Jason do the art for us in lieu of Brad Pitt’s chiseled jaw.

Jason's final draft for The Tree of Life

I sent Jason a few stills from The Tree of Life (and our other movie, Lee Chang-Dong’s Poetry). I also gave Jason my brief assessment of the films and the objects I would like him to consider. Under Joe’s recommendation, Jason is to draw one big drawing and one smaller art for each of the film. We first did the Brad Pitt and the kids drawing and we were blown away by his artistry. Then Jason added some almost-fantasy element into the drawing, since we’ve talked about the film’s take on the interconnectedness of life forms. The result is simply stunning.

For the smaller drawing, Jason opted for the infamous dinosaurs from the Malick film. We like how the people who have watched the films will get the idea behind the artwork, but shall remain mysterious to those who have yet to watch them. That’s why I asked Jason to draw a picture of people playing badminton for Poetry, because there is an evocative scene near the end that mirrors an earlier scene with the characters playing the sport.

Badminton drawing for Poetry (by Jason Poland)

We also purposely depart from the film’s intended mood. We decided to have a little fun and mislead the readers with a little mystery. And Jason comes through with an amazing Norse-inspired cover. Here is Jason own account on working with us:

I was asked to share my thoughts on the drawings I contributed to the June issue of Film Monitor. I think they’re great! But seriously, when I was asked to illustrate the issue, I used the opportunity to experiment with some new styles.

In the spring, I began learning to draw with a Wacom tablet, and an illustration program called Manga Studio. Together, they helped me create really crisp line art to match FM’s clean design.

The large illustrations for Tree of Life, and Poetry are collages of elements drawn from film stills, and some surreal flourishes to keep things from getting too literal (boring). Each drawing is an attempt to capture a moviegoer’s overall impression of the film in single frame.

Gustavo Pizzi (illustrated by Jason Poland)

I really enjoyed how the portrait of director Gustavo Pizzi turned out. A person’s hair frames their face, and their eyes act as a focal point, so using only those elements created a minimal, but effective likeness of Pizzi. I also created a portrait in this style of director Iria Gómez Concheiro, which may be included in a future issue of FM.

Our final cover for June 2011

For the cover, I was asked to study Polish movie posters. Such a great homework assignment–these are some truly unique and evocative interpretations of familiar films you’ve might of seen a dozen times or more. I especially enjoy Andrzej Krajewski’s Big Lebowski poster, however something in the style of Hans Hillmann would be more fitting for Tree of Life. My deception of the O’Brian family plucking their youngest from Yggdrasil was an effort to balance the compelling with the menacing.

I asked Jason to add a bit of texture to the cover to give it a cut-paper look and we are head over heels for the final product. Joe also make a brilliant decision to tone down our usually design-heavy titles for the articles, giving them a clean look and letting the pretty drawings take the spotlight.

A snapshot of the final layout

And the cover we didn’t use because the baby-plucking one fits better with our layout:

Church-organ-turned-skyscraper

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1 Comment

Filed under June 2011

One response to “The Making of Issue No. 34: Our collaboration with Jason Poland

  1. Daniel de Culla

    I like.

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