From the Freelance Files: The Movie Poster that Wasn’t

April 8th, 2014 | Posted in Freelancing


Sometimes when you freelance, a job comes along that seems promising and then it falls thorough or never ends up being brought to completion for whatever reason. I wouldn’t say I’ve had a lot of those kinds of jobs, but after 25 years of freelancing I’ve had my fair share. Most never get to the point where I do any actual drawing for them, except when that drawing is part of a conceptual stage where I get paid for my efforts regardless if the job gets “picked up”. Those kinds of jobs are fairly common in the advertising world. I have done illustrations for packaging or marketing campaigns that never actually get used or run, but I still get paid for the work.

The image above is a rough concept I did as a pitch for a poster for the independent film “The Linguists”, but I didn’t get paid anything and it never went beyond this conceptual art. I did this back in 2007 right when the film was about to be featured at the Sundance Film Festival. “The Linguists” is a documentary following two researchers abroad on their quest to document obscure languages that are on the verge of becoming extinct. I ordinarily never do anything “on spec” (meaning for free in order to secure the job and MAYBE get paid), but in this case I spent a small amount of time cobbling together this rough layout for the client to use to try and sell the poster concept to the rest of the producers/investors. This image is actually is a very dumbed-down version of the original concept, which was to be a high energy action caricature of the two main guys and lots of surrounding caricatures of some of the colorful people they meet on their travels ala a Jack Davis crowd scene illustration. Even this less-manic concept got rejected because they felt it would have been too humorous. Actually the original concept would have been far more humorous… this rather boring design was an attempt to salvage the idea a little. In all fairness I didn’t think a humorous poster was right for this film anyway. There was very little funny about the movie, and a poster like that would have given the wrong idea to a potential audience. Still, it would have been fun.

Ah well, you can’t win them all.


  1. suburbatory says:

    You’re right, this style wouldn’t seem right for a serious movie. Though 30 years ago this would have been a great start for the movie Hysterical.


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