Could A Graphic Designer Change Hollywood?
A graphic designer’s place in Hollywood is usually confined to the movie poster, crafting something that appeases the studio, the film, and the designer, too, although their say on things is usually not what counts most. The graphic designer is a working artist in Hollywood, a person who is doing more work than art. I often speak with Bobby about how we should try to leverage Hollywood, blessing them with good design, but he doesn’t agree because it doesn’t work: Hollywood does not want good design. Moreover, the system is stuck in the mud of being a system, less about visual creativity and more about making a sale. Occasionally, a unique and creative movie poster will pop up, yes, but more often than not it’s the same old bullshit we’re all used to. Last week, French graphic designer, who is not in Los Angeles, Pascal Witaszek became a viral sensation when he created the poster for a fictional film about Walt Disney starring Ryan Gosling. It’s lighthearted and sweat and a movie we could all see being made and, for some, want to see made. The poster and the fanaticism surrounding it beg a giant question: could a graphic designer change Hollywood?
This sounds like a stupid question, sure–but it is a very big one as the poster for a fake movie has gotten coverage from all sorts of crazy journalistic voices, fromPaste Magazine, E!, Huffington Post, Perez Hilton, Business Insider (who headlined the piece, “Here’s The Greatest Disney Movie Idea You’ll Never See”), and–most importantly–The Hollywood Reporter. For Witaszek, this is huge. He’s probably fielding offers for lots of crazy work and may have carte blanche to pick wherever he wants to go work, likely getting paid huge sums of money to design. That’s great!
People aren’t flipping out over the design of it, though. The design is great, yes, but not necessarily something you would call a game changer, nothing that could stand up to the likes of current work by designers like Jeremy Saunders, The Refinery, Neil Kellerhouse, and Sam Smith or legends like Saul Bass. The posters he makes are very safe and are definitely with an eye for sales and marketability, summing up what the movie is and who it is for in one visual bite.
Where this being visionary comes into play is that Witaszek is making up movies. He’s not creating new versions of posters for already existent movies, essentially creating entries into the Re-Covered Books Contest for movies. What Witaszek is doing is making up movies he would want to see, creating a premise for the film, casting the film, style of the film, producers involved with the film, and making up these dream scenarios of collaborations you would want to see, from a fan who is an artist sent to Hollywood. He is not designing: he’s making movies. This is what makes Witaszek’s posters so brilliant because they aren’t designs but concepts.
Take the Walt poster. First, a biopic on Walt Disney? Great! People would shit their pants to see that! I was just thinking last week that I bet that movie will be made soon on the subject. Witaszek must have felt the same way. Ryan Gosling as Walt? Perfect! Throw on a little mustache, give him a pen and paper, toss up a Mickey Mouse head thought cloud: perfect! We have our lead. Costars? Why not toss in Michelle Williams, Ewan McGregor, Marion Cotillard, and Matthew Fox among others. Fantastic! Who would we want to see make that movie? Who could craft it into something special? Hmmm…well, why not Ron Howard, with the help of producers Brian Grazer and Donald Kushner and writers David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman. Great! If you haven’t noticed, Witaszek did his research and assembled a team for a made up movie that would be a perfect film: he made up a Hollywood blockbuster that, as Business Insider said, likely will not be made.
But, is that the case? Do you think this will fall on Hollywood’s deaf ears? I for one don’t think so. Having worked in “the industry” for a bit, when Hollywood sees a glimpse of gold, they grab it without asking. I could very easily see someone pitching this movie now that is not Witaszek and could very easily see Witaszek out of the picture at all. For all we know Gosling could have seen this and is jumping on producing the film himself, ensuring he has the coveted role of Walt. What Witaszek has done is put himself in a position that is beyond graphic designer but is a film developer and writer, coming up with pitches for movies and giving a proof of concept in the form of these posters.
Witaszek is also full of these ideas. As you can see, he did the same for a fictional biopic on Elizabeth Taylor with Olivia Wilde as the star, a person who I don’t think anyone in the world would have considered to play the role but now is such an obvious choice that Wilde may be studying videos of Taylor in case this opportunity does arrive. He also did the same for an ABBA biopic called “Waterloo,” with Malin Akerman, Dominic Monaghan, Chris Pine, and Chloë Sevigny as the Sweedish pop group, actors who could rise to the occasion of playing these iconic figures while making a mainstream musical smash. He also created the concept for a Robert Englund led horror film and an action film that could actually be super legitimate as it has Daniel Craig accompanied by The Rock and Jason Statham. There are also tons more he’s made on his site but these five stood out as films that may already be in the pipeline since his designs broke last week.
It’s a strange and brilliant situation that could end up making the graphic designer in Hollywood more powerful, someone who holds the keys to the car instead of someone who just paints the car. Designers are removed enough from Hollywood that they are still audience members: they know what they would like to see and can visually articulate what this film could be very easily. They are hotbeds of creative ideas, which Pascal Witaszek proved quite effortlessly. The flip side of this coin is that designers could very easily be milked and abused by the system, stumbling into a similar situation Eric Cartman wandered into as the very taken advantage of movie concept spitting robot AWESOM-O on South Park. It’s a fascinating new conversation in the world of design and film that could very much change the look of Hollywood along with what Hollywood produces. We’ll have to stay very tuned into if these films actually get produced…