The Art of Film & TV Title Design | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios

The Art of Film & TV Title Design | Off Book | PBS Digital Studios


[MUSIC] KARIN FONG: I think title
design’s like a curtain. Like when you’re in the theater,
when the curtain gets up there is a moment
of anticipation. And I think it draws
you from your everyday into this fantastic world. JIM HELTON: It’s a
movie inside of a movie. And it’s always been something
that’s fascinated me. BEN CONRAD: I mean, it’s
such an important time. The movie starts, and that’s
a very precious little moment there that really
can’t be wasted. PETER FRANKFURT: I think a
good title sequence is just a show of respect
to the audience. It says we’re really
going to actually try as hard as we possibly
can to invite you in and to entertain you. KARIN FONG: A key
component of our design is just the concept work. We hope, you know, something
is very aesthetically striking, aesthetically memorable. But hopefully the reason
why it resonates with you is because it’s so true
to the story it’s telling. PETER FRANKFURT:
The project that really launched our company
was the title sequence to David Fincher’s SE7EN. What Fincher needed
was a formal expression of what he was going for, not
so much to mirror his style, but rather to reinforce his
style but in a completely different language. KARIN FONG: You hope that a
television series last years and years and that whatever
sequence you’re coming up with would have a lifespan that
encompasses the bigger ideas within the story. PETER FRANKFURT: Mad Men is
a perfect example, right. What happened is
that show became part of the culture
and the title sequence became part of the culture. And that final
image of Don Draper with his arm draped over
the back of his chair became the iconic
image for the show. KARIN FONG: We’re not out to
duplicate what the director is doing in the film. Sometimes it’s wonderful to
have that contrast at play. PETER FRANKFURT: The sort
of highest compliment is that the title
really is of the movie, and that the movie can’t exist
without the title sequence and vice versa. And that’s always really
what we’re going for. BEN CONRAD: Building the
anticipation for the audience at the beginning of the film
before they’ve seen anything is so much fun. In Zombieland, the
challenge was really about bridging design
and filmmaking. It was directed by
Ruben Fleischer. And he was taking an
approach that we understood in terms of bringing
type into the film in a real integrated way. We were responsible
for the whole intro. So the whole beginning required
a lot of design thinking. Eventually everything
clicked that this was going to be these beautiful
slow motion shots of zombies all around the country killing
people and then integrating the type in the
same way, so having them move in that
beautiful balletic style. So you have this grace to
it, and at the same time it’s horrific. I think from the
beginning Ruben also wanted to have the rules
be typographically featured within the film. So the solution for that was
to have the type interact and be part of the scene, and so
in a sense become a character. What we really discovered
is that we didn’t want to overpower the image. The images were so fantastic. And so we didn’t want
to have the font do so much of that work, and
say, like, hey, I’m funny, I’m a funny font. It didn’t need that. It didn’t need to be sort
of slapped in your face. I remember seeing it in the
theater and people laughing at the way that
the type behaved. That was just a really
gratifying moment, to see that type could
entertain in that way. JIM HELTON: I’ve always
loved title designs. I’ve always loved title making. It’s a really cool
thing to entertain. It’s like, how do you make
something stick with someone? How you put it in a context so
that they’ll feel something? With Blue Valentine, in
particular, it hits people. It was very honest. It takes you places that
are really hard to go. One of the things I
wanted to get across in the title sequence
was that there was love. That it did exist. And that even
thought it was harsh, and it was a hard thing to
watch them lose their love, it still existed. And it didn’t devalue that. They had always planned to
have fireworks at the end. A DP shot the fireworks. You know, Derek
just kept on saying, I want more out of
focus, more out of focus, more out of focus. And so finally they just
took the lens off the camera. And so the real beautiful
bouquets, I mean, it’s just the camera. And it looks magnificent to me. I edited that by itself. And I found the music,
and I did something that was a rhythmic ode to the film. But it was purely rhythmic. We had one of our
test screenings, and right after it the writer
came up to me and she said, you gotta do something with
the end that’s nostalgic. And we had these
fantastic stills that Davi Russo, our set
photographer on Blue Valentine, took. And it was funny, because as I
was watching it, at that moment I was seeing them
inside the fireworks. Right after that I
went back in the studio and put something together. Those aren’t
necessarily stills that were taken while the
shooting was happening. There’s a connection. He had time with them. And they collaborated with him. He really got the
actors to give to him. I think that’s one of the
reasons why the photos are so resonant and powerful. Putting images inside of
darkness and lightness and revealing them is an
experimental technique. And especially to put something
like that in mainstream cinema was really
exciting for me. And those moments of, almost
ecstatic moments of filmmaking are really magical. BEN CONRAD: That
moment of mystery at the beginning of the film,
that’s your only opportunity to really get the audience
in into the story. PETER FRANKFURT:
Images in motion, they’re by necessity a
story, because they’re happening over time. JIM HELTON: For me,
the first explosion is like, I’m going
to tell you a story. It’s not going to be in words. But it’s still clear that
there’s a story happening. PETER FRANKFURT: When
everything all falls into place and becomes sort of part of
your experience of the show, that’s when design
becomes filmmaking, right, storytelling. JIM HELTON: Watched all
of Saul Bass’s stuff. I used to make mixed videos of
like all his title sequences. PETER FRANKFURT: He’s the
pope, come on, he’s Saint Saul. KARIN FONG: You know, he
was showing filmmakers to not be literal. And it’s OK to challenge
your audience a little bit. JIM HELTON: He’s the best. I mean, it’s not
just title design. Any major logo
that I grew up with was probably designed
by Saul Bass. PETER FRANKFURT: He
elevated the form. KARIN FONG: Yeah. PETER FRANKFURT:
He just got people to pay attention
to title sequences beyond simply the information
that they were conveying. JIM HELTON: It is mind-boggling
how much that guy contributed to the visual world, the
graphic world that we live in. [MUSIC]

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