Sunday, 25 May 2014

Empire Design's poster campaign for Richard Ayoade's The Double

New York and London based studio Empire Design were responsible for creating the stunning series of film noir inspired posters for Richard Ayoade's (Submarine) film, The Double.

Following on from the success of Submarine (2010), The Double is Ayoade's second feature as director. Based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel of the same name, The Double follows the story of awkward James Simon (Jesse Eisenberg) who is driven to despair after his life is usurped by someone who looks exactly like him, but is also his behavioural opposite.

Empire, which specialises in producing film campaigns and trailers, including work for 12 Years A Slave, Dallas Buyers Club and Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, created both photographic and illustrated ads which reference The Double's title, its psychological themes and Ayoade's artistic influences.

Images of Eisenberg and co-star Mia Wasikowska (Alice In Wonderland) were shot on set by unit photographer Dean Rogers. Art director John Calvert says Empire was given exclusive access to the script and set to ensure the team had "a real feel" for visuals and lighting before designing the campaign.

Once the film was finished, Empire was briefed by Ayoade and Studio Canal and asked to convey a claustrophobic atmosphere, as well as referencing the well-known leads and director.

"Richard also had some specific references such as the Jean Luc Godard movie Alphaville, Ingmar Bergman's Persona, the poster for Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samurai, film noir movies of the 1940s and a self portrait by Edvard Munch. We then went away and produced around of 10 to 15 visuals, [which] were refined... until we ended up with a look everyone was happy with," explains Calvert.

The photographs use lots of deep shadow and were lit from a single overhead bulb. "There's very little, if any natural light in the film and you never see any sky," adds Calvert. The typography was inspired by lettering used in French posters from the 1960s but Calvert says it was given "a slight hand drawn roughness" to avoid looking too much like a retro pastiche.

The illustrated final illustration was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock's thriller, The 39 Steps (1959), which features similarly bold three dimensional typography. In keeping with the darkness and sense of claustrophobia conveyed in the photographic posters, the cityscape pictured is largely in darkness and long shadows have been added to letters for an ominous feel.

The only light in the poster comes from a spotlight shining on a lone protagonist, which Calvert says was added to give a sense of scale (La Boca and Human After All used a similar technique to great effect in their posters for this year's BAFTA Awards)

"I built [the poster] using Adobe Illustrator, then added texture and shading in Photoshop. We then gave it to an illustrator, Warren Holder, who drew over the top of it to get more of a sketched feel. The drawing was then dropped back over the Photoshop file and the two merged together," says Calvert.

Designing film posters that are bold enough to cut through the visual noise of large cities without being garish is always a challenge, but Empire's posters for The Double do just that. They convey all of the necessary information on the film's famous cast and acclaimed director, while creating a sense of suspense through a contemporary take on classic artwork from decades past.

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