Writer/Director Jonathan Lawton invited me to design a poster for his movie “Jackson.” The film follows Donald and Sam, two unhoused people in Los Angeles, after Donald receives a $20 bill—a Jackson—from a businessman. The story unfolds over the course of one day, and is accented by the characters breaking into some of the world’s most beloved arias from operas including Don Giovanni, Carmen, and Nabucco.
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For the poster, we did a fun photoshoot with the lead actors, Barry Primus and Charlie Robinson, dancing around Jonathan’s house. After initially centering one of those photographs, we landed on the idea of something more graphic—placing the characters at the top of the poster and using negative space to symbolize the wide open day ahead of them.
In that space we printed lyrics from the aria “Va, Pensiero” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Nabucco” in a high gloss spot varnish:
Fly, thought, on wings of gold
Settle upon the slopes and hills of our native soil
Oh, my country, so lovely and lost
Rekindle the memories in our hearts
Tell us about the times gone by
Play us a sad lament
Inspired by the Lord
To fortify us
To endure our suffering
Spot varnish is forever one of my favorite effects on press, because you can’t really replicate it at home or on a screen. Depending on your angle, it can look light on dark, or dark on light, or just vanish entirely. It’s design that gets you to move your body. Few things in the designer’s toolkit can do that.
The poster was used for some early festival releases, and was later replaced with something a bit more traditional that was more suited to DVD cases. If you find one of these in the wild, you have yourself a real collector’s item!
Bonus facts: Among many other things, “Jackson” director Jonathan Lawton also wrote the original screenplay to the movie “Pretty Woman,” created the Pamela Anderson TV show “VIP” and—under the pseudonym J.D. Athens—wrote and directed the 1989 cult classic “Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death.”