To launch the Doc/Circuit tour of A Northern Soul we commissioned Hull-based freelance artist Jemma Klein to create a new UK cinema poster. This interview between Doc/Fest Film Programme Coordinator Hannah McHaffie and Jemma offers her insight into creating lead images, and contemporary film poster design.
HM: When did film poster design become a part of your art practice?
JK: Moving into poster design was quite a natural evolution from my previous artwork. I have always been drawn to film and often use it as a source of reference and inspiration. I began producing artwork using traditional techniques and then, inspired by other artists and their digitally rendered paintings, I taught myself how to use a digital drawing tablet. Because I am heavily influenced by pop culture and have always loved the art of film posters, my practice seemed to naturally progress from illustrations and portraits to poster design.
HM: What is it important to capture in a film poster and its artwork?
JK: In general I think illustrated film posters are a great way to capture the main essence of the film. An illustrated poster specifically allows the artist the freedom to capture the emotion and nuance of the film. I try to examine the message of the film in question, capture how it makes me feel and then translate this into the artwork.
HM: What specific elements of A Northern Soul did you want to capture through the artwork for the poster?
JK: As I watched the documentary I immediately felt a connection to Steve as he tries to live his dream. Being an artist from Hull, trying to live my dream everyday, I felt like I understood his struggle. As Steve is the main focus of the film, I felt as though the best way to portray this struggle was through a portrait. I juxtaposed the portrait in a simple way with a quintessentially Hull setting by the pier. To me, the pier is a place to reflect and contemplate; it also suggests a northern, coastal setting. This is a really important element as I believe the geographical location of the film is often under represented to the wider public and it is what makes the documentary so unique.
HM: What is different about the discipline of poster design compared to your other practices?
JK: Traditional art in the form of still life and portraiture has always come naturally to me but poster design is a whole different beast. You have to combine so many skills; firstly technical drawing ability, composition, use of colour and not forgetting typography skills. Poster art can be a balancing act and in that balance lies the difficulty. I began as a traditional artist but as my work has developed so have I. General poster art requires a greater concentration on graphic design and over time I have had to improve these different skills.
HM: For the A Northern Soul poster you have taken a still image of the film's protagonist and layered it with illustration. What was the reason behind this artistic choice and why did it feel right for this film's poster?
JK: While watching A Northern Soul I felt like the film's protagonist Steve really took me on a personal journey; he had an open and honest personality and so I wanted the painting of Steve to be quite expressive and be a true representation of his character. I also wanted the poster to be bold and eye catching; gritty yet hopeful. The layered illustration of the pier gives it a sense of structure and frames the portrait quite well. It also gives the character context and the viewer an idea as to where he may be and the sort of obstacles he could be facing.
You can discover more of Jemma's work at jemmaklein.com
You can read more about Doc/Circuit and tour dates here.