Over the years, the San Francisco Film Society has become a regular client of ours, and with the 54th San Francisco International Design Festival only a few months away, we’ve been working hard to a create a design system that will be applied to everything from bus shelters, special event invites, and festival program guides to the film trailer, print ads and website.
This has made us wonder, what would we want to see in a film festival about design? Here’s what a few people around our studios had to say...
Sean McGrath, Creative Director
My recommendation for inclusion in the design film festival is Gattaca, released in 1997. It's set in an unspecified future and is a story about the discrimination that occurs in a society where genetic sequencing reveals every individual's strengths and weaknesses from the time of birth. While the story itself is compelling, it's the art direction and cinematography that make the movie one of my absolute favorites. From the use of color — muted, golden and ethereal — to the scenery and locations, which include Frank Lloyd Wright's mid-century Marin County Civic Center, to the strict, Armani-esque wardrobe, these elements uniquely portray a convincing future setting with a decidedly retro feel. The end result is to give the film a timeless, almost haunting quality that to me, narrative aside, make the visual and design aesthetic of the film a beautiful story in and of itself.
Tomi Lahdesmaki, Graphic Designer
László Moholy-Nagy's experimental and surreal short films. Known for his constructivist graphic design work and as a professor in the Bauhaus school, László Moholy-Nagy also experimented and produced various short films during his life. Much like his design work, his films played with elementary shapes and color to form strange avant-garde worlds that continue to inspire designers and artist today.
I would also include guest speakers Village Green Studio (UK) and Hort studio (Germany) whose work both directly and indirectly are influenced by the same vein of experimental playfulness and have them discuss their own work and the work of László Moholy-Nagy.
I would also invite various in-house designers from Hollywood to talk about their work on movie graphic design. Whether it's the evil corporation OCP (Omni Consumer Products) in the movie Robocop or the various government organizations that control the alien population in the movie District 9, movies employ graphic designers that create fictional branding and graphics for various movies. The process is much the same as a real world projects, and the end result is just as an important piece in crafting the stage for a fictional story as the makeup and CGI that is used throughout the movie.
Ryan Lee, Design Lead
I would like to see a special honor for Spike Jonze. Most of the actual videos are visually similar to the production quality of average skate vids. From an innovation standpoint, the intros and special chapters in Yeah Right! and Fully Flared bring a level of cinematography to skateboarding that was previously uncommon. Spike Jonze managed to do this in a very honest and authentic way.
Aside from skate vids, he has a pretty amazing career. He's a part owner of Girl Skateboards. He's the co-creator of Jackass. He's the creative director at VBS.tv. He's directed a ton of rad music videos. He's won awards for directing commercials for Adidas, Ikea and the Gap. He also directed Being John Makovich, Adaptation, and Where the Wild Things Are. His ability to cover multiple industries is admirable.
Xuan Wang, User Experience Intern
DVD Bonus Features from Ghibli and Pixar. Even when designing and producing fantastic scenes and characters that can never be experienced, film studios such as Ghibli and Pixar back their design with research. The special features for many of their animated motion pictures, including Spirited Away, Cars, and Up, include insight into the processes they take to ensure that the experiences they provide feel authentic. In Spirited Away, the animators all got to try to wrestle a tennis ball from a dog's mouth so that they could design a scene where a young girl has to feed medicine to an unwilling dragon. In Up, the animators all took a hiking trip and spent the day on top of the same barren, flat-topped cliffs that were to appear in the movie. Through this research, the animators were able to provide a culturally-relevant experience for events that are outside the bounds of reality.
Ann Kim, San Francisco Office Manager
Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000). This film is one of my favorites because it is a visual and aural masterpiece. WKW uses color, music, editing, and cinematography to show us what happens in close spaces, little privacy and human nature. With few spoken words about what is taking place between two sets of couples, the film creates a whole cohesive story with little nuances and details that you really have to watch for to understand the complexity of character emotions. At times, or upon first watching, the film can be confusing because of the editing and the way it repeats itself or moves through time but all is revealed if you pay close attention to the recurring music and color schemes. It is so visually beautiful to watch and it is kind of like the fine wine of WKW's movies - it definitely gets better with time: the more you watch, the more you notice, the better it becomes.
Terrence Malick's Badlands (1973). This movie sticks out to me as a film that really subtly pushes the boundaries of design within a genre. This movie is delicate, yet it's content is not - it's a loosely adapted story of the real-life murder spree of Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate in the late 50s. In Malickian fashion, a voice-over narrated by the sweet, naive and delicate voice of young Sissy Spacek's character creates a dialectic between sound and what is seen on screen. What you hear and what you see becomes a stark contrast at times... making you further question what is going on in the psychology of murderers Kit and Holly. What's more - as the viewer, we never really get insight into Holly's character... only in the way she talks about Kit. In terms of what the film is doing within the Western genre is really quite amazing. Film has established a certain "cowboy code of ethics," which stems from many things but often revolves around silence and the unknowability of the cowboy/male protagonist. This can be applied to Badlands - we never really hear Kit talk for himself or tell us what he is thinking... this only happens through the perspective of Holly. Malick turns this Western convention on its head by allowing us to "know" Kit through Holly and stripping him of his own agency by providing insight through a female protagonist. Masterpiece.
Diving Bell and the Butterfly. This movie really bonds the viewer and protagonist together by literalizing the handicap of the main character. Vision is blurred and the viewer sees the extent of it. We become attached to the protagonist and we really do understand how difficult it must have been to write a book with a blink of an eye. This movie is visually beautiful with what it does with cinematography.
Persona. I don't even know where to begin with this movie. It is a psychological f#$&. The cinematography is amazing - what Bergman does with shadows and black and white... never before seen nor successfully duplicated. Bergman was a genius. This movie is visual poetry - dark, stark, genius.
Don't Look Now. This movie does really experimental, great things with editing and match-on-forms. It also adopts a great color story that is even eerier now because of it's outdatedness (1973). The story is complex in the way it deals with clairvoyance - the audience is aligned with Donald Sutherland's character in a complex way: we see images that seem significant but we don't realize until later why they were so eery and important. It's The Sixth Sense, pre-The Sixth Sense. And from such a well-developed and complicated editing and cinematographic structure, the simple and stark ending catches you off guard completely. They definitely don't make them like they used to.
Adam Little, User Experience Designer
I would screen Enter the Void for the opening titles alone. Tarantino said that this was "hands down best credit scene of the year … Maybe best credit scene of the decade. One of the greatest in cinema history." A film festival about design should definitely find room to explore the opening and closing credits of cinema.
Philip O’Dwyer, Creative Director
Special Program: A typography vs. music video greatest hits! A few highlights would include:
DVNO by So-Me / Machine Molle
Logorama by H5
The Child by Antoine Bardout Jaquet
So, what would you include?