Behing the Project: “What-If” Movie Posters

In this series, we’ll look deeper into some of the projects on Behance.net that were especially admired in our community. Peter Stults creates movie posters reimagined for another time and place - like, what would the “Spring Breakers” poster look like if it starred James Dean? Although when Stults first released his work to his personal networks, the response was “like crickets in an awkward silence,” he became an overnight sensation on Behance, going completely viral. He was even recently commissioned to create a movie poster for an upcoming Paul Schrader (of Taxi Driver) movie. 

What was your inspiration for this project?
Since 1999 I’ve been playing with the idea of “what-if” oriented concepts. It first started with making movie posters for books I was reading. Then I was doing posters based on concepts – like what if you had Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves in some religious thriller? The next step in evolution was making posters for movies featuring a star who was going to be cast, but didn’t get up getting the role. For example, Jack Nicholson as the father in “A Christmas Story” or Tom Cruise as Iron Man. Friends of mine later forwarded me the work of Sean Hartter who crafted the “different era” concept, which greatly inspired my What-if poster making process.

Can you describe your process in creating this project?
Much of it is brainstorming. I’ll be on the subway or walking around, and I first think of a movie, then think of the setting and genre, then the actors. Once I’ve got the concept, I loosely sketch out the poster’s style, thinking about things like horizontal or vertical orientation (depends on the Era). Once sketched out, I look for photographs and images of the actors. I have a collection of pulp fiction books and old magazines and newspapers that I use to derive texture, aged effects and reviewing color spectrum and type face. Most of my posters will start in Photoshop, but I incorporate Illustrator, scanning things in, and even hand-drawing some parts.

Did you expect it to be as popular as it’s been on The Behance Network?
I was absolutely not at all ready for the popularity. I had first passed some of these posters around on Flickr and Facebook and it was the equivalent of crickets in an awkward silence situation. I remember being super proud of my Avatar, Fifth Element and Inception posters, but barely got any “likes.” So, when creating my Behance profile, I did not think anything of them. I was crossing fingers my illustration-based work would get some traction.

Did anything interesting happen as a result of the success of this project? (fans contacting you, job opportunities, blogs picking it up, etc).
When the posters went viral, a whole wave of things took place. The famous fashion store Colette, based in Paris, France, contacted me about doing a show on the posters. I had never done an art show before, so my first show being an international one at a well-known fashion store was not too bad.

Then, I was contacted to create the promotional poster for the upcoming movie “The Canyons,” which is directed by Paul Schrader (writer of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull), screenplay by Bret Easton Ellis (author of American Psycho and Less Than Zero) and starring Lindsay Lohan and adult entertainment star James Deen. So, my first professional movie poster offering being “The Canyons” was pretty phenomenal.

There has been a wave of freelance work I’ve been a part of that have resulted in some cool projects. I’ve been covered in various blogs and online news sources (Huffington Post, Elle, Slate, Premiere, Fast Company, Business Insider, Yahoo Movies, BuzzFeed, Daily What, Flavorpill, Paste Magazine, Laughing Squid and many more). And the results haven’t slowed. I do a “What If” poster each month for the French movie magazine “So Film.” I’m working on a show in England right now and recently I got contacted by a gallery owner in Brooklyn, all for the “What If” posters.

Did you go through many versions and iterations before coming up with these final pieces?
There are some that are still in a limbo state, where I just haven’t put my finger on how to make them complete (I’ve a Burt Lancaster ’50s version of Total Recall that I keep revisiting). Before finalizing the Behance projects, there were a handful of posters I did not upload like an Oliver Reed in Predator poster or a Peter Fonda in The Royal Tenenbaums poster along with a Hitchcock’s 12 Monkeys poster. All of these need a little more tender loving care.

 

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