What is on a Film Poster?

In my last blog post, I spoke about the different types of film posters and how they have changed overtime and which ones are mostly seen today. Instead of focussing on the lobby cards which were at their peak of popularity from approximately 1920 – 1970, I am going to focus on different film posters from the past few decades. I chose these films at random (apart from the Alien: Covenant poster because, that is one of my favourite film posters ever and I wanted to discuss it) and I have printed them off and annotated the different features of them. My film is directed at both male and female audiences aged eighteen to thirty years old (quite a diverse audience) but, I wanted to look at a wide variety of posters before delving into my specific genre. Furthermore, I highly doubt that drama film poster is completely different from a common film poster. However, I am first going to talk about an important part of a film poster called: the billing block.

The Billing Block

The billing block is an incredibly important part of a typical film poster however, it isn’t entirely necessary to include one if you are designing a teaser poster for example. The word “billing” is a performing arts terms used in referring to the order and other aspects of how credits are presented for plays, films, television, or other creative works. The information which is usually contained in a billing block are: actors, directors, producers and other crew members. A billing block is a very efficient and easy way of listing the people who work behind the scenes of the film as well as giving them credit. Evidently, you cannot list the entire crew including the catering team,  makeup artist, hair stylist etc; consequently, there is a certain order for the names that go into a billing block – the billing order. In order, the billing block contains: name of the film studio(s), production company(ies), possessory credits, above-title billed actor(s), film title, main cast, last billed actors(s), casting director(s), composer(s), visual effects supervisor(s), costume designer(s), film editor(s), production designer(s), director(s) of Photography, producer(s) and/or executive producer(s), screenwriter(s) and finally the director(s). I think a common mistake in designing the billing block is the misconception that the director goes in the first few names when actually, its the other way round. In terms of measurements, by convention the point size of the billing block is 15 to 35 percent of the average height of each letter in the title logo. As you can see, the billing block follows some very specific measurements.

The billing block is featured in many of the posters I analysed so, without further a do, here are the posters:

The Lobster

The Lobster is a 2015 “absurdist dystopian black comedy film” directed, co-written and co-produced by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. The film definitely does fit the description of a dystopian black comedy aswell as being very mysterious. The film focusses around a group of single people who are given forty-five days to find a romantic partner or otherwise, they will be turned into animals. The main star of the  film is Colin Farrell, who plays a newly-single man who is one of those people trying to find someone so he can remain human. The woman who he finds interest in is Rachel Weisz. The film was selected for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival as well as winning the Jury Prize. In regards to the poster, it evokes mystery – it gives nothing away about the film. The plain, beige background makes the central subject and black, bold title stand out. Furthermore, there is no obvious link between the picture and the bold title: The Lobster. The black and white picture is a whole mystery in itself – we have no idea what or whom he is holding. This could be described as a teaser poster with the lack of tagline and story expressed in the shot. Going to back to mention of the awards it has been nominated and won, there is a clear mention of this on the poster. I feel like this “reassures” audiences that it is a recognised and respected film because, due to the lack of anything on the poster, it may seem quite boring and dull – I think it is quite an intriguing poster, however. The typical billing block is featured at the bottom of the poster but, instead of featuring the actors’ names in the small print, they have been made much more bolder than the other pieces of text in the billing block. Another piece in the billing block which isn’t necessary but, is quite common is the logo list of all of the companies which are associated with the film. This can be seen quite a lot in film posters from the independent film genre. I do really like this poster and I think I will use this poster as a reference for my A2 Media Studies coursework which is a drama film.


E.T (Extra-Terrestrial)

E.T is one of the most iconic films of all time, if not, it is definitely one of the most well known eighties films ever made. It is a 1982 American science fiction fantasy film co-produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison. E.T doesn’t have a specific audience as audiences of different ages can enjoy the film. E.T tells the focusses on a young boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas), who is living a very lonely life. His life soon turns around when he befriend an extraterrestrial nicknamed, E.T – E.T is also very lonely as he has been stranded on planet Earth. Elliot’s adventure begins as he and his siblings attempt to return E.T to his home planet whilst at the same time, keeping him hidden from the government and most importantly – his mother. The poster had a very prominent colour scheme of different shades of dark blue and even some black. This colour scheme made me think of the night sky which is arguably has connotations to. In regards to this idea, it is a good idea to use colour to portray a huge theme or part of the story in the poster. Within the huge, eye catching moon, there are two very prominent silhouettes of E.T and the child on the bike. This image of the bike was a huge trademark image for the film and arguably, it is incredibly recognisable to this day. However, the silhouettes obviously give us no idea of their identity or who they are which almost makes it a bit like a teaser poster. Aswell as a tagline, which is incredibly recognisable, the name of the director is above the title of the film. Since Spielberg is such an established director, placing his name on the poster could perhaps draw audiences in because, of the amount of great films he has done before. The title of the film is incredibly bold and prominent which makes it stand out from the rest of the poster because of it’s size and the white font. Even though the billing block is usually a lot smaller in comparison to the poster, the billing block on this poster is a lot bigger than it would be on stereotypical film posters. To be honest, I am not too sure why this is but, on my poster I would perhaps just keep it to a the much smaller size it would be on the majority of film posters. E.T could definitely be  argued as a family friendly film but, even though I love the poster and the design of it, I don’t think I will be taking inspiration from this for my poster.



The next film poster I analysed is from a much more recent film: Moonlight. Moonlight is a 2016 “coming-of-age film” written and directed by the incredibly talented Barry Jenkins. The film is based on the unpublished semi-autobiographical play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney. The film focusses on the three stages of life undertaken by the main character, Chiron Harris. These three stages explore the difficulties Harris faces with his sexuality, identity as well as including the emotional and physical abuse he endures whilst growing up. Moonlight has become an incredibly respected film for focussing on a black man struggling with himself as well as wining the Best Motion Picture Award at the 74th Golden Globes Awards and consequently, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. This film is a lot more serious than my short film however, it does have many elements in the poster which I can take from. The main element which stood out to me was the vivid colour scheme of the dark blues and purples. The poster is split into three different sections which perhaps symbolises those three stages of life the character goes through. The middle section is the most vivid which highlights him in the centre – meaning he is the centre of attention and focus. Instead of the title prominently standing out, it fits in with the colour scheme since it looks like a bright blue, neon sign. On the other hand, the tagline is white which makes it stand out more against the blue background. This perhaps means that the tagline is of great importance in describing the film since it does focus on “the story of a lifetime”. Unlike the E.T poster, the billing block is just the bog standard sizing and type we see on the majority of film posters. I think my favourite aspect of this poster is the vivid and aesthetically pleasing colour scheme of the blues and the purple (and the white).


Blue is the Warmest Colour

Like The Lobster, this film is also an independent film which was recognised at many film festivals around the world. Blue is the Warmest Colour is a 2013 French coming-of-age romantic drama film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche with main actors Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. This film also fits into the category of a film which has been split into two chapters. In these two chapters, Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), a French teenager who discovers desire and questions about her sexuality when a blue-haired aspiring painter (Léa Seydoux) becomes the main focus of her life. The story takes place over a time span from Adèle’s high school life to her new career as a school teacher in her early adult years.  At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, the French film won the Palme d’Or from the official jury as well as the FIPRESCI Prize. The sophistication and originality of the film can also be presented in the poster.


Alien: Covenant

The next and final film poster I analysed is definitely my favourite as well as being completely different to the other posters I have analysed. Alien: Covenant is a 2017 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott, and written by John Logan and Dante Harper. The film is sequel to Prometheus (2012) which means it is the second instalment in the Alien prequel series as well as being the sixth instalment overall in the Alien film series. The film stars Michael Fassbender (reprising his role as David as well as playing a new additional character, the A.I (Artificial Intelligence) Walter) and Katrherine Waterston, with Billy Crudup, Danny McBride and Demian Bichir. The story follows the crew of a colony ship that lands on a mysterious planet who make a terrifying discovery (its the xenomorph of course!). Being part of a huge franchise, the film poster is recognisable due the subject in the centre of the poster: the xenomorph, The colour schemes are primarily dark with a black background and a dark blue/green xenomroph in the centre. The xenomorph is the centre of attention on this poster which grabs the audience’s attention. The one word tagline of “RUN” creates a very suspenseful mood on the poster and obviously foreshadows what happens in the film. For horror and action films like this, a one word tagline really does add to the mysteriousness of the film. The lack of billing block reveals nothing about the cast or the crew but, since it is such an established franchise, people must already have an idea of what the film is. Compared to other posters from the Alien film franchise, this poster is much more different. I feel like this poster has a modern twist on it as opposed to the posters from the 1980’s. This modern twist on this poster looks even more menacing compared to if they used a picture from the previous films in the franchise. Furthermore, unlike the other posters I looked at, the Alien: Covenant poster is an obvious teaser poster only stating the date and a lack of a billing block. I absolutely love the design of this poster but, my film is not part of a horror genre like the Alien film franchise is. I will definitely take into account though the techniques they have used to present different moods and atmospheres just from this simple, yet effective, poster.Alien Poster

I have found lots of inspiration from looking and analysing a range of different film posters from different genres. What I taken away from looking at these posters are:

  • A bold title
  • A catchy tagline
  • Colour schemes which fit well together
  • A subject
  • Billing Block
  • Possible feature of the date of release?

I will take all of the bullet points above into consideration and try an incorporate them into my film poster to ensure it looks professional, sophisticated and most importantly, realistic.



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