The (Annotated) 2002 John Arcudi Interview – Part Nine

This part of the interview has been lost, so I’ve tried to reconstruct it just from the title it had been under.

STOUT: I got out of the movie poster illustration business at just the right time. I was there for its last Golden Age…then two things happened to destroy it.

Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California had (still has?) this nasty habit. Each year, they’d find out what the most lucrative field of commercial art was. Then, they’d train all of their illustration students to focus on that particular field. Those students would then graduate and flood the market. To get recognition and jobs in that market the graduates began to drop their prices in order to compete with the others and score the jobs.

One year Art Center focused on movie poster illustration and flooded that one time lucrative market with illustration graduates. They later killed two more of my biggest sources of income in the same way: Theme park design and Concept Design for Film.

I had been away from the movie poster illustration business for awhile when I was making Conan the Barbarian. I came back to my main poster art employer, Seiniger & Associates to make some real money (When I had left the poster biz to work on Conan I had been making $5000 per week doing movie advertising. On Conan I was paid $500 per week). I was shocked by how much that biz had changed in such a short time. When I had left Seiniger, I was charging $3000 for a color comprehensive (a comp is art that is in between a rough and a finish). The young illustrators working for Seiniger were now charging $50 per color comp! They had totally screwed up the market for everyone — and themselves.

The second big bomb was the arrival of PhotoShop. There used to be a couple dozen or so artists hired to do multiple comps and roughs for each movie poster. Now it became one person taking a handful of roughs and doctoring them in PhotoShop to quickly make several dozen variations. Loads of artists were fired or were just not hired anymore.

Plus, PhotoShop began to be used to make the final posters using photographs instead of art. The uneducated studio heads knew that a photo of Harrison Ford was, indeed, Harrison Ford. They couldn’t understand that Drew Struzan working from a photo of Harrison Ford could deliver a portrait of Harrison that looked more like Ford than the reference photo.

Suddenly, movie posters became very boring. A new poster phenomena popped up and was used over and over and over again: Two faces (the film’s actor leads), half in shadow, half in light. I can’t begin to count how many posters used that boring format. And it’s still being done.

I went back to freelancing in other areas and making movies. Slowly but surely with each film I began to raise my rates so that eventually, the movies were paying me what I used to make in movie advertising.

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