Call it the filmmaking version of swinging for the fences
For some films, generating box office results and critical acclaim starts with the casting of high-profile stars in the cast and a big-money publicity campaign.
But smaller, independent films need to find other ways in which to generate attention. The producers and director of 1984's Future-Kill bridged that gap through a poster created by H.R. Giger, whose most famous films were the Alien series for which he won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects.
Director Ronald Moore landed Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burns, co-stars in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, to star in his film, but felt it needed another significant player to really take off.
"Once we finished the film, we decided that instead of letting the studio or distributor come up with an ad campaign, we should do it ourselves," Moore said. "I had done some marketing in addition to film production early on, and had an understanding of design concepts.
"We tossed around artists, and H.R. Giger came to mind. Everyone knew his work from the Alien series. Back then, you could go into poster shops and flip through the racks, and when you saw one of his, you stopped cold. I wanted that reaction. People would see his image and it would stop them in their tracks and make them go, Woah! What is that?'"
Moore landed the artist, who created a stunning poster that helped secure distribution for Future-Kill. The Signed Original Concept Poster Artwork in Airbrush on Paper (estimate: $20,000-40,000), once owned by Neal himself, will be among the highlights in Heritage Auctions
' Movie Posters Auction July 24-25.
Convincing Giger to create the dramatic artwork involved far more than the standard phone call or e-mail that spark so many similar creations.
"We needed a great poster, so I decided to see if we could get Giger," Moore said. "I called his agent, Ueli Steinli, in Zurich, Switzerland, who was very pleasant but made it clear that Giger was an artist who does not do consignments. I was a little dejected at first, but I was persistent and kept calling back.
"Finally, (Steinli) told me that Giger was in a slump, or had the artist's equivalent of writer's block. He said, if you want to take a chance, fly to Zurich, talk to him and see if he'll do it.'"
Moore visited for a couple of days with the artist, sharing ideas of what he envisioned for a poster. "At first, he was very confused about exactly what I wanted," Moore said.
Moore spent the better part of two weeks working with Giger. Sensing the artist was frustrated with the project, Moore flew home to Austin, Texas, only to get a call from Giger's agent, asking why the director had left and assuring Moore the painting would get done.
"A month later, Steinli flew back to Austin with two versions: one black version and one red version," Moore said. "Steinli said, I know you want the black version, because it's what he's famous for, but Giger became fascinated with the image and created a red painting, as well.' We bought both and the rights to print them."
The black painting hangs in Moore's house; the red version was sold at Heritage Auctions in 2015. Moore helped with the concept for the poster, but said the final result was all Giger.
"I came up with the concept of Splatter,' that character, standing there looking straight at you, with the arms over his face," Moore said. "We went with that concept, but when Giger started doing his own thing
it was way better than he could have hoped for."
The poster created from the offered artwork, Moore said, was critical to the film's success, to even getting it released.
"It was massively important," he said. "Future Kill was a low-budget film in the 1980s, so it was pre-streaming, before on-demand. We needed someone to look at it for it to get picked up.
"We took out full-page ads in Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter that said something like, for your consideration: see the film and call us. But after this poster came out, we had an unprecedented number of producers calling us, wanting to see it. They came to us, because of the Giger artwork."
Grey Smith, Director of Vintage Posters at Heritage Auctions, said the dramatic image in the poster, coupled with Giger's reputation from the Alien series, provided the ideal combination demand immediate attention for Future-Kill.
"Everyone in the movie and movie poster communities knows the artwork of H.R. Giger," Smith said. "The Alien posters he created are immediately identifiable, among the most iconic in the industry. His Future-Kill poster, created from the offered concept art, has the same kind of impact. It's an incredibly powerful image that went a long way toward boosting the success of the film."