Interview: Pablo Matilla of

As purveyors of an eclectic selection of posters with a well-tagged archive is an essential port of call for anyone wishing to keep up to date with festival campaigns.  Site curator Pablo Matilla, a Los Angeles based designer, gives his perspective on what makes an effective film festival poster.

Pablo Matilla

When did the website start and what motivated you to create it?

Our website started three years ago. The goal was to create an archive of film festival posters where you could find any film festival poster and the artist behind it. There are fantastic databases out there, like for film credits or for movie posters. They are a great resource for filmmakers, designers and fans. We thought would be useful for festival organisers and designers; to be able to look back and see what other film festivals have done in the past, how design trends change decade after decade. We learn a lot by looking back. Also, we wanted to bring all the latest film festival posters on a weekly basis and give some importance to them with our annual Film Festival Poster Awards, where we award the best posters of the year.

What is your selection criteria for choosing posters?

We get submissions from all over the world, which is formidable. We post as much as we can, if not everything. Not all the posters are great, but that makes the good ones shine. Sometimes, we receive all the posters a film festival has done for the last decade, which takes time to archive and post in the website. We are hoping to complete the archive of all the major film festivals by the end of this year. It just takes time.

There are several features that crop up regularly in the design of film festival posters, such as strips of celluloid, or movie cameras. Are there any tendencies that you have noticed emerging more recently?

Major mainstream film festivals like Cannes, Toronto, London, San Sebastian or Berlin avoid using film elements in their designs. You could argue that using celluloid, a movie camera or a film slate are a bit of a cliche. However, when it comes to subject festivals, like Horror, Latino, Jewish or Women festivals, the relationship of film elements with the subject of the festival can be visually playful. I do not see any real tendencies among today’s festivals, each one take its own path; perhaps if we look back twenty years from now, we will think our typography choices were “so 2010s”. I do find interesting how some bigger festivals like San Sebastian are transitioning to a design competition to find their image; some really good designers participate in this kind of contests.

What do you believe makes an effective film festival poster?

I believe an effective film festival poster is the one that gives you an instant emotion and does not leave you indifferent. I would say potential film festivals attendees are overall film fans that regard themselves as a sophisticated crowd, so I would argue the best design for a festival would be the one that makes you feel smart. You have to aim with your poster to the smartest person in the room: through a sophisticated piece of art, or a wink to the history of cinema, a witty visual joke, or a complex abstract expression. Your poster should be as good as the films in the festival.

Can you suggest 3 examples of posters that you find interesting – and why?

Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2012


The combination of a film element with the subject of the festival can be playful when done right and the poster for the Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2012 is a great example. Orthodox payot made out of film celluloid is brilliant.

FANTASPORTO Oporto International Film Festival 2011


This newspaper ad for Fantasporto went viral in 2011. It resonated with horror fans by making a creepy joke out Facebook’s Like button.

Ann Arbor Film Festival 2013


The artwork for Ann Arbor Film Festival 2013 is just elegant. Sometimes that is all you need.

One of the great things about the site is that you credit the designer of the poster.  Are there any particular designers that spark your imagination at the moment?

There are many designers that put great work out there; Vince Fraser, Jerzy Skakun, Jeff Drew, Erick Buckham and Tomasz Opasinski to name a few; they have done some outstanding work lately.  Some advertising agencies do great film festival posters as well; it is a fun assignment that sparks the creatives imagination.

2011 Sarasota Film Festival by Vince Fraser


Spanish Cinema Week 2013 by Jerzy Skakun


¡Cine Magnífico! Albuquerque’s Latino Film Festival by Jeff Drew


True/False Film Fest 2013 by Erick Buckham


Kinoteca Polish Film Festival 2013 by Tomasz Opasinski


Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?!

In the latest season of Mad Men, Peggy Olson hangs in her office the poster for the 2nd New York Film Festival, which was designed by Saul Bass in 1964. Film festival posters leave a mark; they are a memory of a time and a place. The work we are doing at is important for the film and design community; we are actively archiving and posting film festival posters from around the world; preserving film history. You can make a donation at our website.