Children’s Film Festival Seattle picks Frameline


What goes on in the minds of children at a film festival?  Somewhere between the fizz of popping candy, the burst of soda bubbles and the general germination of mischief, an introduction to the delights of cinema causes several mini-explosions to get the synapses twitching, as shown in the deeply scientific diagram above.  With the tagline ‘Making Joyful Neurons’, which spilled into a video trailer that is part Fischli/Weiss, part Saturday morning TV gunge-fest, we were charmed by the recent campaign by the Children’s Film Festival Seattle designed by Creature.

So we invited Festival Director Elizabeth Shepherd to pick her own favourite film festival poster, and tell us what it was about it that caught the eye:

Frameline 37 San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival 2013


“I love how playful it is, and how the tagline is built into the poster in such an appealing way. It perfectly conveys that the festival is built for a community of people to come together to experience joy. And … the image of sprawling down on a bed of popcorn with a friend is so fantastic! It seems like this design would be good for every use — programs, bus stop adverts, posters, t-shirts. It is very, very original and uplifting, at the same time.”

Elizabeth Shepherd

Director, Children’s Film Festival Seattle Northwest Film Forum

The poster was designed by Creative B’stro, a San Francisco and Vancouver based agency, and here they give some insight into it’s formation:

Otterly Fabulous

“Film festival posters are a creative challenge in that you must distill down an entire festival of many reels into a snapshot. That snapshot needs to capture the essence of the festival in a way that will inspire attendance.” Sharon Kerr, Account Director, Creative B’stro.

B’stro had developed the “Find Your Story” theme for last year’s Frameline festival so we were already familiar with the festival audience and had worked with the team at Frameline before. For this year’s theme Frameline wanted to focus on a sense of coming together of the LGBT community for this event, while remaining very inclusive of the diversity of this community.


“Frameline is all about community, chosen family, making new friends, and big love connections. The LGBT community is something that really sets us apart from the other big festivals”, Desiree Buford, Frameline’s Director of Programming, commented during the initial creative briefing.

The Frameline team had also really liked the VQFF poster that the B’stro Vancouver office had designed using hedgehogs as a fun way to depict festival attendees. Armed with these requests; the hunt was on! We needed to find members of the animal kingdom that could represent festival attendees in a very broad manner, convey a sense of fun, and depict “chosen” family and togetherness.

After brainstorming and researching the team came up with the theme “Films Bring Us Together” and several possibilities for animals that either exhibited interesting pair-bonding behaviour, or formed bonds that lasted for life. Among the many contenders were penguins, monkeys, and seahorses. Otters, apart from looking cute, apparently hold hands when they sleep so they don’t lose each other —with that delightful behaviour, we settled on otters.


Image: Sea otters holding hands by Joe Robertson from Austin, Texas, USA.

To bring the theme to life, Nina Westin, a Designer at B’stro said, “We wanted the poster to feel warm and inviting, so we chose a warm, rich color palette and added a texture similar to film grain on the otters and the background. We also wanted to represent the diversity of the festival attendees. So we kept the otters non-gender specific, of any age or ethnicity and dressed them in way that festival attendees might be dressed. You can’t tell if they are hipsters or grandpas, boys or girls, but you know they are fun and friendly!”

In order to tie the visual of the to movie attendance we added in cinema tickets and had them swimming in a sea of popcorn. Before some movies an extra short but extra cute animation of an otter cranking the film reel will show. To encourage audience participation and leverage social media we created a life-size otter sign with the face cut out, so people can be their own otter!



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.

Behind the Poster: Vilnius International Film Festival

Mindaugas Morkunas shares the background and impact of a successful film festival poster campaign that led to increased public recognition and volunteer applications.

VIFF poster 2012 01

These are the Vilnius International Film Festival (VIFF) posters created for the 2012 edition. In local language the festival name is ‘Cinema spring’ and the idea of the poster was to reflect the festival identity as well as revealing various feelings triggered by films in different people.

VIFF poster 2012 02

Everything is blooming in spring around and people see and find new things through films which they might be never noticed before. There were five different layouts created mirroring different characters of festival goers and different moods correlating with film genres (comedy, drama, etc.).

VIFF poster 2012 04

Posters were created by Lithuania creative agency ‘New!’ which is also known internationally because of their project redefine Wikipedia.

VIFF poster 2012 05

That year the creative posters inspired so many people to share those images on social media, and buzz was so positive that everybody felt how important creativity and soul of festival poster is. We receive more than 600 volunteers applications like never before.

VIFF poster 2012 03


Mindaugas Morkunas, Head of Festival Development, Vilnius International Film Festival

The Aesthetics of Film Festival Posters – Adrian Curry

The very first film festival poster, for the very first film festival—the 1932 International Exhibition of Cinematographic Art at the 18th Venice Biennale, or what would become the Venice Film Festival—set the tone for the next 80 years of film festival graphic design. A film reel, mounted on a projector, stands triumphantly just below the winged lion of the Piazetta di San Marco; two signifiers in one space: the idea of cinema and the locale of the festival. For the next 80 years, until the demise of celluloid, and no doubt even beyond, the film reel or the film strip, usually coupled with some local landmark, has been the ubiquitous symbol of film festivals the world over. It may be yet another failing of the digital revolution that a DCP case will never have the symbolic potential or the graphic possibilities of a reel of film.

That said, is anything more tired or clichéd than a film reel or a film strip on a film festival poster? As early as 1945, Swiss designer Fritz Bühler already recognized this with one of the first great film festival posters, his pixellated duotone close-up of an eye for the Film Festival Congrès International of Basel.


But of course, one of the challenges for any graphic designer is to subvert cliché and reclaim it, and the film reel, or the film strip, has given ample opportunity over the years for wit and invention.

For the 2nd New York Film Festival in 1964, the great Saul Bass conflated the iconography of the film strip with the idea of virtual foreign travel in a typically simple and inspired image (in a poster that Mad Men fans have probably spotted hanging on Peggy Olson’s office wall).


And in 1995 the London Film Festival conflated Bühler’s eye with a film reel:


Always the master of simplicity, Saul Bass used colorful film strips, both actual and drawn, in two classic posters for the Chicago Film Festival:


The film strip as a design element gives ample opportunity for invention as these two superbly minimal transformations attest. The Cameraimage Festival of Cinematography of Bydgoszcz, Poland, awards gold, silver and bronze frogs to the best cinematography of the year, while a celluloid origami crane is a perfect image for Pittsburgh’s Asian American Film Festival, the equally inventively named Silk Screen.


But perhaps my favorite twist on celluloid iconography, is this one for last year’s Toronto Jewish Film Festival in which film strips become Orthodox sidelocks.


Some of my favorite film festival posters, however, are those which dispense with filmic iconography altogether. I am particularly drawn to festivals that brand their identity with a consistent yet varied design over the years, like this superb series of masks by Polish designers Jerzy Skakun and Joanna Gorska for the World Cinema Ale Kino Festival, a festival which takes place all over Poland, devoted to films from outside the so-called “Western World.”


I also love the annual series of four posters—thematically related yet decidedly lacking in typical film festival iconography—that Gerwin Schmidt designed for the Munich Documentary Film Festival each year from 2001 to 2009.


As festivals have proliferated all over the world it feels as if designers have had to become ever more inventive and abstract. I particularly like these two posters for festivals in Nijmegen, Netherlands, and Thessaloniki, Greece which rely on mystery, absurdity and a strong graphic wallop to capture the attention and convey the allure of cinema, without any specific reference to cinema.


But one of my very favourite recent festival posters is this design for a festival in Seoul that does use a specific reference, placing Monsieur Hulot in what looks like a mid-century travel poster.


The use of actual actors or personalities is rare in film festival posters, which try to be as all-inclusive and unspecific as possible, but it should be no surprise that the one festival that has used movie stars in their posters over the years, is Cannes. The Cannes poster has had a checkered history—some of them are dreadful (I’ll name no names) and there has been no real sense of a single identity over the years. But for the past three years they have established a more consistent look with an exquisite marriage of monochrome movie star glamor (though decidedly Hollywood-centric) and brilliant typography.


The poster for last year’s Valencia Film Festival also marries the old and new. It plays on the very current and ubiquitous Things-Organized-Neatly style, laying out the accoutrements of a film festival visit (though who brings a clapperboard to a film festival?). The details are both contemporary and retro (just as the illustrative style is mid-century Mad Men meets Instagram Kit Photo): there’s a laptop and a flash drive and an iPhone, but there, in the center of the poster, is not a DCP case but a film reel, as much the international signifier of cinema as it was 80 years before. Whether Valencia still screens films on celluloid is decidedly beside the point.



Adrian Curry writes Movie Poster of the Week for the Notebook at


Archipelago Cinema by Ole Scheeren_11_photo by Sixtysix Visual

We are the ICO and we are film festival addicts.  When we’re not reporting back from screening rooms, we’re gazing at images like the above, from the Film On the Rocks Yao Noi festival, or poring over the pdf brochures for far flung events.  In July we decamp to a hillside in Croatia, for Developing Your Film Festival, a training course that brings together top notch speakers and European film festivals, to share good practice and discuss the nitty gritty of developing audiences and strengthening their business.  Continue reading