Rayon Vert is a Toronto-based production company for the films of Colombian-Canadian filmmaker Lina Rodriguez and her producing partner Brad Deane.
Art direction for independent film
Since 2012 I have been honoured to partner with the duo on the design for their films.
In 2012 I was approached to create the key artwork for Señoritas, a dramatic feature by director Lina Rodriguez. Set in Bogotá, the film follows Alejandra, a free spirit who lives with her mother in a small, comfortable apartment and spends most nights drinking or dancing with her close but complicated circle of friends, including her some-time boyfriend Tomás. Señoritas is a subtle examination of the way one young woman navigates the daunting terrain of sex, desire and identity.
Rotating the image caused a (desired) unsettling effect, especially once I created a photomontage with another, non-rotated image of pool water. The final poster creates the perception of a forward or falling movement, that coexists alongside the viewers' knowledge that, intuitively, this cannot be.
After viewing a rough-cut of the film and having several fruitful conversations with Rodriguez and Deane, I generated a number of concepts. Among these, a version featuring the main character listlessly floating in a pool stood out because of its strong thematic connection to the film: The image mirrors how Alejandra is paradoxically both inert and in a state of constant motion.
Craig has worked with us on both of our features. He is well researched and takes the time to understand our goals for each project. His ideas are always innovative and he brings multiple concepts, making sure that the final work is both creative and speaks directly to our intended audience. Craig's dedication and passion make him a pleasure to work with and we look forward to continuing our collaboration."
—Lina Rodriguez and Brad Deane
When Rodriguez completed filming her second feature Mañana a esta hora (This Time Tomorrow) she and Deane again asked me to collaborate.
Mañana a esta hora is an intimate portrait of a family’s everyday life before and after a tragic incident. The film is designed around a constant tension between presence and absence, and I could not have asked for a better thematic jump-off for the film's design.
By representing the film's theme of impermanence through the interplay of negative and positive space, the poster evokes Mañana a esta hora's melancholic atmosphere, its ghostly qualities, and — hopefully — its beauty.
In my view, Rodriguez's work shares formal qualities with certain independent films of the 1970s, and as a nod to that the image was completed with a halftone pattern, evoking the duotone posters of that decade.
For Mañana a esta hora, in addition to the key art for marketing materials our collaboration extended into designing the opening and closing credits — a graphic system that was carried over into the trailers for the film.
For Rodriguez' next project, Ante mis ojos, she asked me to create some digital assets that could be used online ahead of the film's premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Given that the 7-minute film was an experimental, dialogue-free, grainy Super 8 look at Colombia's mythic Lake Guatavita, we were not going to produce a comprehensive marketing campaign, but still needed to create a few assets for places like Twitter, Instagram and IMDB.
When developing the concept I quickly settled on a still and a layout for these materials, but struggled to find a balance of grain and colour that might capture the magic of the film itself.
The credits for Senoritas and Mañana a esta hora were both shot on film, but for Ante mis ojos, we briefly flirted with the idea of creating the credits digitally. I created a few test runs for the credits in Adobe After Effects, hoping to capture the look of the film, but none of them were quite successful, and the final credits were shot on the same stock as the film.
Unusually for our collaborations, we started with the film's title design. Aquí y allá features a number of inter-titles which act as the filmmaker's "voice" in the film — in the first half, essentially narrating, and in the second, questioning her father and his siblings.
We decided the titles would work most effectively with little to no embellishment. Where texture had been crucial to Ante mis ojos, I felt it was important for the textual interventions in Aquí y allá to stand outside of the footage somewhat, and set them against a soft, solid black.
Originally, I wanted to use a typeface that was contemporaneous with many of the stories told in the film. So I tried a number of fonts that were in wide use in the 1950s or 1960s, like Optima, Akzidenz-Grotesk, and Venus. My hope was to use something that wasn't originally designed for a screen, though after trying a few versions, we ended up using "Oregon LDO" a 21st century Optima clone with slightly thicker stems on the letters.
In June 2019 Rodriguez I was began working with Rodriguez once again on her new short, Aquí y allá.
"One of the great human questions is whether spaces make people or people make spaces. This is what Lina Rodríguez wonders as she fixes a personal, experimental eye on an enormous house in Chipaque – a town about 14 kilometers from Bogotá – which her grandparents bought in 1960. The patio where her great-grandmother Ericinda plucked chickens and made tamales and butter; the kitchen where her grandmother cooked over a charcoal stove. Flitting between the past and present, photographs and vivid recollections, Aquí y allá seeks to immortalize a sanctuary that no longer exists."
— Mar del Plata Film Festival
As it has been on each previous collaboration the journey from concept to completion on Aquí y allá's poster was a long one. Along the way I developed countless concepts before we found one that fit the film.
After watching an early edit, though before discussing the film with Rodriguez, I created a batch of concepts that sought to give as much context for the film on its poster as possible (most of these versions included lengthy synopsis). Though the director liked the idea in theory, she (rightly) thought that it was inappropriate for a film that was as much about time, space and photography as Aquí y allá.
Each subsequent concept played with the idea of juxtaposing two images from the film, sometimes as two images adjoining one another, sometimes overlapping with one another, and as we worked our way toward the final concept, both adding and overlapping.
Along the way there were a number of ideas we liked, but abandoned for one reason or another. One in particular — a modern day photo of her father with a coffee grinder, set against another image of that same grinder in an empty — was something we both loved and almost chose. However, after a lengthy conversation we convinced ourselves one another it was a little too spectral for this film.
The final poster combined a close crop of her father in profile overlapping with the remains of the family house.
This poster managed to literalise the film by combining people, a physical space, and the suggestion of fading memory — plus the way her father's shoulder suggests a continuation of the landscape was one of those design accidents you simply do not ignore.